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What should we do with cremains?

Q. A friend of mine died recently, and his family decided that they would have his body cremated and then wait until the Spring to bury the cremains, when loved ones could gather for a memorial service. What are the Church’s rules about holding cremains in this way?

A. The decision to hold the cremains for a limited period of time until the family can all gather is approved by the Church under certain conditions. First, there must be a firm intention to entomb or bury the cremains as soon as is reasonable under the circumstances. There must be no intention to hold the cremains indefinitely or to treat them contrary to Church law by scattering them, placing them on display in a home or other location, or dividing them up among family members and friends.

Second, in the meantime the cremains should be held in a safe and dignified container (for example, not in a cardboard box); in a dignified place (again, where they are not on display); and in a place that keeps them safe from the danger of being desecrated (for example, not in a garage, on the back porch, or anywhere where children, hostile parties, pets, or wild animals might gain access to them).

In short, the cremains should be treated with the same dignity as the body would be treated if it were not cremated.


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