Catholics & Cremation
While most Catholics still prefer full-body burial, today some families and individuals may consider cremation as an alternative to traditional burial. Cremation is another way of preparing you or your loved one for remembrance and memorialization, which is an integral part of the grieving process. Like a traditional burial, choosing a permanent and dignified resting place for the human cremated remains of a departed loved one is equally important, especially for loved ones who will visit, pray, and remember.
Burial Guidelines from the Vatican
New instruction from the Vatican restates the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the Church’s burial preference for the remains of the faithful. The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased because this shows a greater esteem towards the departed. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian faith.
When cremation of the body has been chosen, the human cremated remains of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place (i.e., a Catholic cemetery). This helps to ensure that due respect is shown to the faithful departed and that they are included in the prayers and remembrance of their family and the Catholic community.
Human cremated remains of the faithful departed should not be scattered, or kept in one’s home, nor should they be divided among family members.
Sacred, Safe, Eternal
A memorial at Catholic Cemeteries provides families, friends and future generations a permanent place to remember and pay tribute to that special life. It also assures you and your family of the dignified and proper long-term care of loved ones in a safe, holy place. Additionally, detailed records offer family members assurance that future generations can identify and gain access to precious family relationships, histories, and your family tree.
Keeping An Urn at Home?
If you are holding the human cremated remains of a loved one at home, whether they departed recently or many years ago, consider bringing them to a Catholic cemetery. The dignified and permanent interment of human cremated remains in a holy place properly recognizes the Order of Christian Funerals. Accommodations are available to place a loved one in a grave or niche or in an existing resting place.
Additionally, there are ways to honor at a Catholic cemetery those whose human cremated remains have been scattered or otherwise are unavailable and to ensure that they will be prayed for as we do for all the faithful departed. We will work with your family to make accommodations to place a plaque “In Memory Of” an individual to a niche, grave or existing headstone so your loved one will be prayed for and remembered.
Let Us Guide You
The promise of Catholic Cemeteries is to provide a dignified, permanent and sacred resting place for the cremated remains of your loved one, whatever your needs. Speak with a trained Memorial Planning Advisor today. Stop by, call, or visit online.
n 1963, the Catholic Church lifted the prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation. The permission was incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law of 1983 (Canon #1176), as well as into the Order of Christian Funerals.
“The Church strongly prefers cremation to take place after the full funeral liturgy with the body. The presence of the body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person and better expresses the values that the Church affirms in its rites”(Church and Cremation, para.3). “The body forcefully brings to mind our belief that our human bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and destined for future glory at the resurrection of the dead. When the rites of the Order of Christian Funerals are fully celebrated they ritualize the journey from life through death to the fullness of God” (OCF 412).
Disposition and Memorialization of Cremated Remains
“The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and their final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or a friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires. Whenever possible, appropriate means for memorializing the deceased should be utilized, such as a plaque or stone that records the name of the deceased” (OCF 426).
Arrangements should be made with the family of the deceased or funeral director and cemetery for proper handling of the cremated remains. The cremains should be treated with respect when handled, transported and finally put to rest.
For particular reasons, the body of the deceased is sometimes cremated before the preferred funeral rites of the Church may be celebrated. This is called direct or immediate cremation. This might occur, for instance, when a person dies a great distance from home. The family might decide to have the body cremated since shipping cremated remains is not as difficult as transporting a human body. Direct or immediate cremation may also be chosen for health reasons, if the person were to die of an infectious disease. It could also be chosen if prolonged severe weather, or some natural disaster, would not allow the usual funeral rituals to take place.
Services with the Cremated Remains
Since 1997, the Church’s Funeral Rites may be celebrated in the presence of the cremated human remains. It is the Church’s preference that its funeral rites take place in the presence of the body of the deceased and not in the presence of the cremated remains, “since the presence of the human body better expresses the values that the Church affirms in its rites.” (Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites, Committee on the Liturgy, NCCB, 1997) Assurance must be given that cremated remains will be properly buried or entombed. If a family indicates that the remains are to be scattered or disposed of in an inappropriate way, the cremated remains may not be present in the church for a funeral liturgy. Scattering is contrary to Catholic teaching that says the cremated human remains should be handled with the same reverence with which we handle a human body.
