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Still no crematorium despite bigger demand and new law

When motivational speaker and mother of two, Angele De Leuw Muscat, died after a four-year battle with breast cancer, her husband was left to carry out two of her wishes – to organise a party and to be cremated.

While her final farewell party took place on August 26 in Mosta, her husband and 18 other family members had to fly to Sicily for Angele to be cremated.

“If the two were combined it would have been less hassle and less money spent, but I try to see the positivity in all things,” Casper De Luew Muscat told Times of Malta.

“For some family members, the mourning process was also longer since over two weeks passed until she was cremated. For them, they received closure on that day.”

A bill allowing cremation was approved in parliament in 2019, yet four years on, Malta still does not have a crematorium.

The Planning Authority issued a draft policy on the design of crematoriums in February, yet no updates have been issued.

Johann Camilleri, owner of Active Group Ltd, the company behind an application to develop Malta’s first crematorium and whose company organises cremation arrangements overseas, has seen an increase in the demand for the service.

In 2018, Camilleri Funeral Directors International carried out an average of three cremations a month overseas. In 2020, it conducted around 10 a month.

“In the 12 months ending June 30, 2023, we conducted 170 cremations overseas, so an average of 14 cremations a month,” he said.

He said that around 70 per cent of those who carried out a cremation were foreigners living in Malta.

The company carries out cremations overseas in Sicily and in England, with Sicily being the most preferred option due to its proximity.

Cremation services can cost €4,500

Camilleri said the company is contacted daily for cremation services, which can cost €4,500. The service covers all necessary documentation and airline charges, among other expenses.

In comparison, buying a grave costs €8,000 once one makes it to the waiting list. The price was established by a Legal Notice dating to 2016.

According to a health spokesperson, the government extended two cemeteries: the Addolorata Cemetery, with an additional 2,800 graves and the Mellieħa ‘Omm il-Ħniena’ Cemetery, with 64 new graves.

While all the graves at the Mellieħa cemetery have been bought, there are 244 graves still available at the Addolorata Cemetery, which will be sold by the end of 2023.

The reasons why people are opting for cremations vary.

“Some people always wanted to have their ashes scattered at sea, while others wish to keep their loved ones with them at home in a nice urn or in cremation jewellery,” Camilleri said.

He said his company submitted their first application to build a crematorium in Malta in 2017, which was turned down by the PA. The company applied again in 2021 and is still waiting.

“In the span of five years, while still waiting for permission, our Italian partners have set up a crematorium in Catania and this has now been up and running for over two years.”

'She did not want to be buried in a cemetery'

Angele De Leuw Muscat was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, weeks after the birth of her first child.

After the birth of their second child, her cancer progressed, and she spent the past three years facing medical appointments, numerous tests and countless days in hospital.

She died 10 days before her 35th birthday.

Casper De Luew Muscat said his wife wanted to be cremated for ‘several reasons’, one being that she did not want her body to be buried in a cemetery.

“By being cremated, her ashes could be spread over the world, which was another wish,” he said.

“We both had a passion for travel, so whenever and wherever I travel, I will try to spread her ashes.”

Over the years, as her cancer grew stronger, the couple spoke and planned for the worst.

“Many do not feel comfortable speaking in detail about what they want to happen to them once they pass away, but for me, it helped as I knew that Angele wanted a big party and to be cremated,” he said.

He said she did not want people to be sad, but to look back and celebrate her life.

“While preparations for the party and cremation went smoothly, I would have liked it more if the cremation could have taken place on the same day we celebrated her life.”