Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2003
Does the Church allow cremation?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
In Canada, the choice of cremation rose from 36 per cent in 1996 to more than 42 per cent in 1998 and is likely well over per cent at the present time.
So the Church still prefers the traditional burial in memory of Jesus' burial, it does not require it.
Cremation has been gaining in popularity. In North America, only five per cent chose cremation in 1962 compared to 20 per cent in 1992. In Canada, the choice of cremation rose from 36 per cent in 1996 to more than 42 per cent in 1998 and is likely well over 50 per cent at the present time.
Cremation can be chosen for a variety of reasons among them a lack of earth space for burial. When I lived in New York City, I wondered about the practice of earth burial when I saw the numbers of people packed into such tight living quarters while there were miles and miles of cemeteries on both sides of the road from the airport to the city.
The Canadian Church required the presence of the body for the funeral liturgy until 1984 when it received Rome's permission to celebrate the full funeral liturgy including the Eucharist with the cremated remains.
Signs of reverence such as sprinkling with holy water or incensing also may be used.
The Church still prefers the body be present because the respect due to the body of the deceased and the needs of those who mourn are more immediately tangible and visible. The three rites of the funeral liturgy (the vigil, the funeral Mass or Liturgy of the Word, and the rite of committal) are recommended whether cremation takes place before or after the funeral.
Cremated remains should be treated with the same honour as the actual body would be. This is done by using a worthy container, handling them with respect and choosing a suitable resting place. This can best be accomplished by burying them or putting them in a mausoleum or a columbarium (a place for the entombment of cremated remains).
Cemeteries have guidelines concerning burials of both caskets and remains. Edmonton, for a one-time burial rite fee, allows two family cremains burials into the existing casket space. The marker for the additional person(s) must be no larger than the original marker put on the first burial.
The cemeteries will ask for a statement from all "like heirs" agreeing on who may use the additional burial rites. If all siblings or family members cannot be found for this notification and authorization, the cemeteries will accept the person's word that they have done their best to obtain the permission.
This is the general policy of the cemeteries but there are many variables and circumstances that may affect the request for additional burials.
I would suggest you contact Catholic Cemeteries with your specific information and they will help you plan within your guidelines. The website is www.edmontoncatholiccemeteries.org and their phone number is 454-4778.
The Church does not believe that it is suitable to scatter a person's remains nor keep them in a home and it does not offer the rite of committal for such disposal.
Scattering the remains at a favourite spot could seem that the desire is to look back on the life lived more than the new dimension of the deceased person's life with God.
In addition, a specific place for the remains allows for memorializing of the deceased with prayers and a record of the person. For example, in September each year, our archbishop invites all Catholics to join him in celebrating a Mass at the cemetery and praying for all those buried in the Catholic cemeteries in Edmonton. There is also a prayer service on Mother's Day. These are prayers for the dead, but they also provide support and consolation to those whose loved ones are there.
I think it would be perfectly acceptable for you to be buried within your mother's grave. Actually, it would be a loving tribute to your parents, as well as a consolation to your siblings who must worry that you won't have a loved one with whom to be buried.
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