Catholic Teaching

Catholic teaching and norms for funerals, cremation, and burial.

FUNERAL RITES

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CREMATION

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BURIAL

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Catholic Funeral Rites

“A Catholic who dies is to be given funeral rites according to the norms of canon, liturgical, and particular law (cf. OCF 10). For funeral rites, catechumens are to be considered members of the Christian faithful (OCF 18).” (Archdiocese of Denver Pastoral Handbook, July 1, 2023, 5.9.1.1)

The Order of Christian Funerals

01

Vigil & Visitation

The Vigil is often the first time family, friends and community members gather for prayer and support in remembrance of a treasured life. The service is held at a parish church or funeral home. This is also the appropriate time for the eulogy. Through prayer, scripture, song, and stories, the deceased is remembered and celebrated. It is a time to give strength to the grieving and faith to trust in the promise of eternal life.

02

Funeral Liturgy

The Funeral Mass is the principle celebration of the Catholic funeral, where family and friends join to reaffirm that life has not ended. It is the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice, and is a reminder that we are one with Christ in life, death and Resurrection. The mass is celebrated in the Church with the body present. At this time family and friends give thanks and prepare to part with the deceased.

03

Committal

The Committal is the final service and time of interment. With a short invitation, scripture verse, and prayer, family and friends are guided in the challenging process of letting go. Through the comfort and promise of everlasting life, the deceased is left in their peaceful resting place.

Sacred music


“Music of a popular or secular nature is not appropriate to the Christian liturgy. Music of this kind may be used in a family gathering or another situation, which includes the vigil. Musicians and others trained in selecting appropriate music for the Christian liturgy are the proper ones to consult with the family on music for the funeral liturgy. Recorded music is not appropriate for funeral liturgies in the parish church.” (Archdiocese of Denver Pastoral Handbook, July 1, 2023, 5.9.4.5)

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Stations of a Catholic Funeral: Part 1 – What is Involved? 
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Stations of a Catholic Funeral: Part 2 – The Vigil 
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Stations of a Catholic Funeral: Part 3 – The Funeral Mass 
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Stations of a Catholic Funeral: Part 4 – The Rite of Committal 
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What Are Some Symbols in a Catholic Funeral? 
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What Happens at a Catholic Burial?
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Why Does The Church Prefer Full Burial Rather Than Cremation?
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What Do Catholic Cemeteries Do for Miscarriages? 
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What Does Anointing of the Sick Do in the Catholic Church 
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Should I Let My Child Attend A Funeral? 
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What is Viaticum? 

The Catholic Church on Cremation

“Cremation does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites” (OCF, Appendix 2). While the Church permits cremation, the cremated remains should always be treated with the same respect as a body in a casket.” (Archdiocese of Denver Pastoral Handbook, July 1, 2023, 5.9.7)

WHAT DOES THE CAHTOLIC CHURCH

Teach about Cremation?

On cremation


While there is a preference for traditional burial, as Christ was buried in the tomb, the Church has permitted cremation for over 60 years. Cremation should respect the human body and belief in the Resurrection. To respect the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church teaches that cremated remains should be kept together (not scattered, divided, or placed into jewelry) and interred in a sacred burial space, preferably in the consecrated grounds of a Catholic Cemetery.

“In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body. The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Instruction “Ad resurgendum cum Christo,” October 25, 2016.)

Click here for links to Church documents.
  • Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo – Regarding the Burial of the Deceased and the Conservation of the Ashes in the Case of Cremation – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (click here)
  • Cremation and the Order of Christian Funerals – U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) (click here)
  • Proper Disposition of Bodily Remains – U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) (click here)

When should cremation occur?


The preference is for cremation to occur following the funeral liturgy so that the body can be present for the vigil and funeral services. However, it is possible to have a funeral service with the cremated remains present.

Traditional and Preferred Option

Traditional Denver CO Funeral Home And Cremations

Other Option

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Proper handling of remains


The Catholic Church teaches that cremated remains should be kept together (not scattered, divided, or placed into jewelry) to respect the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and be laid to rest in a sacred burial space, preferably interred in the consecrated grounds of a Catholic cemetery.


