FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo
regarding the burial of the deceased
and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation
1. To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and
at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). With the Instruction Piam et
Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that “all
necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying
the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not “opposed per se to
the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral
rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the
condition that this choice has not been made through “a denial of Christian
dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion
and the Church”. Later this change
in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983)
and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).
During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably
increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the
Church’s faith have also become widespread. Having consulted the Congregation
for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Council
for Legislative Texts and numerous Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Bishops
of the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has
deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of
underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial
of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the
conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.
2. The resurrection of Jesus is the culminating truth of the Christian
faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very
beginnings of Christianity: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what
I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the
scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the
third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he
appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5).
Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access
to a new life, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm
6:4). Furthermore, the risen Christ is the principle and source of our
future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of
those who have fallen asleep […] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall
all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20-22).
It is true that Christ will raise us up on the last day; but it is also true
that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. In Baptism, actually,
we are immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and sacramentally
assimilated to him: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also
raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead”
(Col 2:12). United with Christ by Baptism, we already truly participate
in the life of the risen Christ (cf. Eph 2:6).
Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of
the Church: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this
earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in
heaven”. By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will
give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the
resurrection: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we
3. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently
recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other
In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that
illumines the Christian meaning of death,
burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the
resurrection of the body.
The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly
pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she
commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.
By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the
resurrection of the body, and
intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the
human person whose body forms part of their identity.
She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous
ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of
the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a
stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the
“prison” of the body.
Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds
to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through
Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and
vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.
Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for
having buried the dead,
and the Church considers the burial of dead one of the corporal works of mercy.
Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred
places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for
and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of
martyrs and saints.
Through the practice of burying the dead in cemeteries, in churches or their
environs, Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and
the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimize, or relegate to the purely
private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.
4. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic
or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated
or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises
no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body
does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence,
from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself,
objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor
that of the resurrection of the body.
The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the
deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased.
Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons
contrary to Christian doctrine”.
In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the
celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing
the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to
avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.
5. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the
ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a
cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside
for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.
From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful
departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and
remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and
reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes “in the
communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the
dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one
The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures
that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or
the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten,
or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is
possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too
passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.
6. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the
departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional
cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary,
in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the
Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the
departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided
among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the
circumstances of such a conservation.
7. 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 jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be
legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may
have occasioned the choice of cremation.
8. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering
of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral
must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.
The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned
Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in
the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15
August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Gerhard Card. Müller
+ Luis F. Ladaria, S.I.
Titular Archbishop of Thibica
 AAS 56 (1964), 822-823.
 Roman Missal, Preface I for the Dead.
 Tertullian, De Resurrectione carnis, 1,1: CCL 2, 921.
 Cf. CIC, can. 1176, § 3, can. 1205; CCEO, can. 876, § 3;
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1681.
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300.
 Cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1683.
 Cf. St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 3, 5; CSEL
 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et
 St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 3, 5: CSEL 41,
 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300.
 Cf. Holy Office, Instruction Piam et costantem, 5 July 1963: AAS
56 (1964) 822.
 CIC, can. 1176 § 3; cf. CCEC, can. 876 § 3.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 962.
CIC, can. 1184; CCEO, can.876, § 3.