More and more people are choosing cremation over in-ground burial or above ground interment. This trend is likely to continue, so it is important for Catholics, especially, to understand how cremated remains fit in the Catholic funeral scenario.
First of all, the Church has allowed cremation for the past twenty years or more. But it also states its preference for "the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead" intact. According to the Order of Christian Funerals:
"While cremation is now permitted, it does not enjoy the same value as burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in its rites.”
If you are a Catholic considering cremation, either as a final wish for yourself or as part of the process of carrying out a loved one's wishes, you are urged to discuss the matter with the officiating priest.
What is abundantly clear is that the our earthly remains—whether intact or cremated—are meant to be treated with reverence and dignity. The Church teaches that those departed are with us still as members of the "Church Triumphant." To honor their memory and commune with them in prayer, it is vital that cremated remains be accorded the same respect and "place" in the cemetery as that of traditional interment.
There are several choices for interring cremated remains. Most often, people choose cremation urns placed in niches in a structure known as a columbarium. Columbaria can be free-standing outdoor walls, or inside Mausoleums. With respect to interment rights, cremation urns can be interred with casketed remains in crypts. Cremation urns can also be buried in-ground in urn vaults designed for that purpose.