“The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, and the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition. The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains at the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.” (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 417)

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Companion Urn


Cremated remains of individuals should not be comingled, or mixed together. A companion urn is a cremation urn that can hold the cremated remains of two people, for example, spouses. A companion urn has a separate internal compartment for each person’s cremated remains, so that they will remain separate and not be comingled.

“Human body composting"


In 2021, Colorado became the second state in the country to allow for “human body composting,” also referred to as natural organic reduction, which is a process that accelerates the biological decomposition of a deceased person’s body, turning it into soil.

Concerning Colorado’s Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil Bill (SB 21-006), the Colorado Catholic Conference, the united voice of the Catholic Bishops of Colorado, advised, “The Catholic Church teaches that human life and the human body are sacred, and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral society. The conversion of human remains to soil does not promote human dignity. The Church’s objection is based on its belief that man is made in God’s image and likeness as a unified compositum of body and soul. While the Church does allow for cremation with limitations, the reduction of human remains into soil is not consistent with the Church’s theology of bodily resurrection and the promotion of human dignity […].”


“The guidance offered by the Congregation regarding burial and cremation reflects the Church’s overarching concern that due respect be shown to the bodily remains of the deceased in a way that gives visible witness to our faith and hope in the resurrection of the body. Unfortunately, the two most prominent newer methods for disposition of bodily remains that are proposed as alternatives to burial and cremation, alkaline hydrolysis and human composting, fail to meet this criterion.” (Proper Disposition of Bodily Remains no. 8 – U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)  

“Water cremation"


Alkaline hydrolysis, sometimes referred to as "water cremation" or "aquamation," is a process that places a body into a metal tank containing a chemical mixture of water and alkali and then subjects it to both high temperature and high pressure in order to speed decomposition.


“The guidance offered by the Congregation regarding burial and cremation reflects the Church’s overarching concern that due respect be shown to the bodily remains of the deceased in a way that gives visible witness to our faith and hope in the resurrection of the body. Unfortunately, the two most prominent newer methods for disposition of bodily remains that are proposed as alternatives to burial and cremation, alkaline hydrolysis and human composting, fail to meet this criterion.” (Proper Disposition of Bodily Remains no. 8 – U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)


“This procedure [alkaline hydrolysis] does not show adequate respect for the human body, nor express hope in the resurrection.” (Proper Disposition of Bodily Remains no. 10 – U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)  

WHY SHOULD CREMATED REMAINS BE

Interred in a Sacred Burial Space?

Respect for the Body


  • Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27)
  • Cremated remains should be treated with the same manner of dignity and respect as a body
  • Confirm faith in the resurrection of the body
  • Piety and respect for the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit
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Psychological


Laying a loved one's cremated remains to rest in a sacred burial space aids in the grieving process. Grief counselors have reported that people are less likely to psychologically heal from the death of a loved one if they keep the cremated remains at home. Part of the funeral process is for us to say goodbye to our loved one until we are reunited again at the resurrection. The healing process does not truly begin until we say goodbye and fill the void of loss with faith.

Spiritual


The grounds of a Catholic cemetery are consecrated and are an extension of the Catholic Church.  They play a vital role in our Catholic faith and are a symbol of the reverence we hold for the human body when the soul passes on to God. The cemetery says to the world, the body rests here in this sacred ground to be remembered and revered as we wait, in hope, for the promise of the resurrection. 

So, when families come to Mount Olivet and Saint Simeon Catholic Cemeteries, they enjoy the beauty and they are comforted as they remember their loved ones, knowing that they will all, one day, be reunited together with God in Heaven.

Aurora CO Funeral Home Service

Security of the Remains


Why risk having the cremated remains of your loved one stolen or lost? Lay them to rest in a sacred burial space.

There have been numerous news reports of:

  • Urns stolen from homes, cars, and the mail
  • Urns in lost luggage at airports
  • Cremation jewelry stolen or lost

“Woman's car stolen in Greeley with parents' ashes inside.”

