Burial or cremation?

Burial or cremation?

If you choose to have a Catholic funeral one of the first decisions to be considered is whether to opt for a burial or a cremation. Both are acceptable in the Catholic faith.

Burial or cremation?

One of the first instructions you have to give the funeral director is whether the person who has died is to be buried or cremated.

It has been traditional for Catholics to bury their dead in cemeteries immediately after the funeral. Some families still prefer this and find it very comforting to visit and tend a grave.

Cremation is allowed

Since 1963, the Catholic Church has allowed cremation and this has now become common practice. Cremation is popular partly because it is cheaper, but also because some people consider it more practical.

The Catholic Church says it is best for ashes to be buried.

Choosing cremation does not mean that you cannot have a Catholic funeral Mass.

Talking to the priest

Most priests will want to meet you to talk about the person who has died and to hear your thoughts about the funeral.

Fr Joe Smith, a priest from Gravesend, Kent, has been doing funerals for 50 years. Though now retired, he is renowned locally for the care with which he prepares for funerals. Fr Joe says he always asks the family to come and see him.

Asking questions

“It is a chance to ask a lot of questions and to listen. I have a questionnaire of my own devising and I stick to it closely. I never assume anything” says Fr Joe.

“The family will offload a lot of things that are on their minds and they will usually find out a lot about themselves. It sometimes unravels complications of all sorts.”

Help with readings and hymns

Fr Joe gives the family books from which they can select readings and hymns for a Catholic funeral.  

“I’m giving them homework so that they’re going home afterwards and talking through their grief” says Fr Joe.

Fr Paul Gunter, a parish priest in Alcester in Warwickshire, is also generous with his time.

He says: “The level of preparation depends on what the families need. You support them and accompany them and then in my experience the right questions come out.”

Specialist help

Some parishes also have specially trained members who will help you arrange the funeral and will liaise with the priest on your behalf.

Help with planning a Catholic funeral

If you choose to opt for a Catholic funeral we have written a very simple checklist to help you plan ahead.

What happens at a Catholic funeral?

Read the next page in our guide to learn more about what happens at a Catholic funeral, including the burial or cremation.

The Art of Dying Well