Can Catholics Be Cremated?

For much of history the Catholic Church banned cremation as a choice for dead Catholics, but in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban. Cremation is now an acceptable practice for Catholics, but only if done for the right reasons.

A full burial can cost a lot of money and for those who cannot afford it (or for whatever other reason) cremation may be the best option.

Why was cremation not allowed?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church the short paragraph on cremation falls under respect for the dead which is part of the larger topic of respect for the human body.

Scripture teaches we are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and from that teaching Catholics believe there is a great deal of respect to given to the human body in life and in death.

Originally, the practice was banned to counter ancient Roman pagan beliefs. The Romans cremated their dead because they did not believe in an afterlife, which is contradictory to Christian belief.

A Change in Policy

However, in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban on cremation, but the cremated remains or “cremains” could not be present at the funeral mass. Cremation could only be chosen if not for the reason that a person denies the teaching on the resurrection of the body. Burial was (and still is) the preferred method.

In 1997, the Vatican approved new liturgical norms allowing for the cremated remains to be present at a funeral mass and the remains are to be treated with the same reverence as a whole body in a casket. This means that spreading the cremated ashes is still forbidden.

Cremated remains must be buried, just like a body, in a cemetery, crypt, or other appropriate burial place not put on display.

Comments

  1. Bianca says

    Excuse my ignorance but are catholics the same as christians? What would spain be classified as – Catholic or Christian territory? Thank you for your answers.

  2. Gerry Blackburn says

    I am considering returning to the Roman Catholic Church but my wish is (and it is in my will) to be cremated. Obviously my coffin with me inside will be at the funeral service, then my ashes will be scattered on the River Thames. Doubt the Church will allow this.

  3. LISA says

    I WANT TO BE BURIED ON A PLOT OF LAND MY FAMILY OWNS WHERE I ALWAYS WANTED A LOG CABIN WITH DEER AND BUNNIES WHICH I ASKED GOD FOR TO HAVE IN HEAVEN IF I DON;T EVER GET IT HERE—CAN U ASK A RC PRIEST IF THIS IS OK 2 B BURIED HERE—-DON’T WANT TO B CREMATED BUT THIS MAY B ONLY WAY TO B ABLE TO BE BURIED HERE—-WANT LAND BLESSED BY PRIEST TOO AS THIS LAND IS NOT A CONSECRATED CATHOLIC CEMETARY –PLS GET ANSWER ASAP-PLS N TYVMUCH N GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. says

    I’m sorry for you loss. I personally don’t think you will be punished for keeping them with you, but I also feel if you and your Family are still in Church actively, you should find a place to bury her for your closure and for most importantly your Grandson’s closure. Letting go is hard, but trying to keep her as a part of everyday life may in my opinion be a dishonor . Being that God said her time was over. Let her spirit live in your Hearts and God will take care of the rest. God Bless you and your Grandson Always.

  5. Karen says

    After reading the above article I feel torn about the decision I made. My daughter died of brain cancer this Jan, 2013 at the age of 33, I had her cremated because of the expense of a regular burial, but I purchased a ceramic jar so I could keep her with me in my home, I was not aware of ” display” being wrong, I just felt that I wasn’t ready to give her up yet and leave her at the cemetery because it reminds me of how I had to leave her during the day at the hospital and nursing home while I worked and then leave her again at night because her son, my grandson needed rest to go to school, we spent almost every minute with her when we weren’t working or in school except for a few days so he would have some normalcy, doing some things he liked to relax, so would it be a sin for me to keep her at home, maybe at least awhile, I would have to save up money to purchase a plot or a spot in the mausoleum …what should I do?

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