Disposition of Remains/Cremains

Notes regarding final disposition of a person’s remains/cremains:
Policies from the church document “Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo:
Regarding the Burial of the Deceased – and the Conservation of the Ashes in the Case of Cremation”

 

published by Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication. In Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Church, in response to the growing practice of making improper dispostion of a person’s remains, particularly in cases of  cremation, has addressed the problems of scattering ashes over the water, in fields, mountains, keeping them in the home, making jewelry of a portion of the remains with the points contained in this instruction:

-When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.

-From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes “in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church”.[15]

-The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.

-For the reasons given above, 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.

-In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.