A set of strict new Vatican guidelines has, among other things, banned in the Catholic church, the scattering of ashes of dead loved ones, declaring that in some circumstances, those who request for it after death should normally be denied a ‘Christian funeral’.
Scattering ashes in some cultures are a popular means of commemorating the passing of loved ones. Some people scatter the ashes at sea, some turn the ashes into jewelry and wear them and some others put them in lockets; the Roman catholic church has deigned all such commemoration expressions as New Age practices and ‘pantheism’.
The formal instructions, which carried the ban, were approved by Pope Francis and even forbids Catholics from keeping ashes in an urn at home, with an exception made only for “grave and exceptional cases”. Also, Catholics can no longer divide the loved one’s ashes between members of the family.
These guidelines were contained in a document issued by the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which also said that modern cremation practices increasingly reflect non-Christian ideas about “fusion with Mother Nature”.
Formally, cremation was banned altogether in the Catholic church based on the teaching that Christians were to be raised from the dead ahead of judgment day but the ban was lifted in 1963 in a landmark Vatican document that accepted social and sanitary needs for cremation. It, however, urged Catholics to choose burial when possible.
With these new guidelines, cremation is still accepted in the Catholic church in principle but the increasingly varied uses for ashes are being curtailed as the church urges that they should only be kept in a “sacred place”, such as a cemetery.
Part of the document argues;
“[The Church] cannot … 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,”
“In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, 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 jewelry or other objects.”
The document also adds that if someone has asked for their ashes to be scattered “for reasons contrary to the Christian faith” then “a Christian funeral must be denied to that person”.