As the scattering of cremated human remains becomes more prevalent, Catholics are ramping up efforts to remind Catholic parishioners and the general public about the problems and lasting consequences of the practice.

The inherent problems of scattering

Dignity of the body:

These are human remains that deserve to be treated with greater dignity than being simply strewn about. Cremains, though in ash form, are still what remain of the body. We should no more scatter them than we would scatter body parts about.


While scattering may bring some small comfort in the moment, for many it is fleeting and ultimately empty. The Catholic tradition requires sacred space for remembering.

Nuisance Scattering:

When friends and loved ones place flowers, pictures, and other makeshift markers and memorials, park and city staff are forced to clean up what is essentially litter. It also leaves municipalities in an awkward spot as they consider by-laws to ban the practice on public land.

The Catholic Church and cremation

  • Since the Second Vatican Council of the mid-1960s, cremation has been an acceptable option for those of the Catholic faith.
  • However, the Church prefers the interment or entombment of the body because it gives fuller expression to our Christian faith.
  • Families must seek an appropriate final resting place for the cremated remains of the body.
  • The scattering of the cremated remains or keeping the cremated remains in a home are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires.

Cremation rates

  • Cremation in Canada has grown by nearly 30% over the last 30 years, and is expected to continue to increase, according to the Cremation Association of North America.
  • The Lower Mainland of BC has some of the world’s most expensive real estate and at 80%, one of the highest cremation rates in North America, says the BC Funeral and Cremation Association.
  • A significant concern for Catholic cemeteries is that people are making decision of faith based on mainly economic terms that could leave them with an empty memory of a loved one.
    • Cremation services are approximately 75% cheaper than a full body services.
    • While cremation occurs in over 80% of deaths in the Lower Mainland, the cremation burial rate at Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Vancouver is 35%.

Issues that arise from Cremation

  • A common issue surrounding cremation is when a death occurs without an end-of-life plan.
    • Only 12% of Canadians over 35 have made any plans. (Pollara Research. Report on Funeral Industry Preferences. March 2010)
    • Cremation timing affects the rites that the Catholic Church can offer. The reading of the will is most often too late to learn burial preferences. This is the case for most religions.
    • When cremation is chosen for Catholics, the preferred sequence for the final rite is for cremation to take place after the Funeral Mass.  This makes an after-life-plan critical so that the wishes of the deceased can be honoured.

Catholic Cemeteries offers options for those choosing cremation

  • Catholic Cemeteries provides sacred space and memorial choices in keeping with Catholic teachings:
  • Niches – an above ground burial crypt, sized for an urn containing the cremated remains of the body and allowing for identification and remembrance.
  • Graves – smaller sized graves that allow for a grave marker to be placed identifying and remembering the deceased.
  • Columbarium – above ground granite compartments with lettering for memorialization.

About Catholic Cemeteries

  • Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Vancouver are owned and operated as a non-profit and charitable organization by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vancouver.
  • Catholic Cemeteries has been serving Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley Catholics with sacred grounds, traditional rites and compassionate service since the 1880s.
  • The organization offers traditional burial, mausoleum crypt entombment and interment of cremated remains in niches or in-ground.
  • For detailed information on the funeral rite, choices and decisions involved with end-of-life planning, go to:
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