Ministry to the Bereaved
Part 4 Liturgical Issues

Chapter f48 Cremation

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Definition

Frequency

Funeral Without the Body Present

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Why was cremation forbidden?  Why is is now permitted?

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Definition

Cremation is the process of reducing dead bodies to basic chemical compounds in the form of gases and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high temperatures and vaporization. Contrary to popular belief, the cremated remains are not ashes in the usual sense, but rather dried bone fragments that have been pulverized, typically in a device called an electric cremated remains processor (known as a cremulator) or pulverization may be done by hand. This leaves the bone in a fine sand like texture and color, able to be scattered without need for mixing with any foreign matter. Their weight is approximately 4 pounds (1.8 kg) for adult human females and 6 pounds (2.7 kg) for adult human males.  http://www.ask.com/wiki/Cremation

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Frequency

"Cremation is an increasingly appealing method of disposition. ...  In [2000?] in the USA, nearly 25 percent of bodies are cremated, with that figure expected to rise to 33 percent by the year 2010. In a couple of Eastern seaboard states (where people might be more 'land-conscious', as opposed to the wide-open Mid West, for example), the percentage of cremation is already over 50 percent. Cremation is also a widely accepted practice in other parts of the world - Japan , for example, has a 98 percent rate of cremation.  http://www.funeralplanning101.com/cremation/

In 1975, 7% of people who died (in the USA) were cremated.  26% of people who died in 2000 were cremated.  49% who die in 2025, it is estimated, will be cremated.  (Source:  Cremation Association of North America)

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Burial of the Cremains

The cremains are to be buried and not scattered. 

 

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Funeral Without the Body Present

[From an article in the Newark Star-Ledger, by David Gibson, staff reporter]:  With the bodies of so many victims of the World Trade Center attacks lost without a trace, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark is taking the extraordinary step of allowing families to inter an urn or casket containing only mementos of the missing person. After the normal memorial Mass, the receptacle could then be buried in a Catholic cemetery, just like a coffin with a body.  "People don't have a body, but they want closure, so we've decided to allow this," archdiocesan spokesman James Goodness said. So far it appears that the Newark Archdiocese, which covers Essex, Union, Bergen and Hudson counties, is the only one in the region granting the unusual dispensation...  http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/page1/ledger/1496fd3.html

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To Think About

Why do we pray for the dead?  What good does it do?  Is it for us or for them or for God?

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 08/12/14 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at tomrichs@psci.net.