Learn about the Catholic Church’s View On Cremation

A few days ago, the Vatican issued new “guidance” that clarified its views on cremation. 

You can access the Vatican pronouncement by clicking here.  

Areal view of Vatican city.

Historically, the Catholic Church harbored reservations towards cremation, perceiving it as misaligned with Christian tenets.

However, an epochal transformation occurred in 1963, acknowledging that cremation aligns harmoniously with Christian doctrine when chosen for reasons not contradicting the faith.  Fast-forwarding to 2016, the Holy See issued edicts underscoring the respectful management of cremated remains, mandating their rest on consecrated grounds.

On December 9, 2023, the Vatican released more guidance relating to cremation, further liberalizing its views and making cremation a better option for Catholic families.  

December 12, 2023, marked a significant liberalization in the Church’s position on cremation, reflecting a deepened comprehension of societal shifts and familial ties.

The two most important changes in Church dogma are summarized below:  

The Vatican now permits cremated remains to be combined (commingled) so long as the cremated remains are placed in a sacred place (such as a Catholic cemetery, mausoleum, or ossuary) and there is a permanent memorial of the deceased (nameplate or other register book) so that the deceased’s name will be eternally remembered; and 

Entrance of a catholic cemetery which reads Rest In Peace.

With Church review and approval, families are now allowed to separate cremated remains, bring a small amount of them home, and place them in a location of significance to the deceased person.  Other requirements are that the portion of cremated remains brought home should be conserved with dignity at a site of importance, and the main portion of ashes must be laid to rest in a sacred location, i.e., a Catholic cemetery.

The Vatican’s new guidance allows many new options for Catholic families to memorialize their departed. 

For example, the cremated remains of married couples can now be combined so that a husband and wife, after cremation, can rest in peace together.  Also, the cremated remains of a parent and child can be combined as well.  

And, since cremated remains can be brought home and displayed in a location of significance to the family or deceased, options for memorializing loved ones are now unlimited in number and scope.  

The Vatican’s revised cremation guidelines herald a pivotal shift, embracing evolving societal norms within the ambit of age-old beliefs.  For Catholic families, this melds tradition with personal expression, offering diverse ways to honor their deceased, resonating with their spirituality and hearts.