If the cremated remains are to be present during the funeral rites, those rites take place in the following manner. If there is a wake and the cremated remains have already been returned to the family, the wake should take place in the presence of the cremated remains and the vigil service should be celebrated. “It is appropriate that the cremated remains of the body be present for the full course of the funeral rites, including the Vigil for the Deceased, the Funeral Liturgy, and the Rite of Committal.” (Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites, Committee on the Liturgy, NCCB, 1997)
The church service takes place in the following way. The urn containing the cremated remains may be carried into the church by a member of the family. The priest, waiting at the doors of the church, greets the people, and then he sprinkles the cremated remains with holy water. Following that, the priest and ministers proceed to the altar. The bearer with the cremated remains walks behind them, and then the mourners follow.
The urn with the cremated remains is placed on a stand in the position normally occupied by the casket. The Easter candle may be placed near the cremated remains. This stand is not intended for mementos or other memorabilia, any more than a casket in church is a place for such items. The cremated remains are not covered with any type of pall or white cloth. (OCF Appendix, 434) When all have taken their places, the priest goes to the presidential chair where he prays the opening prayer of the funeral liturgy. The rest of the church service takes place as usual.
It should be noted that the cremated remains should be in a dignified urn, and not in the cardboard box, or the plastic or metal shipping container in which they were returned from the crematory. (OCF Appendix, 417) “Care must be taken that all is carried out with due decorum.” (OCF Appendix, 427) If the cremated remains are not carried into the church during the service, they are placed on the stand by the Easter Candle before the service begins.
The rite of committal follows the church service. The Church strongly recommends that a memorial plaque or stone recording the name of the deceased be placed where the cremated remains are buried or entombed. (OCF Appendix, 417)
The celebration of the funeral rites in the presence of the cremated remains should look different and feel different from those celebrated in the presence of a human body. The prayers are slightly altered and the signs and symbols are somewhat different. There should be no attempt to make a funeral liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains look like one celebrated in the presence of a human body. For example, the urn with the cremated remains should not be placed in a casket or in some type of receptacle that brings a casket to mind. The urn should not be carried on a device that allows for the use of pall bearers. An urn with cremated remains is not a casket requiring a carriage or the use of pall bearers. The urn should not be covered with any type of miniature funeral pall.
Again, it should be stressed that the funeral rites taking place in the presence of the cremated human remains address a special or extraordinary situation. The Church wishes to show its compassion to families dealing with immediate or direct cremation, but at the same time the Church wishes to recommend that its funeral rites take place in their usual sequence, and in the presence of the body of the deceased.
Catholics celebrate the funeral rituals with care and reverence. We do so because we value the body of the deceased. For this was a “body once washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation and fed with the bread of life. This is the body whose hands clothed the poor and embraced the sorrowing.” (Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites, Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, 1997) This is also the body of a person with whom we still have a relationship – the body of a parent, a sibling, a relative, a friend, a neighbor, a fellow Christian. Out of reverence for the human body, for our relationship with the deceased and for Jesus Christ the Lord of Life who conquered death, we celebrate these funeral rituals. For we are a people who believe that relationships, and the obligations and bonds that come with them, continue beyond death!
- Original “Certificate of Right of Interment/Entombment” must be presented to cemetery. If lost or misplaced, a notarized affidavit must be signed by original owner or ALL SURVIVING HEIRS, if the owner is deceased.
- Original crematory slip.
- Signed Archdiocesan authorization from original owner or all surviving heirs
- Check for current opening fee; MasterCard and Visa are accepted.
- All paperwork must be sent and approved by the cemetery office, prior to Human Cremated remains being mailed to cemetery. Any Human Cremated remains sent without prior approval will be refused and returned.
- Twelve working hours are required to open a grave for Human Cremated remains.
- If a priest is requested to be present at the time of interment it is up to the funeral director or family to make the arrangements.
- For the protection and sanctity of the Human Cremated remains, the Archdiocese of Newark requires all Human Cremated remains to be interred in an urn vault. The type of urn vault and sizes are outlined herein.
- The maximum external dimensions of the urn vault should not exceed 16″ long x 16″ wide x 19″ high or not less than 14″ long x 9″ wide x 13″ high. Any deviation in size is subject to space availability and certificate rights within the grave.
- Please keep in mind, the family placing the order is taking the responsibility of a funeral director and will have the gravesite service conducted in a timely fashion, as are all funerals.