- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) — Grapes and graves might seem an unlikely pairing, but Catholic cemetery officials in this San Francisco suburb are cultivating a graveyard vineyard in hopes of making sacramental wine.

Robert Seelig, director of funeral and cemetery services for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, views the vineyard in the context of the symbolic importance of wine to the church — from the water-to-wine miracle of the wedding at Cana to the consecration of wine during the Mass.

“Wine and the blood of Christ is very much a strong symbol,” he said. “We’re always looking for signs and symbols to place in the cemetery whether it’s a statue of a saint or some building. People like those things.”

The vineyard began as a beautification project. Unused land at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery needed sprucing up. The diocese decided to spend $25,000 for grapevines rather than $50,000 per acre for weed-free irrigated turf.

The nearest graves are about 60 feet away from the grapes. The diocese has hired a vineyard management contractor to put in zinfandel, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes on the cemetery’s west-facing slopes.

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