The Vatican published new guidelines for Catholics who want to be cremated, saying their remains cannot be scattered, kept up at home or even put on a jewelry, but rather stored in a sacred, church-approved place.
The new guidelines, which Pope Francis approved this year in 2016, were released ahead of All Souls Day, falls on Nov 2 for Catholics called to remember and pray for those who have died.
It was the Catholic Church banned cremation for centuries, but began to allow the practice back in 1963, as long as it is not done for reasons at odds with Christian doctrine.
The new document from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith repeats that cremation is a “brutal destruction” of the body. But it lays out guidelines for conserving ashes for the increasing numbers of Catholics who chooses cremation as it is more economical, ecological or for other reasons.
The Vatican said that ashes and bone fragments cannot be kept at home, since it would deprive the Christian community as a whole of remembering the dead, rather, church authorities should designate a sacred place, such as cemetery or church area to hold them.
The document also said that remains cannot be divided among family members or put it in lockets or other mementos. The guidelines said the ashes cannot be scattered in the air, land or sea since doing so would give the appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism.
Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the author of the text was asked at a Vatican briefing if the pontiff had any reservations about the guidelines particularly on the refusal to let family members keep remains of their loved ones at home.
“The cadaver of a deceased person is not the private property of the family, but the deceased is the son of God, part of the body of Christ, of the people of God,” Cardinal Müller said.
“We have to get over this individualistic thinking.”
Beyond respect for the deceased, the document notes that burial in a cemetery encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead and fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints as well.
The document states that burial prevents the forgetting of the loved one, as well as unfitting or superstitious practices.
The Vatican said that for that reason, cremation urns should not be kept at home, save for “grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature.”
The Vatican document encourages the faithful Christians to recall the significance of death and resurrection within the Christian tradition.