Twice a week, will post questions and answers pertaining to the Catholic faith. The responses will be provided by Father Kenneth Doyle, a columnist for Catholic News Service. 

Q. I have a friend whose father-in-law died recently. The man wanted to be cremated. The family called the Church, and the pastor asked where the burial plot was located. When they said that they didn't have one, they were informed that there would not be a funeral Mass.

So my question is this: Do you have to show proof of a burial spot to have a funeral Mass celebrated? (Bettendorf, Iowa)

A. Since 1963, the Catholic Church has permitted the practice of cremation  although the Church's preference is still for burying the body, since this expresses more clearly the Christian belief in the resurrection of the body.

When cremation does take place, the Church has specific guidelines as to the final disposition of the cremains.

The appendix to the Order of Christian Funerals states: "The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires" (No. 417).

That teaching was reaffirmed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in an instruction issued in 2016. This instruction explains that "the reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community."

Still though, I am not aware of any universal mandate for proof of a burial place prior to scheduling a funeral Mass. My own inclination would be to explain to the family of the deceased the rationale behind the Church's rule on cremains but not to prohibit a funeral Mass.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.