The Vatican has released a new doctrine dealing specifically with burial and cremation. These new decrees are said by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, and apply to the millions of actively practicing Catholics in the United States and around the world. The Catholic Church has for centuries been opposed to the cremated remains of individuals being scattered on land or sea and additionally is opposed to having remains merely kept in containers and placed within the home. The Church has accepted cremation as a means of internment since the Second Vatican Council under Pope John Paul II. Here is what the new decrees on cremation and burial mean for you, your loved ones and the funerary process.
The doctrine's main declaration is that cremated remains are to be interned in either a mausoleum or other sacred space and not placed in the home, not distributed around the land or ocean. The doctrine also states that cremated remains are to remain whole and not to be distributed or dispersed to individuals to be held by more than one person. Essentially, if the deceased is cremated: their remains are to remain together (whole), interred properly and not dispersed or distributed.
The importance of the remains being placed in a sacred place is surprisingly practical: to provide a space for generations to visit and pay homage to those that have passed on. There is a certain level of comfort that is provided by having a place to visit the deceased that will never change. A common concern that does arise when cremated remains are kept in an individual's home are who takes ownership of the ashes of the deceased upon the death of the homeowner or when one changes houses. When remains are placed in sacred land, it provides a consistent place for people to honor those that have been lost that will not change, is not at risk for getting lost or damaged and placed with great honor and dignity for the deceased.
The pope's decree does make one surprising concession. The doctrine does concede that many are cremated due to financial and economic constraints as well as sanitary concerns . Cremation is often one of the more cost-effective funerary options and the admittance that cost is commonly sited as a reason for cremation and direct cremation is a very practical statement on the Vatican's part.