For Roman Catholics, the Church, for the last 2,000 years, only permitted individuals to be buried with the hope of resurrection. The Vatican prefers that remains be buried because cremation is considered to be the destruction of the body. However, in 1963, the Vatican began to allow cremation only if it didn’t deny the faith of resurrection.
An increasing number of Catholics choose cremation for ecological and economic reasons among others. According to Catholic teachings, individuals cremated for reasons different from Christian faith will not be allowed to have a Christian funeral.
In time for All Souls Day on November 2, when many Catholics remember the deceased, the Vatican released new guidelines on October 25, saying that the ashes of cremated Catholics must be stored in a church approved place. The remains of a loved one may not be divided, scattered, or stored at home because it deprives the Christian Community of remembering the dead. That includes separating ashes into mementos for family members.
In light of these new guidelines, churches will begin to designate sacred places within the church or cemetery to keep the remains. The new guidelines were approved by Pope Francis in March and will take effect in August. The Vatican is implementing these guidelines to counter “new ideas contrary to the church’s faith” including, but not limited to, death being a fusion with the Universe.
According to the Vatican, a bishop may allow ashes to be kept at home in extraordinary circumstances. However, what constitutes “extraordinary circumstances” has yet to be defined. Sources presume that areas where Catholics are persecuted or Catholic churches and cemeteries are ransacked would qualify as an extraordinary circumstance.
According to Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, “The dead body does not constitute private property of family members, rather a son of God who is part of the people of God.” Cardinal Mueller said, “We have to get over individualistic thinking.”
Even though the new guidelines will take effect shortly, the Vatican will not be gathering up various body parts of saints from churches around the world because it “would start a war among the faithful.”