Deciding Between Burial vs. Cremation

Burial Options

If you’re pre-planning your final arrangements, you’ll need to choose between ground burial, mausoleum entombment or one of several cremation-related options. Understanding both processes can help you make an informed decision. The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is here to help you understand your options. Below we further discuss cremation vs. burial.

Ground Burial

Ground burial is the most common of the 3 burial options.  It entails the use of an ordinary grave space for the interment of the deceased and the grave is marked with a memorial made of either granite or bronze.  To complete the ground burial process, the casket is placed into a burial vault and the vault is sealed and then lowered into the ground.

Mausoleum Entombment

Mausoleum entombment, also referred to as “above-ground burial” is the most often selected method of burial.  For families that choose this option, a crypt space is selected either inside of the mausoleum (chapel) or outside (patio), depending on location preference and level (height).  For a typical selection for a husband and wife, mausoleum entombment offers arrangements that include 1 opening for 2 caskets or 2 separate openings that are adjacent to one another.  


Although most people are unaware if it, the Catholic Church has permitted cremation since the 1960s and today Cremation has become a very popular burial option for many Catholics.  The typical Cremation package includes a 12” x 12” space in a mausoleum called a Niche, an Urn made of bronze, wood, or an alternative material, and finally, the lettering needed to identify the name(s) of the deceased. 

Burial Costs

Given the various options available today, there are many factors play a role in the cost of final burial arrangements whether you prefer Ground-Burial, Mausoleum or Cremation.  The Catholic Cemeteries Association’s representatives can assist you in making a sound, educated decision regarding this important matter.

Religious Considerations

The Catholic Church’s stance on cremation has changed in recent decades. In the 1960s, the Church affirmed the belief that burial of the body was preferred, but cremation was permitted. Then in the 1990s, the Vatican spoke out against keeping cremains at home or spreading ashes. 

Cremation is typically in line with the Church’s teachings so long as:

  • The body or cremains are present at the funeral mass.
  • The cremains are buried or placed in a sacred place, like a cemetery or columbarium.
  • Practices such as scattering cremains, separating ashes amongst family members, and turning cremains into jewelry are forbidden.

To find out more about Cremation options and practices, feel free to consult with a CCA representative or discuss the matter with your parish priest if you have specific questions about Cremation as it relates to Church teaching.

Green Burials 

Green burials have gained popularity in recent years. The idea behind a green burial is to have a minimal environmental impact. A green burial skips the embalming and cremation processes in their strictest form. The deceased is placed in a wooden, decomposable casket or directly in the ground. 

Although Green burials are not permitted in every cemetery, the Catholic Cemeteries Association has a Green Burial located at Holy Savior Cemetery in Pine/Richland Twp., called St. Francis of Assisi.   

Cremation vs. Burial: The Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Can Help

Choosing between cremation and burial is a profoundly personal decision. Pre-planning ensures your final wishes are carried out. We can help you select the option that fits your preference and family traditions while adhering to the Church’s beliefs. Contact The Catholic Cemeteries Association to learn more.