Parish Practice

Ready to rise with Christ Premium

08 December 2016 | by John Deehan


A recent CDF instruction that ashes of the deceased should be treated with the same dignity and respect as an uncremated body requires the utmost sensitivity from priests explaining it to the bereaved

I  DO not remember ever being asked by the relatives of those whose funerals I have conducted what should happen to the ashes of a loved one after cremation. The recent instruction on burial and cremation from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) may reassure them – and also many of an older generation, who may remember a time when those being cremated could be denied Catholic Funeral Rites.

However, Ad resurgendum cum Christo (“To Rise with Christ”) – an instruction “regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation” that was released in October – raises new issues that need to be treated with pastoral sensitivity. People still ask me whether the Church permits cremation; but while I am occasionally asked to bury a parishioner’s ashes in our memorial garden in the church grounds, I am rarely asked to do so elsewhere. On reflection, I suspect that many people are not aware that in the “Order of Christian Funerals for England and Wales” (1990) a brief rite is provided for the burial of ashes.

It is interesting to note that this rite does not appear in the Irish Order published a year later. The Irish Funeral Rites contain the Rite of Committal at a crematorium only in an appendix; hardly surprising, as there was only one crematorium in the country at the time, and burial is still the more popular practice, whereas in England around 70 per cent of the population are cremated.

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