Church reminds faithful about guidelines for cremation
A Catholic priest is reminding the faithful to be circumspect in following a loved one’s last wish to the letter, especially when it comes to handling the remains of the deceased.
Movies and soap operas have made popular the scattering of cremated remains (cremains) in keeping with the final wish of a loved one, but Catholic teaching prohibits the practice, according to Fr. Roy Bellen, head of the Archdiocese of Manila’s Office of Communication.
“Even if you come from dust and to dust you shall return, you will be resurrected … so you don’t need to scatter the ashes. That’s the Christian faith,” Bellen told reporters in a recent interview.
Scattering of ashes
While the Catholic Church allows cremation as an alternative to burial, it doesn’t allow the scattering of ashes back to nature or keeping urns at home.
It also continues to highly recommend that bodies be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places, which is one of the corporal works of mercy.
The Vatican on Tuesday released the new guidelines, which were approved by Pope Francis, on the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation.
The instructions were in response to the growing trend of cremation and the scattering of cremains in the air, on land and at sea.
Cremation, according to the guidelines, does not constitute a denial of belief in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body.
Nor does it “prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life.”
But the guidelines said cremains should be kept in cemeteries or in a consecrated place as a sign of respect for the dead and to prevent them from being forgotten.
Preserving the ashes in a sacred place also “encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.”
Bellen said that while there was nothing wrong with following the wishes of deceased loved ones, these requests, particularly that of handling their remains, should still be in accordance with Catholic teaching.
He also said it was important that those opting for cremation fully understood what the process was. “It should be very clear to them what is cremation and this is not about ‘I want to be one with nature,’” said the priest.
He also advised the faithful against obeying extreme wishes of a loved one, such as feeding his cremains to a favorite dog.
“Would you go that far? You would not. There are limitations to this and the Catholic teachings have provisions on [what is allowable and what is not],” he said.
“It is influenced by the media in a way. These dramatics of being one with nature, etc. One would think anything can be asked and followed but it [doesn’t work that way],” he said.
But he conceded that in the end, it was still the choice of the faithful. “We guide them and evangelize them that as much as possible, we give value to the deceased and preserve them in a place where they can be remembered and where people can pray for them,” Bellen said.
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