Cremation Q&A

Cremation is permitted by the Catholic Church as long as this decision does not defy the faith of the Church in the bodily resurrection. The Church prefers that cremation takes place after the full funeral liturgy with the body. However, in the American culture, cremation has taken place immediately or soon after death. “Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the body to be present for the Funeral Mass. When extraordinary circumstances make the cremation of a body, the only feasible choice, pastoral sensitivity must be exercised by all who minister to the family of the deceased.” (Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix II)

What is the proper container for cremated remains?

Appropriate, worthy containers (not necessarily expensive) such as a classic urn are proper for the cremated remains. Although jewelry, dishes, statuary and space capsules are examples of designer containers now being offered, they are unacceptable in Catholic funeral practices. It is also unacceptable to have your cremated remains made into jewelry, dishes and the like.

Must cremated remains be buried/entombed? YES.

Respectful final disposition of cremated remains involves internment or entombment. Burial options include a family grave in a cemetery marked with a traditional memorial stone or an urn garden, a special section in a cemetery with small, pre-dug graves for urns.

What is a columbarium?

A common practice is the entombment of the cremated remains in a “columbarium.” It is an arrangement of niches, either in a mausoleum, a room or wall into which an urn or other worthy vessel is placed for permanent memorial.

May I scatter the ashes? NO.

“The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.” (Order of Christian Funerals, Appendix II)

May I bury the ashes at sea? YES.

Burial at sea of cremated remains differs from scattering. An appropriate and worthy container, heavy enough to be sent to its final resting place, may be dropped into the sea. The burial of cremated remains at sea in this manner seems to be an appropriate alternative to the long-standing and revered custom of a traditional burial at sea. Please consult your local government for environmental regulations. (See Order of Christian Funerals, #405.4)