Vatican issues new guidelines on cremation, says no to scattering ashes

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith attends a press conference on October 25, 2016 at the Vatican. / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

ROME– The Vatican announced Tuesday that Catholics may be cremated but may not have their ashes scattered at sea or kept in urns at home.

According to new guidelines from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, cremated remains should be kept in a “sacred place” such as a church cemetery.

Ashes should not be divided up between family members, “nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”

The document affirms that burial is preferable to cremation but cremation is not prohibited as long as it does not “involve erroneous ideas about death.”

The Vatican is concerned about the growing practice of scattering ashes in nature or “considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person.”

Rather, the Catholic Church believes that the whole body will be resurrected after death — a belief which forms the basis of their preference for bodily burials.

Cremation has been allowed in the Catholic Church since 1963.

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