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Scattering the Ashes of a Cremated Family Member

Question:

If non-Catholic parents request that their Catholic children cremate them and spread their ashes somewhere, can the children honor the request?

Answer:

“The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires” (Order of Christian Funerals 416).

While cremated remains can be committed to the sea or to the ground in an urn, coffin, or other suitable container, the Church believes that the scattering of ashes is an irreverent treatment of the human body. In light of this it would not be appropriate to promise to scatter another person’s ashes, even those of a non-Catholic, and it may cause scandal to do so.

Nota bene: In December 2023, the Discastery for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled that, provided local civil norms are observed, the Church can authorize a family to keep “a minimal part of the ashes of their relative in a place of significance for the history of the deceased person,” e.g., in the family home.

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