Dust to ashes to dust: Cremation, the Vatican way
Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, esteemed editor in chief of the Inquirer, was cremated hours after she died in December 2015.
The gold urn containing her ashes was placed in the middle of the altar of the the Aeternum chapel at the Heritage Park in Taguig City and surrounded with flowers as the wake took place and as requiem and novena Masses and necrological services were held.
After the wake, the urn was brought to the Magsanoc home and later to the Inquirer where a Mass was held for the repose of her soul.
Magsanoc or LJM, as she was known at the Inquirer, was then buried at the Manila Memorial Park, according to her son Nikko Magsanoc.
LJM was thus honored with both a traditional and a modern wake and funeral.
This is the way to go with cremated remains, according to the Vatican. Ashes must be kept “in a holy place, that is a cemetery or a church or in a place that has been specifically dedicated to this purpose.”
The Vatican document, “Ad Resurgendum cum Christo,” dated Aug. 15, says: “In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death, burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.”
It adds: “By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity.”
Burying the dead is a Christian tradition and grave burial or inhumation has, for years, been the more common way Christian Filipinos honor their dead.
This was shown in a quick study on burial practices done on Facebook. The findings:
The families of Megi Garcia, Regie Caballero, Naty Pagadut, Batch Franco Marasigan, Ellen Payongayong and Sally Orquieza all buried their departed loved ones.
Noni Legaspi Peteros’ father, mother, sister, father- and mother-in-law, brothers- and sisters-in law were all buried. She only had an aunt and three first cousins who were cremated.
Bing Yenko Kasilag’s dead loved ones from her father’s side were buried. Some from her mother’s side were cremated, with one—a ship captain—leaving instructions that his ashes be scattered at sea.
Christian Manaloto’s immediate family members were all given the traditional Catholic burial after the usual wake of a few days. But he expressed the wish that he be cremated immediately, after the death certificate is signed, to avoid inconveniencing his remaining immediate family—his mother and his lone living brother who is married with two young daughters.
There has been an increase in cremation statistics since it was permitted by the Catholic Church in 1963. Its popularity has been due to economic factors (it is much cheaper than the traditional burial) and practical considerations (like that of Manaloto’s, which has made the traditional wake and burial of the extended family more feasible).
With the increase in popularity of cremation came the many ways to store or disperse cremated remains depending on the wishes of the departed or of the ones he or she left behind.
It was the wish of Bambi Donato’s father, who died in 1997 when cremation was not yet popular, to have his remains cremated. Donato said his father’s ashes were placed in an urn and was in the family altar for quite sometime.
When Tropical Storm “Ondoy” happened in 2009, their home was not spared from flooding. Bambi’s mother realized that during emergency situations, the urn will be left at home or might be displaced, so for practical reasons, they buried the urn in the cemetery.
In Iligan City, Gloria Obach’s uncle was cremated and the urn containing his ashes and bones have been placed in the living room.
The ashes of the aunt and a cousin of Peteros were placed in urns and buried in a cemetery, while the ashes of her other cousins were divided among their kin or thrown at sea
The latest Church guidelines on cremation emphasizes the belief that, “We come from the earth and we shall return to the earth.” It does not allow ashes to be scattered or kept at home, to be divided among family members, “nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”
Upon knowing this, Nikko Magsanoc said, “It’s good we didn’t scatter her (LJM’s) ashes at PDI.”
The young Magsanoc is on point. While it can be argued that PDI is a holy place, scattering of ashes is a complete no-no.
Not even if it were the expressed wish of the departed?
“Ad Resurgendum cum Christo” clearly states: “When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person.”
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