Can Non-Catholics be buried in a Catholic Cemetery?

by | Jun 16, 2023

Jesus spoke these things, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, “Father . . . I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their word; that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.” 

John 17:1, 20–23 

 

The bottom line is: there is nothing in Catholic canon law that prevents a non-Catholic from being buried in a Catholic cemetery. 

In a spirit of Ecumenism, many regions now allow for the burial of non-Catholics in the Catholic cemetery. Non-Catholic members of the family, i.e., spouses, children, parents, and other relatives are generally permitted. Other Christian denominations with a connection to the Catholic Community or who hold a primary belief in the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. 

We know that one selects a final resting place that reflects the beliefs and values from their own life’s personal journey. The Catholic cemetery provides a resting place that is sacred and shared with all fellow pilgrims awaiting resurrection of the dead and the promise of life everlasting. 

Belief in the Paschal Mystery is the principal metaphor of the Catholic faith in the face of death. Death, not only resurrection, is part of the mystery. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus and our participation in that risen life beyond our mortality offers us a means to make sense of death. 

As Catholics, we look to our history going back to our Jewish ancestors of what it means to care for the dead. Followers of Jesus took reverent care of the bodies of the dead and would honor their memory 

The primary influence for how the dead were treated flowed from Judaic roots. In Israel, burial of the deceased was an obligation and a work of mercy, even for one’s enemies. Rabbis taught that the obligation to care for the dead extended not only to friends and relatives, but to any deceased Jew. They also insisted that this duty of love included the dead outside Judaism.  

Christianity inherited ritual care for the dead. This was especially seen during the first three centuries of the Church. Pagans and Christians were buried together in public cemeteries but used different symbols/funerary decorations that depicted faith in Christ, in new life, the heavenly banquet, the Good Shepherd, etc. The difference between pagans and Christians was in their attitude towards death. The attitude attributed to Christian burial was one of prayerful joy. The primary message was that life in Christ is not undone by physical death 

At The Catholic Cemeteries we believe that each human body has housed the breath of God. It needs to be respected and have a place of repose where the memory of that individual will not be forgotten. We welcome those who share these beliefs.