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Death In History
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Catholic Burial Law

The interment of a deceased person with ecclesiastical rites in consecrated ground. The Jews and most of the nations of antiquity buried their dead. Amongst the Greeks and Romans both cremation and interment were practised indifferently. That the early Christians from the beginning used only burial seems certain. This conclusion may be inferred not only from negative arguments but from the direct testimony of Tertullian, "De Corona" (P.L., II, 92, 795; cf. Minucius Felix, "Octavius", xi in P.L., III, 266), and from the stress laid upon the analogy between the resurrection of the body and the Resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:42; cf. Tertullian, "De AnimÔ", lv; Augustine, "De civitate Dei", I, 13). 

In the light of this same dogma of the resurrection of the body as well as of Jewish tradition (cf. Tobit 1:21; 12:12; Sirach 38:16; 2 Maccabees 12:39), it is easy to understand how the interment of the mortal remains of the Christian dead has always been regarded as an act of religious import and has been surrounded at all times with some measure of religious ceremonial. The motives of Christian burial will be more fully treated in the article Cremation. As to the latter practice, it will be sufficient to say here that, while involving no necessary contradiction of any article of faith, it is opposed alike to the law of the Church and to the usages of antiquity. In defense of the Church's recent prohibitions, it may be urged that the revival of cremation in modern times has in practice been prompted less by considerations of improved hygiene or psychological sentiment than by avowed materialism and opposition to Catholic teaching. 

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