10/25/2016, 13.00
Send to a friend

For the Church, cremation is legitimate, but ashes must be respected

"Instructions" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Preference for burial, "because with it you show a greater esteem for the dead", but confirming the legality of cremation, provided that it does not deny Christian doctrine. The ashes cannot be kept at home, or dispersed, divided, used to make objects.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church, although "continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased" does not forbid cremation, provided that it does not deny the Christian doctrine - especially the resurrection - and maintains all due respect to the ashes of the dead, preserving them in a sacred place, not dispersing them and not dividing them.

The possibility of recourse, under certain conditions, to cremation, which the Catholic Church has admitted since 1963, was confirmed by an "Instruction" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public today and deemed necessary because of the spread of "new ideas in conflict with the faith".

The document, entitled "Ad resurgendum cum Christo" in fact states that the possibility of cremation - transposed in the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (1990) - "cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body".

The Instruction begins by pointing out that " is the culminating truth of the Christian faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very beginnings of Christianity." "Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access to a new life. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”. By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the resurrection: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live”.

"Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places”. “By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity". "Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works". "Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints."

"In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body. The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine".

Accordingly, the document states that "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". This is to "reduce the risk of removing the dead from prayer and remembrance of relatives and the Christian community."

For these reasons, "For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation".

The document, finally, based on the foregoing considerations, states that "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 ", and “when the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law".

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
The Resurrection of Christ, aging and taking risks
25/03/2016 10:01
A decade after his death, Zhao Ziyang will be laid to rest
Date for King Bhumibol’s cremation set for one year after his death
26/04/2017 12:54
Christians who die from COVID-19 caught between cremation and burial
21/05/2020 16:39
Hundreds of Hindu sages occupy Christian tombs in Pashupatinath


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”