Vatican On Cremated Remains: Bury, Don't Scatter

In 1963, the Catholic Church lifted its doctrinal prohibition on cremation, despite a continued preference for traditional burial.  Yet as cremation has grown in popularity, many local priests have struggled with the absence of clear norms for handling cremated remains. In response, the Vatican recently issued new guidelines on cremation which, among other things, prohibit the scattering of ashes in favor of preserving the cremated remains in cemeteries and other approved sacred sites. The new guidelines also reaffirm the spiritual and canonical underpinnings of the Church's teachings and stated preference for traditional burial.

The guidelines reiterate that burial in a cemetery "encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead."  Accordingly, the Vatican states that cremation urns should not be kept in loved one's homes except in "grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature." The text also prohibits scattering loved one's ashes or using the ashes in the creation of jewelry, stating that such "unfitting or superstitious practices" can promote "erroneous ideas about death."  

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