In Christian countries, cremation fell out of favor due to the Christian belief in the
physical resurrection of the body. Beginning in the Middle Ages, rationalists and
classicists began to advocate it. In the Medieval Europe, cremation was practiced
only on special occasions, such as in situations where there were multitudes of
corpses simultaneously present, such as after a battle, after a pestilence or famine,
and there was an imminent danger of diseases spreading by the corpses.
The first to approve cremation were the Protestant churches, whose rationale was
"God can resurrect a bowl of ashes just as conveniently as He can resurrect a bowl
of dust". The development of modern crematoria also helped to make difference
on the Pagan rite of burning the corpse on pyre. The first crematoria in the
Protestant countries were built in 1870s.
For most of its history, the Roman Catholic Church had a ban in place against
cremation, which was lifted in the 1960s. The church still officially prefers the
traditional burial of the deceased. Cremation is now permitted as long as it is not
done to express a refusal to believe in the resurrection of the body, and the church
has become more open to the idea of cremation.
Until 1997, Church regulations stipulated that cremation was to take place after the
funeral service has taken place. The Church does specify requirements for the
reverent disposition of ashes. This means that the ashes are to be buried or
entombed in an appropriate container, such as an urn. The Church does not permit
the scattering of ashes or keeping them at home.
Some branches of Christianity still oppose cremation. The Eastern Orthodox
Church forbids cremation. Exceptions are made for circumstances where it may
not be avoided (when civil authority demands it, or epidemics) or if it may be
sought for good cause, but when a cremation is willfully chosen for no good cause
by the one who is deceased, he or she is not permitted a funeral in the church and
may also be permanently excluded from liturgical prayers for the departed.
In Orthodoxy, cremation is a rejection of the dogma of the general resurrection,
and as such is viewed harshly. Some of the more traditional members of the
Catholic church have objected to the practice of allowing cremation.
We hope this information will be helpful to you as you go about making this incredibly
tough decision. If you need to, you can reach us at 1-800-890-9000