ORDER OF CHRISTIAN FUNERALS, Appendix 2, "Cremation"
411 The Christian faithful are unequivocally confronted by the
mystery of life and death when they are faced with the presence of the
body of one who has died. Moreover, the body which lies in death
naturally recalls the personal story of faith, the loving family bonds,
the friendships, and the words and acts of kindness of the deceased
person. Indeed, the human body is inextricably associated with the human
person, which acts and is experienced by others through that body. It is
the body whose hands clothed the poor and embraced the sorrowing.
412 The body of a deceased Catholic Christian is also the body once
washed in baptism, anointed with the oil of salvation, and fed with the
Bread of Life. Thus, the Church's reverence for the sacredness of the
human body grows out of a reverence and concern both natural and
supernatural for the human person. The body of the deceased brings
forcefully to mind the Church's conviction that the human body is in
Christ a temple of the Holy Spirit and is destined for future glory at
the resurrection of the dead. This conviction in faith finds its
expression in a sustained and insistent prayer that commends the
deceased person to God's merciful care so that his or her place in the
communion of the just may be assured. A further expression is the care
traditionally taken to prepare the bodies of the deceased for a burial
that befits their dignity, in expectation of their final resurrection in
PRESENCE OF THE BODY AT THE FUNERAL LITURGY
413 Although cremation is now permitted by the Church, it does not
enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers
and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral
rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values
which the Church affirms in those rites.
414 The Church's teaching in regard to the human body as well as the
Church's preference for burial of the body should be a regular part of
catechesis on all levels and pastors should make particular efforts to
preserve this important teaching.
415 Sometimes, however, it is not possible for the body to be present
for the Funeral Mass. When extraordinary circumstances make the
cremation of a body the only feasible choice, pastoral sensitivity must
be exercised by priests, deacons, and others who minister to the family
of the deceased.
RESPECT FOR THE CREMATED REMAINS OF A BODY
416 The Catholic Church commends its deceased members to the mercy of
God by means of its funeral rites. It likewise asks that the Christian
faithful continue to offer prayer for deceased family members and
friends. The annual celebration of All Souls Day, the commemoration of
all the faithful departed on November 2, attests to this salutary
practice. Masses celebrated for the deceased on the anniversaries of
death or at other significant times continue the Church's prayer and
remembrance. For Catholic Christians, cemeteries, especially Catholic
cemeteries, call to mind the resurrection of the dead. In addition, they
are the focus for the Church's remembering of the dead and offering of
prayer for them.
417 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 the 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
friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church
requires. Whenever possible, appropriate means for recording with
dignity the memory of the deceased should be adopted, such as a plaque
or stone which records the name of the deceased.
THE FUNERAL LITURGY
When cremation takes place following the Funeral Liturgy
418 When the choice has been made to cremate a body, it is
recommended that the cremation take place after the Funeral Liturgy. In
this case, the Vigil for the Deceased and related rites and prayers, as
well as the Funeral Liturgy are celebrated as they are provided in this
419 At the conclusion of the Funeral Liturgy, the Rite of Final
Commendation and Farewell takes place, using the alternate form of
dismissal (p. 396). Then the cremation of the body takes place.
420 At the Rite of Committal, the cremated remains of the body of the
deceased person are reverently taken to the place of burial or
entombment and the alternate form for the words of committal is used (p.
421 When the Final Commendation is celebrated as part of the
Rite of Committal rather than at the Funeral Liturgy, the alternate form
for the words of committal is used.
When cremation and committal take place before the Funeral Liturgy
422 When cremation and committal take place before the Funeral
Liturgy, the Prayers after Death and the Vigil for the Deceased may be
adapted as necessary and appropriate and used before the Funeral
Liturgy. The Rite of Committal with Final Commendation may also be
celebrated at that time. The alternate form for the words of committal
423 Following the committal, the family and friends of the
deceased join the Catholic community for the Funeral Liturgy, Prayers
which do not make reference to the honoring or burying of the body of
the deceased should be chosen instead of those which have these themes.
424 The Funeral Mass is celebrated as given in this ritual. The Rite
of Final Commendation is omitted, since it has already taken place.
Following the prayer after Communion, the blessing is given and the
people are dismissed in the usual way.
425 When the Funeral Liturgy outside Mass is celebrated, the
Rite of Final Commendation is omitted, since it has already taken place.
Following the Lord's Prayer, a blessing is given and the people are
dismissed in the usual way.
Funeral liturgy in the presence of the cremated remains
426 By virtue of an indult granted by the Congregation for
Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Prot. 1589/96/L),
the celebration of the Funeral Liturgy, including Mass, in the presence
of the cremated remains of the body of a deceased person is permitted in
the dioceses of the United States of America under the following
a. That the cremation not be inspired by motives contrary to
Christian teaching, in accordance with what is laid down by the Code
of Canon Law (canon 1176 § 3).
b. That each diocesan bishop will judge whether it is pastorally
appropriate to celebrate the liturgy for the dead, with or without
Mass, with the ashes present, taking into account the concrete
circumstances in each individual case, and in harmony with the
spirit and precise content of the current canonical and liturgical
427 If the diocesan bishop has decided to allow the
celebration of the Funeral Liturgy in the presence of the cremated
remains of the deceased person, care must be taken that all is carried
out with due decorum. The cremated remains of the body are to be placed
in a worthy vessel. A small table or stand is to be prepared for them at
the place normally occupied by the coffin. The vessel containing the
cremated remains may be carried to its place in the entrance procession
or may be placed on this table or stand sometime before the liturgy
428 After the people have assembled, the Funeral Mass is
celebrated as laid down in the Roman Missal and this ritual.
Prayers which do not make reference to the honoring or burying of the
body of the deceased should be chosen instead of those which have these
themes. Following the prayer after Communion, the Rite of Final
Commendation takes place. The alternate form for the dismissal is used
429 When the Funeral Liturgy outside Mass is celebrated, all
takes place as laid down in this ritual. Prayers which do not make
reference to the honoring or burying of the body of the deceased should
be chosen instead of those which have these themes. Following the Lord's
Prayer, the Rite of Final Commendation takes place. The alternate form
for the dismissal is used (p. 396).
430 The Rite of Committal is celebrated at the cemetery or
columbarium as soon as possible following the Funeral Liturgy. The
alternate form for the words of committal is used (p. 396).
431 When the Rite of Committal with Final Commendation is
celebrated, the alternate form for the words of committal is used.