What does Catholic Church really say about Cremation?

Cremation of the bodies of the deceased has been an acceptable option for Catholics of the Latin Rite since 1963. Cremation is permitted for Catholics as long as it is not chosen in denial of Christian teaching on the Resurrection and the sacredness of the human body. When cremation is chosen for a good reason, the full course of the Order of the Christian Funerals should still be celebrated, including the Vigil Service (wake), the Funeral liturgy and the Rite of Committal.

The Second Vatican Council recognized countries such as England or Japan had little land for cemeteries. Also, places such as India , China and Japan are cultures where ground burial is not common. In other parts of the world cremation is necessary for health and or economic reasons.

The Church feels that interment of the body is important because it signals the end of life on earth and the beginning of life beyond the grave. The resurrection of Jesus from the tomb stands as a symbol of the sacredness of the human body. The Church believes our bodies will be transformed at the time of the Resurrection and as St. Paul says, “Put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53), regardless of our condition in death or the final mode of disposition.

Current Catholic liturgical regulations also require that cremation must not take place until after the Funeral Mass. This way, the body may still symbolize the person and may receive the blessings and be the subject of prayers in which the person is mentioned. The preservation of this order allows for a greater expression of the Catholic Faithful’s belief and values.

Through the funeral rites, the Church commends the dead to the merciful love of God and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins.

The great respect the Church has for the deceased should always be evident in the way the cremated remains are treated after cremation. This means placement in a worthy container, and all who handle them should do so with care and reverence until final disposition.

The Church asks, that in keeping with a spirit of reverence, the cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium.

There is also a spiritual and emotional benefit for placing cremated remains in a proper place of burial. It gives the bereaved and the Church community a place to focus remembrance and pray for the deceased. Such a place will make it easier to memorialize the deceased.

According to Church tradition scattering cremated remains on the sea, in the air, on the ground, or keeping them in the homes of relatives does not display appropriate reverence.