• Catholics are forbidden from keeping loved ones' ashes at home or scattering them, the Vatican has ruled. (iStockphoto/Getty Images)Source: iStockphoto/Getty Images
Cremated ashes must be stored in a holy, church-approved place, according to the new guidelines.
Alyssa Braithwaite

26 Oct 2016 - 2:22 PM  UPDATED 26 Oct 2016 - 2:23 PM

Catholics are not allowed to keep the ashes of cremated loved ones at home, scattering them or turning them into mementos, under new rules set out by the Vatican.

Ashes must be stored in a holy place, such as a cemetery, according to strict guidelines released at a press conference in Rome in the lead-up to All Hallows' Day on November 2, which honours the dead.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reiterated that burial of the dead was preferable to cremation.

However, noting an "unstoppable increase" in cremation since the Church allowed it in 1963, Cardinal Müller warned against "new ideas contrary to the church's faith" - such as scattering ashes at sea or keeping them in a locket - and dismissed them as "pantheism".

"The conservation of ashes in the home is not allowed," Cardinal Müller said.

"Furthermore, in order to avoid any form of pantheistic or naturalistic or nihilistic misunderstanding, the dispersion of ashes in the air, on the ground, on water or in some other way as well as the conversion of cremated ashes into commemorative objects is not allowed."

The formal instruction decrees that ashes may only be kept in an urn at home in "grave and exceptional cases", and adds that if someone has asked for their ashes to be scattered “for reasons contrary to the Christian faith" then "a Christian funeral must be denied to that person".

"The dead are not the private property of the family," Cardinal Müller said.

"The ashes of the deceased must be kept in a sacred place, either in a cemetery or in a church.

"Death is not the end our of our existence."

The Vatican document, Ad Resurgendum cum Christo, is dated 15 August and says Pope Francis approved it in March. 

The news has provoked angry reactions on social media.

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