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Vatican: Do Not Scatter, Divide Cremated Remains

FILE - A man walks along the tombs at the municipal cemetery of San Salvador in Oviedo, northern Spain, Oct. 30, 2015.

The Vatican has issued new guidelines recommending that the cremated remains of Catholics be buried in cemeteries rather than be kept at home, scattered or divided among family members.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued updated instructions Tuesday on rules for cremation. The church reiterated its approval of cremation, but emphasized the need to bury the ashes — all in one place — in cemeteries or other "sacred places."

"It is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects," the instructions say.

The church says the goal is to keep the ashes together at a location where the departed won't be "excluded" from prayers and remembrances of other Christians.

Cremation has been steadily growing in popularity in the United States. According to the Cremation Association of North America, an industry group for cremation-related businesses, nearly half of all people who died in 2015 in the U.S. were cremated, up from about 25 percent in 2000.

But ever since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, the official position of the church has been that cremation, while not preferable, is also not banned — as long as the choice was not made as a reproach of the church.