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Irish archbishop issues guidelines to keep funerals Christian

The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly in Ireland yesterday published a set of guidelines that reflect concerns that the Christian faith is being pushed into the background during funeral liturgies.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford said, "These guidelines will help us maintain the essential religious nature of our funeral liturgies, and encourage all of us to focus on commending our deceased to the mercy of God and on giving thanks to God for the blessings that they received in life."

For example, the guidelines determine that flags and personal emblems should not obscure the crucifix or other religious items on the coffin. They also make an important distinction between the homily and a eulogy.

"The homily, delivered by the priest or deacon, focuses on the Christian's belief in the resurrection, thus offering hope and consolation to mourners and faithful in general. While the homilist may refer to the deceased's efforts to live the Christian life, the homily is not a eulogy."

Archbishop Clifford said the death of a family member is a "particularly sad and painful experience".

"Even when expected, the death of a loved one always leaves a sense of shock and loss," he said. "However, the Church's funeral liturgy is a rich source of consolation and hope at this difficult time."

The guidelines address: Arranging the Funeral Liturgy; Communication; Prayers in the Home/Funeral Parlour; Reception of the Body at the Church (Christian symbols, Personal Emblems, and Flags); Funeral Mass; