While the Church remommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed, cremation is permitted as long as it has not been chosen for reasons contrary to Catholic teaching (Canon 1176.3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2301).
1. It is preferred that the Funeral Mass or the Funeral Liturgy outside Mass be celebrated in the presence of the body of the deceased prior to its cremation. (OCF Appendix Cremation #411-438, available through the Office for Worship, (617) 746-5880.
2. The significance of having the body of the deceased present for the funeral liturgy is indicated throughout the Mass texts and ritual actions. Therefore, when arrangements involving cremation are being made, the parish priest is to recommend that: a) following a wake, or a time of visitation, the Funeral Mass be celebrated in the presence of the body of the deceased person, and that following the Funeral Mass, the body of the deceased be cremated; b) the Funeral Mass conclude with the final commendation in the church; c) at an appropriate time, usually some days later, the family gather at the cemetery for the burial of the cremated remains. The Rite of Committal takes place at this time with the inclusion of the proper prayers for the committal of ashes (OCF #406.3).
3. If cremation has already taken place before the Funeral Mass, the pastor may permit the celebration of the Funeral Mass in the presence of the cremated remains of the deceased person.
4. Special circumstances occur, such as health concerns or out-of-state or overseas transport which prompt families to arrange for cremation before making funeral arrangements. If cremation has taken place, the parish priest is to recommend: a) gathering with family and friends for prayer and remembrance of the deceased; b) celebration of a Funeral Mass; c) gathering with family and friends for the interment of cremated remains at the cemetery in the Rite of Committal.
5. Cremated remains should be treated with the same respect given to the remains of a human body, and should be buried or entombed. The scattering of cremated remains on the sea or on the ground or keeping them in the home is not the reverent final disposition that the Church directs.