From the Desk of the Pastor
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DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH APPROVE CREMATION?
The Catholic Church holds the deceased bodies of the faithful in the highest regard. Respect and reverence is due the human body in all stages, from the moment of conception through natural death, as created in the image and likeness of our God. We have traditionally buried the dead in the ground as Christ himself was buried in the tomb.
Burial continues to be the Church’s preference and our funeral rites assume the presence of the body during the Mass of Christian Burial. The presence of the body during the Mass heightens our focus on the hope in the resurrection and our being reunited with Jesus Christ in His resurrection. We are a people of hope who longs to be forever with our Lord and Savior.
The Church permits cremation as long as it is not chosen because of a denial of belief in the resurrection or denial of any other Catholic teaching. Cremation is becoming more and more common, especially in places where burial ground is scarce, maybe where environmental stewardship exists as a prudent choice, or where financial concerns warrant it. When cremation is chosen, the Order of Christian Funerals urges that the body be present in church for the Mass when possible, with cremation taking place afterward. This helps the family members and loved ones of the deceased to make their final farewell within the gathered community of faith to which they belong, supported by the prayers, blessings, and rubrics of the Church’s liturgy.
When it is not possible or practical to have the body present for the funeral Mass, the liturgical norms allow the Funeral Mass to be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains. Whether cremation occurs prior to or following the funeral Mass, cremated remains are to be treated with the same respect as is given to the human body. They should be buried in a blessed grave, mausoleum, or columbarium, being kept in a “sacred place.”
The Vatican has issued guidelines that Catholics may be cremated, but should not have their ashes scattered at sea or kept in urns at home. Ashes should not be divided up between family members, “nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”
Catholicism teaches that all people will be resurrected – both body and soul – at the end of days. Cremation does not “prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life,” the Vatican says, but it does raise the possibility the deceased’s body or cremated remains, which the Church believes is sacred, will not be properly respected by ancestors or relatives in the future. “By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and how your loved one now participates in that great and loving mystery of our God.” After all, our body carries the soul, which God provided at conception, until the soul returns to God; body, mind, and spirit.
From the Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Check our St. Stephen Parish website for the latest Archdiocesan directives and liturgical procedures.
We will post them as soon as we receive them.