A Catholic bishop in the Philippines warned the faithful against the “desecration” of the ashes of departed loved ones that are kept at home.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, reminded families who have their dead cremated that keeping the ashes permanently at home “is not allowed.”
“There is great danger of desecration in the future, especially when we are no longer around to look after and care for these ashes,” said the prelate in a Pastoral Instruction released on September 21.
The bishop said the urns of ashes should be laid to rest in columbaria or in churches to also allow non-family members who would like to pay their respects to the dead to do so.
The government has earlier made it mandatory for victims of the new coronavirus disease to be cremated 12 hours after death as part of the protocol for handling the deceased during the pandemic.
The Catholic Church banned the practice of cremation until 1963 “for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.”
The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, is more inclined to practice burial than cremation, as recommended by the Church.
In 2016, the Vatican issued guidelines on the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation.
According to the Vatican, the conservation of the ashes of the departed at home is not permitted and that the ashes “may not be divided” among family members and “due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.”
It also determined that the scattering of ashes is prohibited as well as preserving it in mementos, in jewelries, or in other objects.
“These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation,” said the Vatican instruction.
The Vatican said the Church “raises no doctrinal objections” to cremation.
As another precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus disease, the Philippine government announced that it is closing cemeteries from October 29 to November 4.
Bishop Pabillo encouraged the faithful to instead go to Church and offer Masses to their beloved departed on November 1 and 2.
The prelate recommended making time as a family to pray together for those who have gone ahead as “it is a good and holy thought to pray for the dead.”
“It would be good if we can share with the family members our recollections about our beloved dead so their memory can bind us closer to each other,” the bishop said.
In his pastoral instruction titled “One with Our Beloved Dead,” the prelate said the Holy Eucharist is the “best prayer that one can offer.”
“Lighting of candles for the dead can also be done in areas provided by the parishes during the month of November,” he added.
All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2) are two important feasts for the Filipino Catholic faithful.