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Can a Non-Believer Be Buried in a Catholic Cemetery

A Catholic cemetery is a sacred space, a prayerful place of reverence and a place to bury the devout in consecrated ground. The question often arises of whether a person must be Catholic to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. Sometimes, a devout Catholic has a non-Catholic spouse. Other people may have a child who has turned from the faith and is not a believer.

So what is the answer? In short, it is permissible for non-Catholics to be buried in a Catholic cemetery if they have a connection to a Catholic. This includes not just family members of Catholics, but also Christians who are not Catholic but have a connection to the Catholic community. This should be comforting news to Catholics who wish to be buried with their spouses regardless of faith or who wish to keep their families together after death in a family estate.

However, there is this caveat: non-Catholics cannot have a Catholic funeral. A Catholic funeral mass is a sacred service celebrating the faith. It’s a time of worship, thanksgiving and proclamation of the gospel focused on God. There’s Catholic liturgy, sacred songs and readings, and the distribution of Holy Communion. There’s also a time of prayer in which prayers are delivered for the soul of the person who has died. For a non-Catholic to have this kind of service wouldn’t make sense, especially because non-Catholics are not even permitted to partake of communion during a Catholic funeral service.

This doesn’t mean a non-Catholic can’t have a traditional Christian service. Many people have religious services at the request of their families even if the person who died was not particularly religious. A Catholic funeral, however, has very specific parameters. There’s an order of service to be upheld, a certain way things are done, and even certain days each year on which a funeral Mass may not be performed. Understanding all of that, it’s easy to see why a non-believer should not have a Catholic funeral.

Planning a funeral can be complicated, especially when a Catholic funeral or cemetery are involved. The Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of San Jose is committed to providing a sacred place for burial, where you and your family can remember loved ones in a peaceful and hope-filled setting. If you have questions, we’re happy to answer them. Call us at 833-428-0379 for more information.

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