The Vatican’s doctrine watchdog has sparked fresh controversy over the practice of cremation after issuing a new ruling on preserving the ashes of cremated bodies.
The note published Tuesday by Cdl. Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, was signed by Pope Francis and overturns a 2016 ban on reserving the deceased’s ashes at home or dividing them among family members.
Catholics opposed to cremation are hitting back at the new ruling, citing earlier magisterial teaching from popes, councils and canon law, which categorically forbade cremation on pain of the most severe ecclesiastical penalties, including excommunication.
Cardinal Fernández’s ruling is in the form of a response to two questions (dubia) posed by Cdl. Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, that seek to accommodate the wishes of the “increasing number of people desiring to cremate the bodies of the deceased and scatter their ashes in nature.”
Zuppi asks if there could be a designated “sacred place” for the “commingled accumulation and preservation of the ashes of the baptized,” where the names of the dead would be recorded.
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