"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

Why did the Church originally forbid cremation, and what made it
 change its position? 


Q: Why did the Church originally forbid cremation, and what made it
 change its position?

A: The early Christians, most of whom were first Jewish in membership, adopted the Jewish burial customs, which had always been bodily burial due to their belief in the resurrection of the dead. As Christ was laid in a tomb, so it became the norm for Christians to be buried in the ground or in tombs, catacombs, and mausoleums.

As Christianity spread into pagan countries where 
cremation was the norm, opponents to the Christian belief in the 
resurrection of the dead encouraged people to be cremated in order to deny this 
dogma of our faith. For this reason, the Church forbade any Christian from 
being cremated to prevent any possible scandal. This 
situation resurfaced at the turn of the last century when much of liberal 
Protestantism began to deny belief in both the resurrection of Christ and
 of all the dead, thus permitting cremation for its members.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, however, the Church 
began to realize that often people were choosing cremation not to deny the 
resurrection of the dead, but for economic reasons or the fact that, in many places, they were simply running out of space for bodily burials. As it stands now, the Church’s teaching is that cremation is permitted “provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection
of the body” (CCC, 2301). Nevertheless, the Church’s preference remains for bodily burial to uphold the 
dignity of the human body as God’s temple.  Even if someone wants to be
 cremated, it is strongly recommended that it be done after a funeral Mass so 
that the body can be given due reverence and respect during that 
celebration.