Cemeteries, Canon Law of

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From the beginning the Church has followed the practice of burying its dead. Where it is possible, the Church is to have its own cemeteries [Codex Iuris Canonicis (CIC), c. 1240 §1; Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalium (CCEO), c. 874 §2]. It allows that each parish have its own cemetery (CIC, c. 1241 §1; CCEO, c. 874 §4). Religious institutes of men and women, other juridic persons, and even private families, may have their own cemeteries (CIC, c. 1241 §2; CCEO,c. 874 §4).

Blessings of Cemeteries. The Church prescribes that the cemeteries it owns should be blessed. The blessing of a cemetery is conducted according to the appropriate rite. By such a blessing, the cemetery is designated a sacred place, and becomes subject to the canons regarding sacred places in general.

In cases where the Church cannot (e.g., because all cemeteries are government owned) or does not (e.g., because of religious prejudice, bigotry, the poverty of the people) own its cemeteries, the law makes provision. Consistent with the Church's desire that every Catholic be buried in blessed ground, the law provides: (1) where Catholics are permitted to have use of a separate section of the community or municipal cemetery, this special Catholic section is to be blessed; (2) when Catholics cannot have their own section in a community cemetery, each individual grave is to be blessed before the body of the deceased is lowered into it (CIC, c. 1240 §2; CCEO,c. 874 §2).

Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, (Paris 190753) 3:162665. j. gulezynski, Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies 159: The Desecration and Violation of Churches (Washington 1942). s. many, Praelectiones de locis sacris (Paris 1904). f. j. moulart, De sepultura et coemeteriis (Louvain 1862). c. m. power, Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies 185: The Blessing of Cemetaries (Washington 1943). a. c. rush, Catholic University of America, Studies in Christian Antiquity 1: Death and Burial in Christian Antiquity (Washington 1941).

[c. m. power]