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Cambridge Pastor: Don’t Turn Away Suspect’s Body

Reverend Fred Small. (Twitter)

Reverend Fred Small. (Twitter)

What to do with the body of marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev is among the more curious and unexpected questions in the wake of the tragedy.

The body remains in limbo in a Worcester funeral home. Tsarnaev’s uncle wants to bury him in Cambridge where the suspect lived for the past 10 years, but Cambridge city officials have asked the family not to apply for a burial permit.

The mother of Tsarnaev says she wants his body returned to Russia, and many of the protesters outside the funeral home are calling for the same thing.

The funeral home director says he hasn’t yet had any luck finding a cemetery that will take the body, inside or outside of Massachusetts.

While the emotion around this issues is understandable, the Reverend Fred Small of First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist, has a different view.

He published a letter yesterday that said, if the Tsarnaev’s family seeks burial in Cambridge, the city should not turn them away.


Fred Small, pastor of First Parish in Cambridge.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/grace.adams.3914 Grace Adams

    I agree with your guest – we have punished him, he’s dead.  Why should we punish the family who has not taken part in his crime.  I think we (Americans) are better than that.

    • J__o__h__n

      We didn’t punish him; his brother ran him over after a gun battle with police.  One member of his family did take part in the crime.  His alleged shoplifter mother thinks he is innocent.  America should be better than our foes when it comes to things like not torturing but a corpse doesn’t have rights. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/shiramcohen Shira Cohen Goldberg

    How many cemeteries are there that actively bury people in Cambridge?  There is Mt. Auburn and a Catholic Cemetery. He was not Catholic, so no on that front. And Mt. Auburn- don’t you need to have bought a plot 200 years ago to be buried there? Is there something I am missing?

    • J__o__h__n


  • Seeyouinhelll

    Incinerate the body put it in a plastic bag and throw it in the Garbage

    • J__o__h__n

      You shouldn’t use a plastic bag in Cambridge. 

  • Wahoo_wa

    “Bury him in Massachusetts”….what a wiener!

  • Gemztone

    Thank you, Rev Small, for your kind and thoughtful commentary. I am wondering what it says about us as Americans and human beings that there is such vehemence about burying the marathon bomber here when I didn’t hear any such thing about the Sandy Hook shooter’s burial in CT. I am very concerned about where humanity is headed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/grace.adams.3914 Grace Adams

       I so agree with you.

    • J__o__h__n

      Where was that corpse disposed of?  Maybe they didn’t make it a story by not trying to bury where it wasn’t wanted. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/vjpulver Virginia J. Pulver

    Mr. Small stated this well in his opening remarks. Let the living bury their dead, with dignity and compassion. I am so very grateful to hear him articulate these sentiments.
    - VJP

  • Brighton Senior

    Thank heavens for Fred Small’s sanity.  If we abandon the fundamental decencies that make us human, that make us civilized, then we have given in to the mindset of terrorism.

    • Edwin

      I know,

      It’s digusting how low some americans wish to sink.

      • Wahoo_wa

        …especially when attacked by foreign terrorists (rolls eyes)

        • Edwin

          you agree that some americans have sunk to disgusting levels or americans are justified to sinking to disgusting level because of an “foreign”  terrorist?

          • Wahoo_wa

            I believe there is a need for compassion…for the victims.

          • Edwin

            by punishing the dead’s family?

          • Wahoo_wa

            If you think this is an issue of “punishing the dead’s family” I think the callousness you show the victims is unforgivable.

          • Edwin

            So these denying to bury the dead doesn’t punish the family of the dead and  people who question such are therefore unforgivable in your eyes?

          • Wahoo_wa

            If doing so ignores the continued mental health of the victims and common decency my reply is a resounding YES!

          • Edwin

            Than your hatred has already consumed you.

            Good Day.  

          • UVAmla99!

            Don’t twist compassion for those affected into hatred.  That’s truly sick!

  • Zumapanza

    I don’t care what Fred Small
    thinks or if he is sadden by the way we fine people feel about the evil Tamerlan
    Tsarnaev corpse. 

    It would be a wonderful thing
    if such people as Fred had more compassion for the truly good people of
    Cambridge and not reward the actions of murders.

    Fred, please keep your beliefs in
    check.  If the Tsarnaev brothers
    did, we wouldn’t be in this situation  Look for your 15 minutes of fame for more productive

    • Class No More

       pain on top of pain is more pain, you have added to an already very pained society

  • Joanbillwebber Joan Webber

    Yesterday a news item on WBUR began, “The Bishop of Worcester is asking forgiveness…’ and I thought he was going to offer a burial place in a Catholic cemetery.  I was SO proud of him.  Jesus told us to ask for forgiveness “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  If he is serious about wanting our forgiveness, he should model it by offering burial to this man.
    Joan Webber

  • Info

    Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead. The funeral/burial arrangements and rituals exist for the benefit of the family of the deceased, not the deceased themselves. Allowing the burial of this corpse in no way serves to condone this person’s actions in life.

    Focusing our hatred on a corpse serves only to punish the family, who have not committed any crime. All the ugliness and hysteria just serves to deepen the tragedy of  this senseless crime and its aftermath, so I am glad some community leaders are brave and decent enough to speak out about this.

    • Edwin

      Thank you.

      One shouldn’t lose one’s soul to hatred.

      • Wahoo_wa

        I think it’s common decency to respect the victims of a horrible crime.

        • Edwin

          by disrepecting the family of the dead?

          • Wahoo_wa

            Your rush to political correctness and misplaced largess is blind to respectful behavior.  In no way is the understandable refusal to bury a criminal in close proximity to a crime punishing a family that does not even live in the area.   

          • Edwin

            would a unmarked grave work better? Maybe drag his dead body through downtown boston first? spit on the corpses? Do we extend this concept of criminal and denial of burial to other criminals?

            Sounds like Tribalism

          • J__o__h__n

            That would satisfy both the mob and the holier than thou types who could scold them. 

          • Edwin

            In a regressive tribal and uncivil  way I guess.

  • Elizabeth Selleck

    Thanks to Fred Small for reminding us of our humanity.

  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    This is hardly a new issue. Consider the sentiments of Jesus in Luke 9:60:

    Let those who are dispirited and bereaved bury their dead brethren in peace. Our mission is to build a more peaceable society for the sake of future generations.

  • pointpanic

    when we as a species start treating non human animals with a measure of dignity and respect , I’ll open myself to acceptance such rhetoric as “human decency” , “our humanity” and other such self-serving terms. As far as I’m concerned, Tsarnaev’s body should be donated to a community garden for compost. At least his existence would not have totally been in vain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Todd-Macaulay/100000488864385 Todd Macaulay

    My pride in the citizens of Boston on the day of the tragedy has never been greater. As a city the eyes of the world were on us and we had an opportunity to show that we were above all of this.  Now we are only showing that we, like much of the rest of the world, easily succumb to hatred and deny dignity to people different than us.

  • Nate_fair

    Thank God for some compassion

  • http://ellensteinbaum.com/ Ellen Steinbaum

    What has this whole experience been about–courage and cohesiveness or vindictiveness? Thank you, Rev. Small and thank you, Peter Stefan, for reminding us of common decency. The strength of “Boston Strong” is being siphoned off by this petty display. 

  • Class No More

    Cambridge lost it’s soul a long time ago – there is no common sense or decency but we have $450 million dollars of income each year to spend as Bobby Healy wants  and we Harvard that invites Tran Canada the “Tribal relations” experts to talk at their leadership conference !! 

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