Many Catholics today believe that the Church does not permit cremation of the human body after death has occurred. Prior to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's, that was the case. However, in May 1963, that prohibition was lifted. Catholics can now choose to be cremated.

The Church requires that the cremated remains be either buried in the ground in a cemetery or placed in a mausoleum or columbarium, preferably in a Catholic cemetery.

The Church recommends that the place of burial or entombment be permanently memorialized with a traditional memorial stone, crypt/niche front, or bronze plaque, minimally marking the name and dates of birth and death of the deceased person.

Since the human body was the temple of the Holy Spirit during life, was fed at the Eucharistic table, and will share in the bodily resurrection, contemporary cultural practices like scattering the cremated remains over water or from the air or keeping the cremated remains at home are not considered reverent forms of disposition that the Church requires. Other practices such as comingling cremated remains or dividing up cremated remains among family members or friends are not acceptable for Catholics.

There are two primary options for the final disposition of cremated remains in a cemetery: in-ground burial or above-ground inurnment.

Ground burial of cremated remains:
  • Cremated remains can be buried in a full size grave.
  • Cremated remains can be buried in a smaller size cremation grave located in areas designated only for cremation burial.
  • Cremated remains can be buried on top of an existing grave occupied by another person, provided permission is given by the lot owner and observance of the cemetery's rules for memorialization are followed.

Above-ground inurnment of cremated remains
  • Cremated remains may be inurned in a crypt or niche located in a mausoleum building.
  • Cremated remains may be inurned in a columbarium facility which may be a free-standing bank of niches located in the cemetery or attached to a building in the cemetery.