2510 INTRODUCTION #
Throughout its two thousand year history the Church through its teaching, tradition and iturgy has placed strong emphasis on the sacreuAess and respectful care which should be shown to the bodily remains of the deceased. This reverence and care for the dead has been reflected clearly in our Catholic funeral and ‘rnrial rituals as well as in the Christian burial practices and prayerful remembrance of our deceased.
In 1963 the Church modified its long-standing prohibition of cremation. The new directives allowed cremation to be chosen provided the choice did not reflect a denial or doubt about the Church’s teachings or traditions about life, death or resurrection. The Code of Canon Law (Can. 1176, No. 3) states: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.” Canon 1184 directs that: “unless they have.given some signs of repentance before their death, the following are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rite . . . (2 ) persons who have chosen the cremation of their own bodies for reasons opposed to the Christian faith.”
With these changes in the matter of cremation some confusion and many questions have arisen among our Catholic people. For pastoral reasons it is essential that our people know the law and be familiar with what is appropriate for liturgical services and burial of cremated remains.
2520 SERVICES #
Ideally, the wake service and funeral Mass are offered with the body present followed by cremation and proper burial or entombment of the cremated remains. If cremation takes place immediately after death, the cremated remains must not be present in the church for a funeral Mass. (Sacred Congregation of Sacraments and Divine Worship – Cremation and the Funeral Mass – January 1977).
2530 BURIAL #
Cremated remains should be buried or entombed in compliance with the directives which are prescribed in the Christian Burial Guidelines for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The scattering of cremated remains or the keeping of them in a place other than a cemetery are practices which are not in keeping with the Church’s long tradition of respectful care for the proper burial of the bodily remains of our deceased; cremated remains :=could be buried or entombed. The prescribed burial ritual should be used at the cemetery for the burial or entombment of the cremated remains.
2540 CONCLUSIONS #
Pastorally, it is important that our people receive proper instruction on the teaching and practices of our Church in the matter of cremation. Some of our people have experienced a great deal of unnecessary tension and pain because of decisions made about cremation based on misconceptions or ignorance. Hcpefully, appropriate instruction and good counselling will help to minimize some of these problems.