Rites of Commendation

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: My understanding is the Catholic Church does not encourage ashes to be sprinkled outdoors following a cremation.

However, for pastoral advantage I will attend such an event for a parishioner sprinkling her husband’s ashes over the ocean one year following his death. He was not Catholic but a great supporter of our parish events; his wife is also a wonderful support erand faithful Catholic.

Please advise about a simple ritual that a Catholic priest can lead for sprinkling ashes.


A: The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism says this, “In the prudent judgment of the local Ordinary, the funeral rites of the Catholic Church may be granted to members of a non-Catholic Church or ecclesial Community, unless it is evidently contrary to their will and provided that their own minister is unavailable, and that the general provisions of Canon Law do not forbid it” (120).

This does not directly answer your question because you are asking about presiding over a non-Catholic funeral (sprinkling of ashes) as a Catholic minister. I think it would still be prudent to get the approval of the bishop in this case. Otherwise, it may appear that the Catholic Church condones the practice.

If the bishop agrees, then you could take elements from the Order of Christian Funerals’ section on the Rites of Commendation. Look especially for indications of a burial at sea.