The Vatican* issued a new document on burial and cremation this week affirming the Church’s dictum that cremation of dead bodies does not conflict with Church protocol. However, the Church issued explicit instructions for the disposal of the ashes of a burned Catholic body, saying they must be kept together — and not scattered — and kept together “in a sacred place.” Above the mantle, or anywhere in a private residence, does not constitute a sacred place.
In saying that a body’s ashes must be kept together and stored at a proper “cemetery or church” or in “an area which has been set aside for this purpose and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority,” the Vatican gives the following reasoning: “Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimize, or relegate to the purely private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.” The Church still favors burial of the body.
[NOTE: Catholic Cemeteries are a multi-million dollar business with 6,000 parish cemeteries in the US alone. The US cremation rate was 26 percent in 2000 and is expected to rise to 60 percent by 2025.]
[*The instruction was given by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the auspices of Pope Francis.]