Below are some responses to many questions about Cremation in the Catholic Church. You may also click here to read the brochure from the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Can Catholics be cremated?

Yes. The prohibition forbidding Catholics to choose cremation was lifted by the Vatican in May 1963. This permission was incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law of 1983, and its liturgies were written in the Order of Christian Funerals. Previously, it was standard practice to celebrate the funeral liturgies with the body present and have the body cremated following the ceremony. However, the bishops of the United States and the Holy See have authorized the celebration of a Catholic funeral liturgy with just the cremated remains present.

Do I need to ask permission to be cremated?
No, but we recommend you inform your Pastor of your intent.

Can I scatter the ashes? May I keep the ashes on my mantle?
No. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or a friend, are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires. Cremated remains, like a body, are to be placed in a final permanent resting place.

Can anything be added to cremated remains such as cremated remains of other people, pets, or objects?
No. The Church hold great respect for the cremated remains of a deceased Christian. Each baptized Christian is an individual before God. Therefore, the practice of mingling remains is not accepted except in extraordinary circumstances.

When should cremation take place?
The Church prefers that cremation take place after a funeral liturgy with the body present. The body most clearly brings to mind the life and death of the person and better expresses the values that the Church affirms in its rites. Nevertheless, it is permitted to have a funeral liturgy with just the cremated remains present.

Who decides if I am cremated?
The decision about cremation should be made by the person while alive. However, the survivors of the deceased can make the decision if the desires of the deceased were not previously known.

How do I make my wishes known?
It is recommended that each person makes his/her wishes known by informing the loved one who will be responsible for the funeral arrangements or in documents designed to help plan and prepare your funeral.

Must I honor my parent’s or spouse’s desire for cremation?
Out of respect for loved ones, the wishes of a deceased individual should be carried honored, provided they are in keeping with Church practice.

Is it necessary to embalm someone who will be cremated?
When cremation occurs soon after death, embalming is not necessary. If there is a delay between death and cremation, such as when cremation follows the funeral liturgy, embalming is usually required.

What is the proper container for cremated remains?
The U.S. Bishop Committee on the Liturgy has determined that urns must be simple and unadorned.

If I choose cremation, is it necessary to call a funeral home?
Yes. A registered funeral director always performs the cremation. Please note you are not required to have a viewing of the body at the funeral home.

Can a family member be present at the cremation?
Although not customarily done, family members may choose to be present during cremation.

How are the cremated remains transported to the church?
Typically, the cremated remains are delivered directly to the church by the funeral director at the time of the funeral.

Must cremated remains be buried or interred?
Yes. Respectful, final disposition of cremated remains requires burial or interment in a Columbarium.

What funeral rites are celebrated when a person is cremated?
In the Order of Christian Funerals, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have included prayers that are used when the cremated remains are present in a church. The following rituals may be celebrated:

  • Prayers After Death
  • Gathering in the Presence of the Body
  • Vigil for the Deceased
  • Funeral Mass or Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass
  • Rite of Committal

Should I schedule a funeral Mass before or after cremation?
The Church prefers cremation after  the funeral Mass. However, it is increasingly more common to have the cremains present at the funeral.

What happens at the funeral Mass with cremated remains?
A journey, which began at Baptism, comes to conclusion as we enter into eternal life. Significant attention should be given to the primary symbols of the Catholic funeral liturgy, as stated in the Order of Christian Funerals and its commentaries. The paschal candle and sprinkling with holy water are primary symbols of Baptism and will be used during the Mass.

During the funeral Mass, the cremated remains are treated with the same dignity and respect as a deceased body. The sealed urn  is carried in procession and set on a table in the center of the church. The urn is blessed at the beginning of Mass and then Commended at the end of the funeral just as a casket would be. The one specific difference is a casket has the pall placed on it at the beginning of the Mass.

Is a ritual conducted when the remains are inurned in the Columbarium?
Yes. The Rite of Committal is very similar to the service conducted at a grave site in a cemetery.

What is a columbarium?
A columbarium is an arrangement of openings into which an urn or urns containing the cremated remains of a deceased person is placed for permanent interment.

The cost of inurnment in a Columbarium is usually considerably less than the cost of burial at a cemetery. Other factors that may enter into your decision are concerns about the environment and space availability at a cemetery.

Please contact Deacon John Carter at 727-347-9702 or if you have any additional questions or concerns.