NZ Catholic Church to follow Vatican guidelines banning scattering of ashes

By Melissa Nightingale

New guidelines for the Catholic Church suggest denying someone a christian funeral if they request to have their ashes scattered. Photo/file
New guidelines for the Catholic Church suggest denying someone a christian funeral if they request to have their ashes scattered. Photo/file

The Catholic Church in New Zealand will follow guidelines from the Vatican banning the scattering of ashes.

The guidelines also suggest denying someone a Christian funeral if they request to have their ashes scattered.

Spokeswoman Simone Olsen said she was unaware of a specific Bible verse condemning the practice of scattering a loved ones ashes after death, but said the ban came from the church's interpretation of the bible.

A formal instruction, approved by Pope Francis, even forbids Catholics from keeping ashes in an urn at home, other than in "grave and exceptional cases".

The church forbade cremation altogether until 1963, primarily because of the teaching that Christians will be raised from the grave ahead of the Day of Judgment.

The new guidelines, issued by the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), claims many modern cremation practices increasingly reflect non-Christian ideas about "fusion with Mother Nature".

"In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewellery or other objects," the document said.

Olsen said the Catholic Church in New Zealand took its guidelines from the Vatican.

"The bishops will look at the new guidelines that have just come out," she said.

The new rule came from "complex things around our understanding of death and what happens to us in the afterlife and our belief in resurrection".

Olsen said she was "unaware of any specific or direct verses" speaking against scattering ashes.

"I guess it's like a lot of the teaching of the Catholic Church. We interpret the scripture to apply it to a lot of different situations that weren't necessarily specified in the bible. That's a normal process for us, that theological process."

She said the process included applying their understanding to scripture.

When asked whether it was unfair to potentially deny someone a Christian funeral based on an interpretation that was not specified in the bible, Olsen said people still had free will to decide what they wanted to do.

To her understanding, priests would be able to decide for themselves what they wanted to do for "each unique situation".

"That's up to the family and the loved ones and the priest."

She did not know how the guidelines had been received in New Zealand yet as they had only just come out.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 28 May 2017 16:42:17 Processing Time: 761ms