Cremation and the Catholic Church

Cremation and the Catholic Church

1. Does the Catholic Church allow cremation?

Yes. In May 1963, the Vatican lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation.

It then became standard practice to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body and take the body to the crematorium. Most recently, the bishops of the United States and the Holy See have authorized the celebration of a Catholic funeral liturgy with the cremated remains when the body is cremated before the funeral.

2.  When should cremation take place?

The church strongly prefers that cremation take place after the full funeral liturgy with the body. The presence of the body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person and better expresses the dignity of the human person that the Church affirms in its rites. However, in some circumstances it may not be possible to have the body present. In those unusual situations, a full funeral liturgy may be conducted with the cremated remains present.

3.  What funeral rites are celebrated when a person is cremated?

The funeral is filled with signs and symbols of the light of Christ entering even the darkness of death. Significant attention should be given to the primary symbols of the Catholic funeral liturgy, as stated in the Order of Christian Funerals and its commentaries. The Paschal candle and sprinkling with holy water are primary symbols of baptism and should be used during the Funeral Mass. However, the pall is not used to cover cremated remains.

During the Mass, the cremated remains should be treated with the same dignity and respect as the body. They are to be sealed in a worthy vessel. They may be carried in procession and/OT placed on a table in front of the altar where the coffin normally would be with the Easter Candle nearby.

4. Can I scatter the ashes? May I keep the ashes on my mantle?

The dignity of the human person does not leave the body at death. The body has served the living person as a temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore must be reverenced after death.

The cremated remains must be buried (interred) in a cemetery or columbarium as soon as possible after cremation. The remains should never be kept in the home, scattered or handled in an undignified manner. They may not be mixed with other remains, divided between plots, or inserted into other containers or jewelry.

5. To whom should I speak about columbarium arrangements at St. Bernadette?

Please call Matt Molesworth, director of music and funerals, at 571-242-2517, or stop in the main office anytime during office hours.