Catholic Church calls for slowdown on timing of funerals

Dublin archdiocese also advises on suitable music, mementoes and personal tributes

Dublin's Catholic archdiocese has called for a review of the speed with which funerals take place in Ireland.

In a new policy document on funerals it notes that funerals in Ireland traditionally take place very quickly, often less than 48 hours after death has occurred.

Changes in society and in the church “require a review of this practice”, it said.

An “increase in the number and frequency of funerals, the desire by families and the Christian community to make funerals fitting celebrations; the availability of priests; cemetery staff, the travel needs of family members living abroad, all must be taken into consideration”, it said.

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The archdiocese’s new policy on funerals was necessary because of “the ageing population which can be concentrated in certain parishes or groupings,” it said.

It encouraged every parish “to have a funeral ministry team” consisting of “ religious and lay, men and women, who have been trained in providing support at a time of loss”.

The policy advises that funeral Masses and services “are not to be celebrated in crematorium chapels, funeral homes or similar locations” but should be “ in the parish church”. A Bible, cross, and funeral pall may be placed on the coffin but not mementoes of the deceased. These should be placed on a “table of remembrance”.

Suitable music

Musical preferences at the funeral Mass are discouraged if “they are not in keeping with the celebration of the funeral rites or a place of Christian worship.” Secular music “would be more suited to the wake in the home”.

Words of appreciation, which should be delivered before or after the funeral Mass, or in the cemetery or crematorium later, should be “no longer than five minutes, written down and delivered by one person.”

These should be “words of tribute to the deceased and of thanks to those who have helped and supported the family.”

It advises that an immediate family member may not be the best person to deliver an appreciation if unused to public speaking or, possibly, overcome with grief. And, it pointed out, an appreciation was “not obligatory” and “people should feel totally free not to have one.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times