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Sprinkling ashes of dead not acceptable?

TAIPEI (UCAN): An Asia-wide liturgy forum scheduled for October is expected to take up the issue of acceptable forms of Catholic funerals, following a decision reached in August that spreading the ashes of a deceased person conflicts with acceptable funeral rites in the Catholic Church.

The 15th Asian Liturgy Forum is to be held in Taipei from October 17, with 60 liturgists from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand are expected to attend the five-day event.

Father Charles Pan, executive secretary of the Taiwan Bishops’ Commission of Sacred Liturgy, the host of next month’s meeting, said the issue of burial will be addressed in terms of inculturation. 

In preparation for the meeting, the Taiwan commission referred to the United States Bishops’ Conference and the Vatican’s Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy in deciding that spreading ashes at sea or on land was not a suitable Catholic burial rite.

“The spreading of ashes,” the commission notes, “conflicts with the Church’s teaching on the resurrection of the body and also runs counter to environmental concerns over the spread of infectious diseases by cremated remains.”

The Catholic Church does permit cremation, particularly in areas where land availability for burial is scarce, but it requires that the ashes be preserved as one entity and not spread over the ground or scattered at sea.

Father Pan, who attended a government-run seminar last week on the topic of burial rites, said local Church leaders will be able to consult a handbook on burial rites to be published by the government  of Taiwan by year’s end, when considering inculturation issues.

The publication is to focus on sensitivity to cultural customs when evaluating issues related to the managing of the affairs of and the burial of the deceased.


The Catholic Church does permit cremation… but it requires that the ashes be preserved as one entity and not spread over the ground or scattered at sea


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