Catholics & Cremation
The Catholic Church’s practice of burial goes back to early Christian days. A strong belief in the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, as well as the belief in the resurrection of the body, support the Church’s continued reverence for the human body. From early Christian days cremation was viewed as a pagan practice and a denial of the doctrine of the Resurrection. This is why cremation was expressly forbidden by the Catholic Church until recent years.
In 1963, an Instruction from the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) lifted the ban on cremation by allowing it, provided that the reasons for choosing cremation were not contrary to Christian belief.
The Church’s decision to allow cremation recognizes the fact that sometimes it best meets the needs of the family. On the other hand, the Church continues to encourage that cremation of the body takes place after the wake and funeral mass in order to allow for sufficient grieving in the presence of the body which can help people to deal with their loss.
Mourners need sufficient time to remember and celebrate the life of the deceased to begin to grow accustomed to the absence of a loved one. The Church wants to encourage families to take the time needed to say their good-byes, to encourage the grieving process.
When cremation is chosen, the options to be considered are the following:
1. The vigil service and the funeral mass are celebrated before the body of the deceased is cremated and the burial takes place after cremation.
2. The body of the deceased is cremated before the celebration of the vigil service and the funeral mass. The vessel containing the cremated remains is present at one or both events.
click: Care of Cremated Remains
click: Rituals Supporting Death