Vatican softens the rules on ashes

๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—–๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ต๐—ผ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฐ ๐—–๐—ต๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ฐ๐—ต ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜€ ๐—ท๐˜‚๐˜€๐˜ ๐˜€๐—ผ๐—ณ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜€ ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ต๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐˜. โšฑ๏ธ

๐—ง๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜๐˜† ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐—ด ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—น ๐—ถ๐—ณ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚โ€™๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ ๐—–๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ต๐—ผ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฐ, ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ถ๐˜ ๐˜€๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜„๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—น๐˜‚๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—บ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ถ๐˜๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ถ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฐ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป. ๐Ÿ”ฅ

For years, if a Catholic was cremated, their cremated remains (cremains/ashes) had to be kept whole at a consecrated or โ€œdefined and permanent sacred placeโ€ like a church or a cemetery. That means they couldnโ€™t be scattered at the beach or split up and divided between siblings.

The reason for cremains being kept together at a cemetery was all about โ€˜respectโ€™ and the concept of resurrection. This is what the Catholic Church big wig Cardinal Vรญctor Manuel Fernรกndez says about that: โ€œThe resurrection can occur even if the body has been totally destroyed or dispersedโ€.

So, that meant you couldn’t keep the cremains of your late father in his man cave or on the mantelpiece next to his favourite chess set, for example.

A colouful illustraton of a boy scattering ashes and the wind blowing them towards his grandmother.

But a couple of months ago an Italian Cardinal, Matteo Zuppi wrote to the big wigs at the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) with some questions about cremated remains. (Think of the DDF as the principalโ€™s office โ€“ it makes sure the school sticks to the curriculum.)

Zuppi asked two questions. One of them was: Can a family be allowed to keep a portion of their family memberโ€™s ashes in a place that is significant for the history of the deceased?

The answer he received was: โ€œThe ecclesiastical authority, in compliance with current civil norms, may consider and evaluate a request by a family to preserve in an appropriate way a minimal part of the ashes of their relative in a place of significance for the history of the deceased person, provided that every type of pantheistic, naturalistic, or nihilistic misunderstanding is ruled out and also provided that the ashes of the deceased are kept in a sacred place.โ€


In โ€˜Lisa speakโ€™, that means the Church is getting with the times, acknowledging that cremation is now very popular and that families want to keep the cremains of their loved one near to them. (The Church wouldnโ€™t have a bar of cremation until 1963.)

So, the church has now said โ€“ โ€œLook, we still prefer that youโ€™re buried, but we know youโ€™re probably going to get cremated, so you can keep a handful or so of your cremains in a place thatโ€™s special to you and your family, and the rest of you should be kept at a sacred place like a church or cemetery. Oh, and just make sure you maintain your faith.”

There, that’s better. (Disclaimer: I left a Catholic girls’ school after year 10) ๐Ÿ˜‰

As for emerging body disposition/disposal methods like human composting or alkaline hydrolysis, donโ€™t expect the Catholic Church to even contemplate those for a couple of decades yet. Earlier this year, the Catholic Church said those methods โ€œfailed to meetโ€ the requirements of due respect for the body and the hope for resurrection.

But they said that about cremation too โ€ฆ

In the meantime, let your loved ones know what you would like done with your cremains. You can write your plans, wishes and life’s reflections in The Bottom Drawer Book: the after death action plan.

About the author

Author Lisa Herbert

Lisa Herbert is a death awareness advocate, a cemetery wanderer, journalist and audio producer, and author of The Bottom Drawer Book: the after death action plan – an informative, modern, and quirky workbook and funeral planning guide for those who want to prepare for the inevitable. The third edition is available in Australia for $29.95.ย ย For international buyers, The Bottom Drawer eBook is AU$11.99 on Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Booktopia and Google Books. To purchase, click HERE.

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