No more scat­ter­ing of cre­ma­tion ashes: Vat­i­can

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

VAT­I­CAN CITY — The Vat­i­can yes­ter­day pub­lished guide­lines for Catholics who want to be cre­mated, say­ing their re­mains can­not be scat­tered, divvied up or kept at home but rather stored in a sa­cred, church-ap­proved place.

The new in­struc­tions were re­leased just in time for Hal­loween and “All Souls Day” on Novem­ber 2, when the faith­ful are sup­posed to pray for and re­mem­ber the dead.

For most of its 2 000-year his­tory, the Catholic Church only per­mit­ted burial, ar­gu­ing that it best ex­pressed the Chris­tian hope in res­ur­rec­tion. But in 1963, the Vat­i­can ex­plic­itly al­lowed cre­ma­tion as long as it didn’t sug­gest a de­nial of faith about res­ur­rec­tion.

The new doc­u­ment from the Vat­i­can’s Con­gre­ga­tion for the Doc­trine of the Faith re­peats that burial re­mains pre­ferred, with of­fi­cials call­ing cre­ma­tion a “bru­tal de­struc­tion” of the body. But it lays out guide­lines for con­serv­ing ashes for the in­creas­ing num­bers of Catholics who choose cre­ma­tion for eco­nomic, eco­log­i­cal or other rea­sons.

It said it was do­ing so to counter what it called “new ideas con­trary to the church’s faith” that had emerged since 1963, in­clud­ing New Age ideas that death is a “fu­sion” with Mother Na­ture and the uni­verse, or the “de­fin­i­tive lib­er­a­tion” from the prison of the body.

To set the faith­ful straight, the Vat­i­can said ashes and bone frag­ments can­not be kept at home, since that would de­prive the Chris­tian com­mu­nity as a whole of re­mem­ber­ing the dead. Rather, church au­thor­i­ties should des­ig­nate a sa­cred place, such as a ceme­tery or church area, to hold them.

Only in ex­tra­or­di­nary cases can a bishop al­low ashes to be kept at home, it said. Vat­i­can of­fi­cials de­clined to say what cir­cum­stances would qual­ify, but pre­sum­ably coun­tries where Catholics are a per­se­cuted mi­nor­ity and where Catholic churches and ceme­ter­ies have been ran­sacked would qual­ify.

The doc­u­ment said re­mains can­not be di­vided among fam­ily mem­bers or put in lock­ets or other me­men­tos. Nor can the ashes be scat­tered in the air, land or sea since do­ing so would give the ap­pear­ance of “pan­the­ism, nat­u­ral­ism or ni­hilism,” the guide­lines said.

It re­peated church teach­ing that Catholics who choose to be cre­mated for rea­sons con­trary to the Chris­tian faith must be de­nied a Chris­tian fu­neral.

The new in­struc­tion car­ries an Au­gust 15 date and says Pope Fran­cis ap­proved it March 18.

The au­thor of the text, Car­di­nal Ger­hard Müller, was asked at a Vat­i­can brief­ing if Fran­cis had any reser­va­tions about the text, par­tic­u­larly the re­fusal to let fam­ily mem­bers keep re­mains of their loved ones at home.

“The dead body isn’t the pri­vate prop­erty of rel­a­tives, but rather a son of God who is part of the peo­ple of God,” Müller said. “We have to get over this in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic think­ing.”

While the new in­struc­tion in­sists that re­mains be kept to­gether, Vat­i­can of­fi­cials said they are not about to go gather up the var­i­ous body parts of saints that are scat­tered in churches around the world. The prac­tice of divvy­ing up saints’ bod­ies for ven­er­a­tion — a hand here, a thigh bone there — was a fad cen­turies ago but is no longer in favour.

“Go­ing to all the coun­tries that have a hand of some­one would start a war among the faith­ful,” rea­soned Mon­signor An­gel Ro­driguez Luno, a Vat­i­can the­o­log­i­cal ad­viser. — AP.

Re­mains of a cre­mated body in an urn dur­ing a burial ser­vice

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