Recently, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope Francis, has issued an instruction regarding cremation. Here is a summary of this instruction.
It is recommended that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places. Burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy. By so doing, we confirm our faith in the resurrection of the body and we acknowledge the dignity that should be given to the human body. Although the Church prefers burial of the body, cremation is permitted. Respect must always be given to the wishes of the deceased.
When cremation has been chosen, the ashes must be laid to rest with respect in a sacred place and may not be divided, for example, among family members. Furthermore, the scattering of ashes in the air, on land or in the sea is not permitted, nor is the preservation of ashes in mementos, pieces of jewelry, or other objects allowed.
The instruction concludes by saying that, when the deceased has notoriously requested cremation and the scattering of his/her ashes for reasons that are contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian burial must be denied.
To view the full text of this instruction, click here.