While burial or entombment of the body remains the preference and is encouraged by the Church, cremation may be chosen for sufficient reason. The Revised Code of Canon Law states: “The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.” (CIC, c. 1176.3)
When is Cremation Allowed?
Cremation may be requested for hygienic, economic or other reasons of a public or private nature. Some examples include: transfer of the remains to a distant place, possible avoidance of considerable expense, a severe psychological fear of burial in the ground or in a tomb.
The selection of cremation was the specific choice of the individual before death.
When requested by the family of the deceased for what also might be determined as an appropriate pastoral reason.
If a body is to be cremated, is it preferable that cremation take place after the Funeral Liturgy?
It is recommended that priority be given to the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy with the body of the deceased present.
Can a body be cremated prior to the Funeral Liturgy? What arrangements are different?
In the Diocese of Manchester, it is permitted to celebrate the funeral liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains.
The cremated remains are to be accorded the same respect given to the corporeal remains of a human body. This includes the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and their final disposition.
The container in which the cremated remains are placed should be dignified in nature.
The cremated remains are to be positioned on a suitable table in the same place where the casket is usually positioned. They may also be placed near the Paschal Candle during the funeral liturgy. The candle and the cremated remains may be placed in the sanctuary so as to be visible to all.
Holy water may be used to sprinkle the cremated remains when they are received in the church. A pall is not to be used to cover the container, and the cremated remains are not incensed during the Rite of Final Commendation.
What is required for the proper and reverent disposition of cremated remains?
Cremated remains are to be buried or inurned. They should not be buried on private land, but are to be buried in a cemetery or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium.
The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground is not permitted. If burial takes place at sea, according to local custom, the cremated remains are to be kept intact in a solid and durable container, and not scattered.
Keeping the cremated remains in a private home, funeral home or any other place is not considered to be the reverent disposition that the Church requires.
The integrity of the cremated remains is always to be respected. The cremated remains of one deceased person may not be mixed with the cremated remains of another person. It is not permitted to divide the cremated remains and retain, inter or entomb them in more than one place.
It is also not permitted to divide the cremated remains in such a way that they are contained in lockets or jewelry. Any other practice which violates the integrity of the cremated remains and impedes reverent and proper burial/disposition is prohibited.
Whenever possible, appropriate memorialization should be utilized at the place of burial.
Consult your cemetery office for all available options for the respectful burial, disposition and memorialization of cremated remains.
Read more about cremation from Fr. Kerper: