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Regarding Spreading of Ashes

Scattering ashes/ Feeling close to God

Question Corner | Fr. Kenneth Doyle February 23, 2018  Catholic News Service

Q:  When I die, I would like to be cremated and have my ashes scattered in a place of peace and beauty that I have already chosen. However, when I have asked a couple of priests, they say that I can be cremated but that my ashes must be in an urn and either buried or interred in an above-ground mausoleum.

The reason they have given is that my body/ashes must be together at the end of the world. So does that mean that people who have died in explosions and have had their bodies completely incinerated cannot be reunited with Christ? (Even if embalmed, our bodies will still rot away; will bodies actually be in heaven, or only our spirits/souls?) (Minneapolis)

A:  It is true, as you learned, that in the view of the Catholic Church, cremains should be buried or interred in a sacred, church-approved place. But the reason is not so much, as you suggest, that “the ashes must be together at the end of the world.”

Instead, it results from the church’s belief that the human body is an essential part of a person’s identity and that cremains should therefore be treated with the same respect as a human corpse.

Additionally, the church prefers that the cremains be accessible to the public so that the Christian community can come and remember the dead in prayer. And so, in 2016 when the Vatican issued guidelines for cremation, it clarified that the cremains should not be scattered, divided up, placed in lockets or kept at home.

And yes, it is an essential Catholic doctrine (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1017) that in heaven our bodies will be reunited with our souls — although transformed into a glorified state, freed from any suffering or pain. Exactly how that will happen we do not know, although I feel confident that God can figure it out — even for those whose bodies have been “completely incinerated” at death.


As published on on February 23, 2018 scattering-ashes-feeling-close-god/