The Vatican has set guidelines for Catholics who want to be cremated: Remains cannot be scattered, divided between family members or kept at home, but instead must be stored in a sacred, church-approved place. Timothy Johnson with the Diocese of Saint Cloud explains cremated remains deserve the same dignity and respect as the body of the deceased. “Because of baptism, we have been made into the temples of the Holy Spirit,” he says. “Our bodies are sacred. And our whole funeral liturgy reflects that.”
Johnson notes it wasn’t until 1963 that the Catholic Church even approved of cremation. “Historically it was seen as a way to disrespect the body,” he says. “And so the Church was always leery of that.” The new document from the Vatican reiterates that burial is still preferred.