Recently the Vatican issued a new instruction which clarifies the practice of cremation in the Catholic Church. It is entitled, "To Rise With Christ." It is not infrequent when people ask about the teaching of the Church regarding cremation as it has been become increasingly popular. Here is a brief summary:
- The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited.
- When cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place.
- The conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. The ashes may not be divided among various family members.
- It is not permitted to scatter the ashes in the air, on land or at sea.
- It is not permitted to preserve the ashes in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.
The purpose of this teaching is to remind us of our ancient belief as Catholics in the sacredness of the body. There was a time in history when a heresy (false teaching) held that the body is evil and so should be destroyed. But we hold that God created all things good, and the body which even Jesus took on when he was born among us is sacred and good. Not only that, but God raised the buried body of Jesus in the resurrection and scripture promises that we too will be raised, body and soul, on the last day.