An indult was granted by the Holy See to the diocesan bishops of the United States which allows the cremated remains of a body to be present at the funeral liturgy. Although the Church now permits cremation, we continue to give higher value to the burial of the body. If there is to be cremation, the Church clearly prefers and urges that the funeral liturgy take place in the presence of the deceased body prior to its cremation. Only in extraordinary circumstances should the cremated remains of the body be present during the funeral liturgy.
The Church strongly recommends that the cremated remains be treated with respect and reverence with burial in a Catholic cemetery. The cremated remains may be placed (inurned) in a grave, mausoleum, or columbarium niche designated for cremation. They may also be placed in an occupied grave or crypt if room allows. In any case, a maximum of one interment and one inurnment or two inurnments will be permitted in a single grave or crypt.
The practice of scattering the cremated remains on the sea, from the air, on the ground or keeping the cremated remains in the home are not the reverent disposition the Church recommends.
Columbarium niches (right) are just one of the many options available for cremation burial.
Due to the changing trends in funeral practices, the Bishops of New York State have prepared this brochure to answer common questions regarding the important elements of Church teaching concerning cremation. The responses are consistent with the U.S. Bishops’ Cremation and Order of Christian Funerals and “Reflections on the Body, Cremation, and Catholic Funeral Rites” documents, which were consulted as source material.
Printable brochure here