When completing funeral pre-planning with people of the Catholic faith, I am often asked if the church allows Catholics to be cremated. As outlined in the liturgical leaflet “Catholics and Cremation” edited by the National Liturgy Office (1998, 2003, 2006), the simple answer is yes.
Prior to 1963, cremation was thought to be anti-Christian and prohibited for Catholics. After 1963, cremation was recognized by the Catholic church as long as the motive for cremation was in line with the Christian teaching outlined in the Code of Canon Law 1176 § 3.
The church’s preference is that the body is present in the church for a funeral Mass and that cremation takes place after the Mass.
If Cremation has taken place before the funeral Mass, then the cremated remains are to be placed into a “dignified container that shows reverence toward the person’s remains.” The cremated remains can be placed into an urn purchased from the funeral home. The funeral home will assist the family and place the urn on a small table at the front of the church and the liturgy usually ends with the final commendation.
Concerning the disposal of cremated remains, the Church asks that the cremated remains be buried in an earth grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium, in a permanent, designated, consecrated, resting place for Christian remains.
The liturgical leaflet concludes by saying;” Funeral liturgies are for the living and are a vital part of the grieving and healing process. They give the families and friends a formal way of remembering and saying goodbye. No one should omit having at least some type of funeral service.”
In my experience, people often think that Cremation is cheaper than Burial. Cost factors are important to consider, yet people are often surprised that there is relatively little difference in the cost between Burial and Cremation. As always I encourage people to speak with their parish priest regarding their prearranged funeral plans.
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Until next time,