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  New Vatican rules rise like Phoenix from ashes

New Vatican rules rise like Phoenix from ashes

AFP
Published : Oct 26, 2016, 7:15 am IST
Updated : Oct 26, 2016, 7:15 am IST

The Vatican on Tuesday published guidelines for Catholics who want to be cremated, saying their remains cannot be scattered, divvied up or kept at home but rather stored in a sacred, church-approved p

The Vatican on Tuesday published guidelines for Catholics who want to be cremated, saying their remains cannot be scattered, divvied up or kept at home but rather stored in a sacred, church-approved place.

The new instructions were released just in time for Halloween and “All Souls Day” on November 2, when the faithful are supposed to pray for and remember the dead.

For most of its 2,000-year history, the Catholic Church only permitted burial, arguing that it best expressed the Christian hope in resurrection. But in 1963, the Vatican explicitly allowed cremation as long as it didn’t suggest a denial of faith about resurrection. The new document from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith repeats that burial remains preferred, with officials calling cremation a “brutal destruction” of the body.

But it lays out guidelines for conserving ashes for the increasing numbers of Catholics who choose cremation for economic, ecological or other reasons.

It said it was doing so to counter what it called “new ideas contrary to the church’s faith” that had emerged since 1963, including New Age-y ideas that death is a “fusion” with Mother Nature and the universe, or the “definitive liberation” from the prison of the body.

The Vatican said ashes and bone fragments cannot be kept at home, since that would deprive the Christian community as a whole of remembering the dead. Rather, church authorities should designate a sacred place, such as a cemetery or church area, to hold them.

Only in extraordinary cases can a bishop allow ashes to be kept at home, it said.

Vatican officials declined to say what circumstances would qualify, but presumably countries where Catholics are a persecuted minority and where Catholic churches and cemeteries have been ransacked would qualify.

The document said remains cannot be divided among family members or put in lockets or other mementos. Nor can the ashes be scattered in the air, land or sea.