Can Catholics Be Cremated?

Can Catholics Be Cremated?

by Jon Jakoblich

Question about the Catholic Church? Ask, on our discussion forums!

For much of history the Catholic Church banned cremation as a choice for dead Catholics, but in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban. Cremation is now an acceptable practice for Catholics, but only if done for the right reasons.

A full burial can cost a lot of money and for those who cannot afford it (or for whatever other reason) cremation may be the best option.
Why was cremation not allowed?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church the short paragraph on cremation falls under respect for the dead which is part of the larger topic of respect for the human body.

Scripture teaches we are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and from that teaching Catholics believe there is a great deal of respect to given to the human body in life and in death.

Originally, the practice was banned to counter ancient Roman pagan beliefs. The Romans cremated their dead because they did not believe in an afterlife, which is contradictory to Christian belief.
A Change in Policy

However, in 1963 the Vatican lifted the ban on cremation, but the cremated remains or "cremains" could not be present at the funeral mass. Cremation could only be chosen if not for the reason that a person denies the teaching on the resurrection of the body. Burial was (and still is) the preferred method.

In 1997, the Vatican approved new liturgical norms allowing for the cremated remains to be present at a funeral mass and the remains are to be treated with the same reverence as a whole body in a casket. This means that spreading the cremated ashes is still forbidden.

Cremated remains must be buried, just like a body, in a cemetery, crypt, or other appropriate burial place not put on display.
About the author

Jon JakoblichJon is the creator and mastermind of About Catholics. A loving husband and father he is currently a graduate student in Church Management at Boston College, he has 3 years experience in youth ministry and a passion for his Catholic faith.


  1. Would you mind including the link to the original article:


  2. Well that sucks. Not much savings in having to bury the cremainsk. Dead is Dead, if the spirit not the body is what goes on to an afterlife, what difference the husk, when the spirit leaves the body?

  3. The difference is that Catholics believe that at the end of the world God will reunite body and soul. How this will be done, no one knows obviously, but the fact that the body used to hold a soul should be respected. Even basic common sense tells us that their is something special about a dead body.

  4. AnonymousJune 01, 2009

    I just buried my cremated Catholic Aunt, and I believe she will be accepted in heaven just as any other soul would be. If the body deteriorates in the ground anyway, what difference does it make? God created all things so why can't he recreate our bodies on the last day?

  5. As a boy, I recalled making a similar question as did the comment above, "If God is all powerful, then he should be able to re-assemble the soul for judgment, shouldn't he ?"
    My father, well versed in theology, told me that there were some truths that we as mortals are not able to understand but must accept. As an adult, I still wonder why the need for a burial plot.

  6. As a boy, I asked a similar question.
    If God was all-powerful then he should be able to reassemble the essential parts of a body/soul. What about the poor unfortunates who have died in wars where they are incinerated or blown to bits? It would be cynical of me to suggest that the Catholic cemeteries have a financial interest in continuing to generate income.

  7. I grew up Catholic and have become very interrested in Religions, especially Christian. I feel these are man made laws that they "higher" priest decide on based on how they interpet Gods word. God made such a beautiful world and on can't choose to scatter ones ashes in his beautiful country>? And as far as burial, what happens generation after generation of these cemeteries? Where do these bodies go?? Our God is a loving God, who I believe accepts us no matter how we reach him!

  8. Plus there are other factors: Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force persons of many countries are sometimes blown to pieces and scattered to the winds during war; others are MIA (missing in action) and never buried-they only have memorial markers at cemeteries. Some service people have their remains mixed in their coffins with others, and the crematoriums undoubtedly mix ashes with others. Bottom line: God will take care of the details on the Last Day. (BTW, I am a Catholic & have recently decided to go the cremation route). God bless us, one & all.