Things to Consider When Choosing Cremation

In May of 1963, the Vatican’s Holy Office lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation. This permission was incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 as well as into the Order of Christian Funerals.

While the Church recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed, cremation is permitted as long as it has not been chosen for reasons contrary to Catholic teaching (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2301).

The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body of the deceased and should be entombed or buried in the ground or inurned in a mausoleum. If cremation has been chosen, it is preferred that the Funeral Mass or Liturgy be celebrated in the presence of the body of the deceased prior to its cremation (cf. OCF #418). If cremation has already taken place, the remains should be present at the Funeral Mass/Liturgy. They are to be placed in a worthy vessel or parish ossuary. A small table is prepared for the remains at the place normally occupied by the casket. The vessel may be carried in the entrance procession or placed on the table prior to the liturgy.

The decision to cremate is NOT the final decision in funeral planning.  Final disposition is the act of placing cremated remains in a cemetery. The location should be reverent, documented, maintained and marked with information about the deceased.

The practice of scattering cremated remains at sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church recommends. It should be noted that burial at sea of cremated remains differs from scattering; an appropriate and worthy container, heavy enough to be sent to its final resting place, may be dropped into the sea.

Please talk with your pastor or other parish minister if you have questions about Catholic burial practices or cremation and the Order of Christian funerals.  Our staff can also assist you and answer your questions.  (619) 264-3127