In the funeral rites, the Church “commends the dead to God’s merciful love and pleads for the forgiveness of their sins.” (Order of Christian Funerals, 6). Through the funeral, the Church also “brings hope and consolation to the living.” (Order of Christian Funerals, 7).
The Catholic funeral rites may take place either during Mass or in a Liturgy of the Word. The rites typically begin with a reception of the body at the Church with various baptismal symbols, including a sprinkling of Holy Water and covering with a pall. They also include a Liturgy of the Word, in which the Church proclaims the Paschal Mystery and the hope of the Resurrection, and prayers for the dead, their family and mourners, and the whole assembly (Order of Christian Funerals, 22 & 29). In funerals during the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, including the Eucharistic Prayer and Holy Communion, then follow. In the Eucharistic Prayer “the Church expresses her efficacious communion with the departed: offering to the Father in the Holy Spirit the sacrifice of the death and resurrection of Christ. She asks to purify his child of his sins and their consequences, and to admit him to the Paschal fullness of the table of the Kingdom,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1689). The funeral liturgy may conclude with a Final Commendation, a prayer entrusting the soul of the deceased to the mercy of God, or this may take place at the place of committal. After the funeral liturgy, the deceased is buried in the Rite of Committal.
Concerning cremation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has indicated, “The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.” (Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo: regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation, 4).
However, the Church requires that cremated remains be buried in a cemetery or other sacred place designated for this purpose. They should not be split among family members, scattered, incorporated into jewelry, or kept at a residence (Ad resurgendum cum Christo, 5-7). Further, it is preferred that the cremation take place following the funeral to allow the presence of the body for the funeral rites (Order of Christian Funerals, 413 & 418).