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Cremation's Place in the Liturgy of Burial (Prot. 0)
March 1, 1997

Author:
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

The following excerpt was taken from the 5/9/99 edition of the National Catholic Register

In March 1997, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments clarified norms on cremation in a letter to Bishop Anthony Pilla for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. An excerpt follows:

In conformity with canon 1176, § 3 the custom of according burial to the bodies of the deceased is to be commended and encouraged.

If, however, the family of the deceased or the testament of the deceased request that the body be cremated or if this is required by the civil authorities, the funeral may nevertheless be celebrated liturgically, provided that the cremation is not undertaken for motives in opposition to Christian doctrine (canon 1176, § 3).

It is greatly to be preferred that the funeral liturgy take place in the presence of the body of the deceased prior to its cremation. Suitable texts should be identified within the existing liturgical books or prepared afresh which take proper account of the fact that the body is to be cremated rather than buried. New texts must clearly be submitted to this Congregation according to the normal procedures for the approval and confirmation of liturgical books. It is appropriate that the liturgical books be reviewed to ensure that they provide adequately for the possibility of liturgical rites at the place of cremation which are analogous to the traditional rites of burial at the graveside.

Experience has shown that on occasion request is made for the funeral liturgy to be celebrated in the presence of the ashes of the deceased after cremation. In the light of an opinion expressed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 3 December 1984 (prot. 99/18), and of the recent vote of the Assembly of Bishops, this Dicastery concedes a particular permission to the diocesan Bishops of the United States of America. By this, local Ordinaries are authorized in the individual cases which are brought to their attention to permit that the funeral liturgy, including where appropriate the celebration of the Eucharist, be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains instead of the natural body. In each individual case the local Ordinary should give due consideration to the various. aspects of the pastoral situation and to the spirit and precise content of the current canonical norms. It is necessary that care be taken that all is carried out with due decorum.

For this eventuality, too, appropriate texts should be drawn up for insertion into the liturgical books according to established procedure. As regards the question of new liturgical texts, it would seem preferable to limit these in so far as possible to suitable selections and adaptations of existing texts, rather than developing a whole alternative rite.

Finally, the Congregation shares Your Excellency's concern that the remains, even cremated, be accorded proper respect as befits the dignity of the human person and of baptized Christians.

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You are here: Documents > The Other Sacraments and Sacramentals  Back one page.

Home | New | FAQ | Search | Forum | Links


All contents © copyright, 1998-2014
The Catholic Liturgical Library
http://www.catholicliturgy.com