The ashes of cremated Catholics cannot be kept at home, scattered or divided among family members, the Vatican has announced in new guidelines.
The two-page instruction by the Vatican’s department on doctrine said ashes of the dead must be kept in “sacred places” such as cemeteries.
It also stressed that the Catholic Church still preferred burials over cremations.
The Vatican allowed cremation in 1963 but has always frowned on the practice.
It also stressed at the time that cremation must not suggest a denial of faith about resurrection.
Countering ‘new ideas’
“It is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewellery or other objects,” said the instruction by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“These courses of action cannot be legitimised by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.”
The Vatican said it was issuing the new guidelines to counter “new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith” that had become widespread since 1963.
It said the Church could not “condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the ‘prison’ of the body”.
The guidelines reiterated that Catholics who chose to be cremated “for reasons contrary to the Christian faith” must be denied a Christian funeral.
The Vatican also stressed that “the Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased”.
Pope Francis had already approved the guidelines, the Vatican said.