Cremation of the Dead
Cremation is permitted now as a situational imperative, scattering of ashes or keeping the urns at home are forbidden and they must be buried in a church graveyard with the liturgical rites as in the case of a dead body.
When Corona snatched away lives in thousands, cremation became a dilemma for the Catholics. Though the vexed question had popped up earlier but it was in rare individual cases. Today the whole Church is faced with finding an answer.
Now Pope Francis has given that answer with the support of a lesser known Canon Law 1176 – 3 which says: “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to christian teaching.” This makes it clear that Catholic Church does not encourage wide spread practice of the cremation but in certain circumstances it is allowed and in fact, in 1963 itself the Church had lifted the prohibition on cremation. But the reason for not encouraging the cremation is evident in the same Code where it says the Church “honours their bodies”.
Here honouring the body is very much related to the theological truth of human dignity emerging from the fact that a human person is created in the image of God and a human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Besides, in the eyes of Catholic faith the human dead body is not impure to be burned away in the purifying agent fire. Church does not have a purity-pollution theory when it comes to human person and the burial of Jesus with all the respect is a clear demonstration of it. That is why the Church says cremation cannot be chosen “for reasons which are contrary to christian teaching.” The belief in resurrection of the body is another reason for the practice of burial. Though cremation is permitted now as a situational imperative, scattering of ashes or keeping the urns at home are forbidden and they must be buried in a church graveyard with the liturgical rites as in the case of a dead body.
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