Can Catholics be Cremated? Vatican Rules Explained

Cremation, the process of reducing the body to ashes, has become an increasingly popular choice for funeral arrangements. While many religions have different views on cremation, the Catholic Church has traditionally preferred burial. However, in 1963, the Vatican issued a statement allowing Catholics to choose cremation as an option. In 2016, the church updated its guidelines for cremation.

In this article…

Catholic Church Views on Cremation

The Catholic Church views the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, and as such, it should be treated with respect and dignity. Cremation is acceptable, but it must be done in a manner that is respectful of the body. According to the church’s guidelines, cremation is not to be used as a way to deny the resurrection of the body. The church recommends that cremation be followed by a funeral mass, which is a celebration of the deceased person’s life and a prayer for their soul.

Catholic Rules for Handling Cremated Remains

When it comes to the handling of ashes, the Catholic Church has specific rules. The ashes must be placed in a sacred place, such as a cemetery or a church. They cannot be scattered, divided, or kept at home. The church recommends that the ashes be buried in a grave, crypt, or columbarium. 

The church does allow for the ashes to be kept in a niche in a cemetery or a church. If the family chooses to keep the ashes in a niche, the church requires that the urn containing the ashes be sealed and placed in a place of honor. 

What is a niche? : A niche refers to a small compartment or alcove in a cemetery or a church where an urn containing the ashes of a deceased person can be placed. Niches are typically made of stone or marble and are designed to hold urns or other containers of varying sizes. Niches can be used to store urns containing cremated remains permanently or temporarily until a final resting place is determined. Some niches have a plaque or other marker with the name and dates of the deceased person inscribed on it. Niches can be located indoors or outdoors, and some are designed to hold more than one urn.

The urn should not be made to look like a decorative object, and it should not be placed on a mantelpiece or a shelf in a private home. The church also prohibits the scattering of ashes, as this does not show proper respect for the body.

Can you have a Catholic funeral mass if you’re cremated?

Yes, it is possible to have a Catholic funeral mass if you have been cremated. In fact, the Catholic Church encourages funeral masses for those who have been cremated as a way of showing respect and reverence for the deceased person’s body.

However, there are certain guidelines that must be followed.

According to the Catholic Church’s guidelines: 

  • The mass ought to be held before cremation.
  • The funeral mass should be held with the cremated remains present. This can be accomplished by placing the urn containing the ashes on a table or a stand near the altar. 
  • The urn should be covered with a pall or a cloth, and it should be accompanied by a crucifix and two candlesticks.
  • During the funeral mass, the same prayers and rituals that are used in a traditional funeral are used. The liturgy of the Word, including readings from the Old and New Testaments and a homily, is followed by the liturgy of the Eucharist, where the body and blood of Christ are consecrated and distributed to the congregation.

After the funeral mass, the ashes should be taken to their final resting place. The Catholic Church requires that the ashes be buried in a grave, crypt, or columbarium, and that they be treated with respect and dignity. The ashes should not be scattered, divided, or kept at home.

Do any Christian denominations forbid cremation?

While most Christian denominations do not forbid cremation, there are a few that hold the traditional view that burial is the only acceptable way to dispose of the body after death.

The Eastern Orthodox Church traditionally forbade cremation, but in recent years, it has become more accepting of the practice. The church’s stance on cremation varies depending on the individual diocese and bishop.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormon Church, does not forbid cremation, but it strongly encourages burial. According to the LDS, burial is a way of showing respect for the body, which is considered to be a sacred creation of God.

Some Fundamentalist Christian denominations, such as certain Baptists, believe that cremation is a sin and that it goes against the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body. They believe that burial is the only way to show respect for the body and that cremation is a form of destruction that is not in line with Christian teachings.

In contrast, other Christian denominations, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, and most Protestant denominations, do not have any restrictions on cremation and allow it as an acceptable means of disposition of the body after death (provided that certain guidelines are followed as discussed above).