Pope forbids 'New Age' scattering of ashes of dead
The Catholic Church has banned the scattering of ashes of the dead, insisting that, in some circumstances, those who request it for themselves should even be denied a "Christian funeral".
Strict new Vatican guidelines forbid a list of increasingly popular means of commemorating loved ones - from scattering ashes at sea to having them turned into jewellery or put in a locket - dismissing them as New Age practices and "pantheism".
A formal instruction, approved by Pope Francis, even forbids Catholics from keeping the ashes of loved ones in an urn at home, other than in "grave and exceptional cases".
It also rules out the increasingly common practice of dividing people's ashes between members of the family.
The document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) claims cremation practices increasingly reflect non-Christian ideas about "fusion with Mother Nature".
For centuries the Catholic Church forbade cremation altogether, until the ban was finally lifted in 1963. The new guidance accepts cremation in principle but signals restrictions on increasingly varied uses for ashes, insisting that they should only be kept in a "sacred place", such as a cemetery.
"[The Church] cannot ... 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," it argues.
It goes on: "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 jewellery or other objects."
It then adds that if someone has asked for their ashes to be scattered "for reasons contrary to the Christian faith" then "a Christian funeral must be denied to that person".
Four years ago the ashes of actor James Doohan, who played 'Scotty' in 'Star Trek', were blasted into space, along with those of more than 300 others.
Earlier, the remains of journalist and writer Hunter S Thompson were fired from a cannon on top of a 150ft tower in Colorado.
Others have requested their ashes be mixed into fireworks, ground into gems for loved ones, or even turned into items such as a frisbee.