Scattering of Ashes OK'd in Italy by Bishops

Italian Church won’t object to scattering of ashes, newspaper reports

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) – Although the Catholic Church would prefer that those who die be buried in the ground, cremation is acceptable and, in certain circumstances, the church in Italy will not object to a person’s ashes being scattered, reported the daily Catholic newspaper Avvenire.

The Italian bishops released their new translation of Catholic funeral rites in November, for the first time adding prayers to be recited at a crematorium and for a funeral celebrated in the presence of the deceased’s ashes rather than a body.

The texts, Avvenire reported in a series of articles Jan. 9, were relatively unknown until a secular newspaper reported that a priest in northern Italy refused a Catholic funeral for a man who had asked that his ashes be scattered in the mountains.

The Diocese of Aosta later issued a statement saying that although the priest had hesitated, in the end there was a Catholic funeral and “church funerals will be celebrated for all the faithful, including those who have chosen the scattering of their ashes as long as the choice was not made for reasons contrary to the Christian faith.”

Until 2001, Italian law prohibited the scattering of ashes. The Cremation Society’s international statistics noted that in 2005 just under 9 percent of Italians who died were cremated; the percentage in the United States for the same year was about 32 percent.

Father Silvano Sirboni, a pastor and liturgist, wrote in Avvenire that while cremation was an ancient practice the spread of Christianity brought with it a growing desire to be buried in the ground as Jesus was.

Cremation was introduced into Italy in the early 1800s under Napoleon’s rule, “for hygienic reasons,” but became popular among opponents of the pope’s temporal rule over Rome and surrounding territories, Father Sirboni said.

Cremation became a “sign of aversion to the church and its doctrine,” he said. Consequently, the 1917 Code of Canon Law denied a Catholic funeral to those who had chosen cremation.

In 1963, the Vatican issued new norms permitting Catholic funerals for those who wanted to be cremated as long as they had not chosen cremation as an expression of disbelief in the Resurrection or in other Catholic doctrines, Father Sirboni wrote.

The Italian bishops’ pastoral guidelines, issued along with the new translation of the rites, said Catholic funerals should be denied to those who request their ashes be scattered if they are motivated by “a pantheistic or naturalistic mentality” which denies the existence of one God, who is separate from his creation.

Father Sirboni said this guideline was meant to “dissuade people from certain choices” and to encourage priests to discuss the choices with a family and make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

I can understand the argument for allowing cremation in certain situations, but scattering them is insulting to the dead bodies, and I do believe contrary to the 1983 Code of Canon Law. How is this allowed to go on? Quite disheartening I must say.

Sorry Italian Bishops…the Church has spoken:

“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).

But then again this sort of disobedience is how we got Communion in the hand and “altar girls”.


Why is it disheartening?

How is it less respectful than the churches habit of digging up dead bodies whose families cant pay the rent anymore and dumping them into a common grave?

Probably because it goes against the express rules of the Church…

Explain why disturbing the resting place and dumping them sometimes in a umarked common grave is respectful.

I didn’t say it was.

But thats the way it is in most European and South American cemetaries, which are owned and operated by the church. So please defend the churches stance here.

Well then I guess I will.


I was once told that the Masons used cremation and scattering of ashes as one final act of disregard for the Church, symbolically rejecting resurection of the body.


Okay, this would fit with the news article’s account of people choosing cremation as a way of opposing the Pope or as a way of denying the Resurrection.

The article mentions that the Italian bishops continue to deny Catholic funerals to persons who want their ashes scattered as a patheistic gesture.

I don’t have strong feelings on the subject. Certainly the scattering of ashes is commonplace in the U.S. - it doesn’t raise any eyebrows nor raise concerns about pantheism.

Perhaps I just see this in a different light. I, for some reason, find it quite problematic.

Do you think Jesus really cares about your ashes being scattered?

I think not.

God Bless!

Perhaps the eyebrows are permanently lowered in our jaded society. And are you sure about the lack of pantheism?

The problem with asking a question like this is that the question becomes too universal. It’s kind of a question you just pull out in a way to make someone look insensitive. Whether that’s your intent or not I make no judgment but in general its used in that manner.

Does Jesus care? Can be reworded to be … Does it really matter in the end?

In the great scope of things … probably not. Certainly the resurrection is no problem for God even if our body parts or ashes are spread across the world I’m sure he will make it all work.

Does Jesus care in the sense that it effects the judgment of the one’s particular soul?

Probably not, especially considering the judgment would take place at death and I don’t think there’s a cue line waiting to see what happens to your body as a way of effecting your judgment, again unless as the Church articulates the person has chosen this as a way to deny the resurrection or undermine the Church as an authority and gift given to us by God.

Is there any sense in which Jesus cares?

Here is where I think we can say yes to your question. Having the remains of the person, whether cremated or full body, buried in the ground in a marked grave, give the loved ones of that person a definite place to go and mourn for that person and to remember them later in their life. This is a crucial part of helping someone cope with the death of someone they loved. Does Jesus care about this? Clearly he does.

It’s important to note that we often want to talk about how people can choose whatever they want to do … that is that we have freedom to choose whatever. However, this is a false sense of freedom Jesus set us free to choose the best! Freedom is not about doing anything we want but being free to do the greatest good. And if the place of burial is a good for the loved ones, we should choose to give them that opportunity.

Just a reflection, not necessarily dogmatic.

Fraternally in our Lord,


So I can have my ashes scattered over my son’s grave. Horrible deal with the exes widow who controls the the graves. I am so relieved after reading that article. Now I can be with my son.

Well for myself. I told my wife to make sure my body isn’t embalmed.

I want to make sure that when they exhume my body and find it incorrupt, they say “see, he is a saint,” and not attribute it to embalming. :smiley:


Good thinking! Maybe I’ll need to speak with my wife on this as well! :smiley:

No, I don’t think you can. I understand you desire, however you reopened a 4 year old thread that was discussing something that pertains only to Italy. I believe the Church still forbids the scattering of ashes - they must be laid to rest in the earth or a mausoleum. You should check with your diocese for the final word. I will pray though that your situation changes so that you can have final rest as you wish.

Just to let everyone know: this thread was created in January of 2008. It’s over four years old.

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