Church says sharing of ashes is inappropriate


THE CATHOLIC Church in Ireland would prefer that cremated remains of the faithful be buried in consecrated ground or installed in the kind of memorial wall found at most crematoriums.

Fr Paddy Jones, director of the National Centre for Liturgy at Maynooth, told The Irish Times last night that either burial of the ashes or their installation in a columbarium or memorial wall was preferable to their being scattered or kept for distribution among relatives. He was replying to questions after new guidelines in Italy appeared to rule against the scattering of ashes.

He did not know “of any guidelines, as such” on the church’s part in Ireland where cremations were concerned. “A primary concern was not to upset people” on such a sensitive matter, he said.

“The ashes should be treated with the same respect as the body ... I’ve heard stories of ashes being left on a mantelpiece, or being distributed among relatives. This is inappropriate,” he said. “Cremation is very common and accepted; there is no difficulty about that,” he said.

On March 31st, Italy’s Catholic bishops issued revised funeral rites which said the scattering of ashes should not be allowed. A spokesman explained that although the church “does not oppose the cremation of bodies”, it “continues to maintain that the burial of the dead is more appropriate, that it expresses faith in the resurrection of the flesh, nourishes the piety of the faithful, and favours the recollection and prayer of relatives and friends”.

In 1963 the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith lifted the ban on cremation, while expressing a preference for burial.

In 1997, the Catholic funeral rite was modified so church funerals can take place when the body has already been cremated before the ashes are brought to the church.

According to the website, “All of the Christian denominations allow cremation. It is also the normal method used by practically all Eastern religious sects for disposing of human remains after death. Orthodox Judaism and Islam forbid cremation.”

Cremation in Ireland has risen from 8.13 per cent of the deceased in 2006 to 10-12 per cent of the almost 29,000 deaths a year now.

In the Dáil last Friday, Independent TD Tommy Broughan warned that such was the demand for cremations that there had been “grossly inappropriate planning applications” for private crematoria and cemeteries in his Dublin North East constituency. It was now easier to open a crematorium than an off-licence, he claimed.

“If a licence is needed to sell alcohol or indeed to operate a taxi, why is it not necessary for the operation of a crematorium?” he asked.