The Catholic Church now permits cremation of deceased persons, but it forbids the scattering of ashes and keeping cremated remains at home, according to a document released recently by the Vatican.
The document, Ad resurgendum cum Christo (To Rise With Christ), presents an instruction approved by Pope Francis “regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation.”
The instruction comes amid the growing popularity of cremation as an alternative to traditional burial for the past 20 years, following the Church’s acceptance of the practice in the early 1960s.
Even before the release of the document, Eternal Crematory Corp., a pioneer in the local cremation industry, has promoted and supported the proper conservation of the ashes of the dearly departed, through the columbary that it offers at each of its branches. The columbary provides a dignified repository for the cremated remains of the dead and a perfect place where the living can honor their memory.
Eternal Crematory affirms its commitment to provide excellent cremation service and products to the Filipino family in its pioneering branch at Eternal Gardens, Baesa, Caloocan City, and at Eternal Gardens parks in the cities of Biñan, Laguna; Dagupan and Batangas.
Presenting the document to the public in the Vatican last November, Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said, “Shortly, in many countries, cremation will be considered the ordinary way to deal with the dead, including for Catholics.”
While the Catholic Church continues to prefer burial in the ground, it accepts cremation as an option, Muller said.
The Church had issued an instruction in 1963 permitting cremation, as long as it was not done as a sign of denial of the basic Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead. The permission was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law in 1983 and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in 1990.
However, Muller said, Catholic Church law had not specified exactly what should be done with “cremains,” or cremated remains, and several bishops’ conferences asked the Church to provide guidance.
The result, approved by Pope Francis after consultation with other Vatican offices and with bishops’ conferences and the Eastern churches’ synods of bishops, is the Ad resurgendum cum Christo.
According to Section 5 of the instruction, “when, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority [Section 5, Ad resurgendum cum Christo].”
The section further explains: “The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has, too, passed away. Also, it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.”
Muller also asserted that putting the cremains in an urn in a public place, such as a columbarium, marked with the person’s name, the same name with which the person was baptized and by which the person is called by God, “is an expression of belief in the ‘communion of saints,’ the unending unity in Christ of all the baptized, living and dead.”
In Section 6 of Ad resurgendum cum Christo, the faithful is prohibited from keeping the ashes in a domestic residence and dividing the remains among the family members.
“For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members, and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.”
Section 7 of Ad resurgendum cum Christo bans the practice of scattering the ashes of the departed anywhere and its preservation in the form of accessories.
“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. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.”
The Eternal Crematory Corp., the country’s leading proponent of dignified and solemn preservation of cremated remains, was established in 1995. Its four branches are located inside the parks of sister company Eternal Gardens. The youngest, Saint Michael Crematory and Columbary at the park in Balagtas, Batangas City, opened in 2016.
Each of these crematories is equipped with modern and state-of-the-art cremation machines, which undergo regular preventive maintenance by trained personnel to ensure that they are always in the best working condition.
Besides cremation, Eternal Crematory also offers a wide selection of high-quality urns for storing the cremated ashes. It also provides beautifully designed crypts for the proper and acceptable conservation of cremains. The facilities, along with the other amenities that the company offers, are all for the convenience and peace of mind of the bereaved family.
Eternal Crematory is currently on an expansion drive in order to reach more Filipinos in other parts of the country. This is a timely move in light of the release of the guidelines by the Vatican. By building more columbaries, the company will be providing more Filipinos the proper place and means for the conservation of their loved ones’ cremated remains in accordance with the Christian Catholic faith.