Saturday 3 December 2016

'We believe it is not respectful' – Irish priest and theologian explain new church doctrine on cremation

Published 26/10/2016 | 17:50

Photo: Depositphotos
Photo: Depositphotos

An Irish priest and theologian have explained that the Catholic church believes that the scattering or keeping of ashes outside consecrated ground is not ‘respectful’.

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“We believe it is not respectful. This is about the honour and dignity of our loved ones," Father Joe McDonald of St Matthews Church in Ballyfermot told Keelin Shanley on Morning Ireland today.

"It’s the exact same argument that people don’t understand about why we don’t have weddings in hotels; this is about the sacredness of the passing of our loved ones from this world to the next."

Dr John Murray, a Catholic theologian, explained that keeping ashes at home is against the community.

“Keeping the ashes at home promotes the idea that the death of your loved one is a private matter, but the death of the faithful is a matter for the whole community. The whole community prays for those who have died and remembers those who have died,” he told Morning Ireland.

Fr McDonald and Dr Murray encouraged Catholics who have scattered relatives’ ashes or are keeping them at home to discuss the issue with their priest if they are concerned.

“The worst thing that can happen here is that this is seen as another no-no from the church,” Fr Murray said.

Mr Jonathan Stafford of Stafford’s funeral homes, who also joined Keelin Shanley on the programme, said that cremations now account for half of all arrangements to deal with the dead in Ireland.

“When I started 10 or 20 years ago it was about 10pc, so there’s been an increase in recent years,” Mr Stafford said.

“Most people will go and place the ashes in the Garden of Remembrance and in the cemeteries. Probably around 20 or 25pc of people take the ashes home, with a small number of people scattering them.”

Cremation has been allowed by the Catholic Church since 1963, but burial is ‘preferred’ by the Church.

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