Hundreds of bodies in their coffins have been waiting for weeks and even months to be cremated in Rome, a dramatic situation due to the slow bureaucracy that sparked an unusual protest this Friday from funeral home owners.
“We call on the mayor of Rome (Virginia Raggi) to put an end to the numerous current procedures in order to quickly obtain the necessary authorizations for cremation,” explained Giovanni Caccioli, national secretary of the Italian Federation of Directors of Funeral homes, among the organizers of the demonstration in front of the Roman temple of Hercules Víctor, a few meters from the city hall of the capital.
For Caccioli, Rome registers between 15,000 to 18,000 cremation requests each year, forcing families to undertake a “tortuous” journey between the cemetery administrators, the municipal company and the civil status registry office.
A career that has been complicated in the times of covid due to the increase in deaths and limited access to public services.
“This is an absurd situation”, denounced Caccioli, surrounded by colleagues who have come with funeral wreaths in which the phrase “Forgive us, but they will not let us bury their loved ones” could be read.
“Everything is done in the old fashioned way”, laments the leader who estimates delays of “35-40 days”, “a very serious situation for a family that has just suffered a duel”, he emphasizes.
“You cannot continue like this (…) The authorization to obtain the cremation must be issued in one or two days at the most,” he demanded.
In the other cities of Italy, it is the civil registry office that directly grants authorizations within 24 to 48 hours.
Maurizio Tersini, 59, who runs the Le Sphinx funeral home, estimates that around 1,800 coffins are waiting in refrigerated warehouses in the capital to be cremated.
“This causes us great suffering, for the families,” he acknowledged.
– The pain of relatives –
For Lorella Pesaresi, who lost her husband in January, who turned out to be covid when she had to start chemotherapy, narrated her ordeal to AFP with a broken voice.
“Three months have passed and they still have not cremated my husband (…) It is not fair, first the covid and now this,” he lamented.
In addition to bureaucratic problems, Rome has a real congestion in cemeteries, something that was very frequent in the past and that was aggravated by the increase in cremation requests in recent years, which went from 5,820 in 2006 to more than 17,000 in 2019.
For this reason, the authorities have approved the construction of new furnaces to increase capacity by 66%.
At the moment, funeral home owners transport corpses to other cities for cremation, further increasing costs and delays to the detriment of the families of the deceased.
This week, an Italian chose to express his grief with a message to his late mother on numerous billboards throughout Rome with the aim of denouncing the shortage of cemeteries.
“Mom, forgive me for not being able to bury you yet,” reads the huge 9 by 7 meter fence installed by Oberdan Zuccaroli, who lost his 85-year-old mother on March 8 due to a heart attack.
Owner of a poster company assured that he is going to install 250 more indignant posters because his mother has not yet been buried, as has his aunt, who died on January 9 due to causes other than the virus.
The municipal company that manages Roman cemeteries (AMA) assured the press on Monday that it has had to deal with a 30% increase in deaths, from October 2020 to March 2021.
According to official statistics, the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 115,000 people in Italy since it spread in March 2020.