Strict new guidelines from the Vatican has banned the scattering of the ashes of the dead, calling the practice “pantheism.” The Church has even gone so far as to say that those who request it for themselves should be denied a “Christian funeral.”
The Telegraph reports that the formal instruction, which has been approved by Pope Francis, also forbids Catholics from keeping ashes in an urn at home, other than in “grave and exceptional cases” and also disallows the practice of dividing someone’s ashes between family members.
The new rules are meant to counter the increasingly varied uses for ashes — such as, for example, turning ashes into jewelry or having them mixed into fireworks — with the Church maintaining they should only be kept in a “sacred place,” such as a cemetery.
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued the document, which claims that many cremation practices today increasingly reflect New Age, non-Christian ideas about “fusion with Mother Nature.”
The Catholic Church forbade cremation for centuries, but in 1963 the ban was lifted when the Vatican acknowledged that there were often pressing social and sanitary needs for cremation. However, the Church still urged its members to choose burial wherever possible.
The new document states: “[The Church] cannot … condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the ‘prison’ of the body.”
It goes on: “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 jewellery or other objects.”
It also adds that if someone asks for their ashes to be scattered “for reasons contrary to the Christian faith" then "a Christian funeral must be denied to that person.”
According to Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and author of the text, there has been an “unstoppable increase” in cremation and that it would soon be the “norm” in many places.
However, he says: “The dead are not the private property of the family.
“The ashes of the deceased must be kept in a sacred place, either in a cemetery or in a church.
“Death is not the end our of our existence.”