Although the preference of the Catholic Church is for burial of the full body, the Church has permited cremation since 1963, except when it is evident that cremation was chosen for anti-Christian motives. When cremation is chosen, one of the following options is used:
Cremation after the funeral liturgy.
When cremation is chosen, the Church strongly prefers that the cremation take place after the liturgy and that the body of the deceased be present during the funeral rites. The presence of the human body more clearly brings to mind the life and death of that person, and better expresses the values that the Church affirms in its funeral rites. When cremation follows the liturgy, the funeral liturgy and other rites are celebrated as described under Funeral Rites.
Funeral liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains.
The Holy See authorized the bishops of the United States to allow the celebration of a funeral liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains of the body. The cremated remains of the body are to be treated with the same respect given to the human body. Prior to the funeral Mass or as a part of the entrance procession of the Mass, a worthy vessel, containing the cremated remains, is carried with reverence into the church. The cremated remains are placed on a suitable stand or table in the place normally occupied by the coffin. The funeral Mass begins with the sprinkling of holy water: however, a pall is not placed over the cremated remains. The funeral Mass is celebrated as described above. Following the prayer after Communion, the rite of final commendation takes place as usual.
Cremation and committal prior to the funeral liturgy.
When the body is cremated and committed soon after death, the rites of final commendation and committal are used at the appropriate times, even though occurring prior to the funeral liturgy. The vigil and other rites are also adapted, as necessary. Following the committal, the family and friends of the deceased join the community in celebrating the funeral liturgy. After Communion, the blessing is given and the people are dismissed.
Proper Interment of Cremated Remains.
The Catholic Church teaches that cremated remains must be treated with the same respect as the body of the deceased. The principle of respect for the cremated remains embraces the deeper belief in the individuality that each baptized person has before God. Respectful final disposition of cremated remains involves interment or entombment in the consecrated grounds of a cemetery. Burial options include a family grave marked with a traditional memorial or interment in an urn garden within the cemetery that is specially designed for burial of the urn with an appropriate stone or bronze memorial. Options for entombment include placement of the urn in specially designed niches in a mausoleum or columbarium. Practices such as scattering cremated remains on the ground or in a body of water, keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend, or burying cremated remains at home or in places other than the consecrated grounds of a cemetery are not in keeping with the reverent disposition of remains that the Church requires. The human body should always be laid to rest with solemnity and dignity. The Order of Christian Funerals requires that cremated remains be interred with the same solemnity and dignity as is afforded to the full body.