– 9News, April 30, 2023

“Fort Collins man says father’s ashes were in package stolen from porch.” – Fox31 News, February 22, 2019

“Help track down stolen necklace with ashes inside.”

– CBS11 News, November 15, 2017

“Urn with two-year old son’s ashes stolen from car in Colorado Springs.” – Denver Post, September 15, 2012

“Sting of Black Forest burglaries, including stolen urn, leads to two new arrests.” – Denver Post, January 25, 2011

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The Catholic Church and Cremation 
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Catholic Cremation Dos and Don'ts 
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Cremation and the Catholic Holy Mass 
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Why Cremated Remains Should be Interred in a Cemetery 
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The Catholic Church on "Water Cremation" and "Human Body Composting" 
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Crypt of All Souls Ministry 
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Can Catholics Be Cremated? 
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Why Does The Church Prefer Full Burial Rather Than Cremation?
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Why Should Cremation Be Done After A Funeral Mass, Not Before? 
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What If My Loved One Was Already Cremated? 
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Why Shouldn't We Take Cremated Remains Home or Scatter the Ashes? 
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How Does Cremation Relate to the Resurrection of the Body? 
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If I Do Choose Cremation What Steps Should I Take Next? 

The Catholic Church on Burial

“Catholic cemeteries are an integral part of the Church's beliefs and rites. Normally, Catholics should be buried in the holy ground of their Catholic cemetery. Catholics may be buried in cemeteries other than Catholic cemeteries if they have made a request to be buried with members of their families or in a plot purchased when a Catholic cemetery was not reasonably available, or for other good reasons.” (Archdiocese of Denver Pastoral Handbook, July 1, 2023, 5.9.5)

WHAT DOES THE CAHTOLIC CHURCH

Teach about Burial?

On burial


“Catholic cemeteries are an integral part of the Church's beliefs and rites. Normally, Catholics should be buried in the holy ground of their Catholic cemetery. Catholics may be buried in cemeteries other than Catholic cemeteries if they have made a request to be buried with members of their families or in a plot purchased when a Catholic cemetery was not reasonably available, or for other good reasons.” (Archdiocese of Denver Pastoral Handbook, July 1, 2023, 5.9.5)

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Catholic cemeteries


The grounds of a Catholic cemetery are consecrated and are an extension of the Catholic Church.  They play a vital role in our Catholic faith and are a symbol of the reverence we hold for the human body when the soul passes on to God. The cemetery says to the world, the body rests here in this sacred ground to be remembered and revered as we wait, in hope, for the promise of the resurrection. 

So, when families come to Mount Olivet and Saint Simeon Catholic Cemeteries, they enjoy the beauty and they are comforted as they remember their loved ones, knowing that they will all, one day, be reunited together with God in Heaven.

Burial at sea


The Catholic Church permits burial at sea of a full body or cremated remains within an urn or other worthy vessel. Scattering of cremated remains at sea is not permitted. “The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground [...] are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires” (Order of Christian Funerals no. 417). If burial at sea is chosen, then Committal Prayer 406.4 in the Order of Christian Funerals may be used.

"Lord God, by the power of your Word you stilled the chaos of the primeval seas, you made the raging waters of the Flood subside, and calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee. As we commit the body of our brother (sister) [Name] to the deep, grant him (her) peace and tranquility until that day when he (she) and all who believe in you will be raised to the glory of new life promised in the waters of Baptism. Through Christ our Lord. - Amen."

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Why be Buried in a Catholic Cemetery 
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The Catholic Church on Donation to Science and Burial at Sea 
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The Catholic Church on Natural Burial / "Green Burial 
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What Do We Do When We Visit a Cemetery? 
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What Happens at a Catholic Burial?
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Precious Lives Burial Ministry 
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What Do Catholic Cemeteries Do for Miscarriages? 
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What Do Catholic Cemeteries Do for the Poor or Homeless 

Do you have questions?

Do you still have questions about Catholic teachings and norms? Contact us at the following email address and we will answer any question that you may have: cfcs.outreach@archden.org

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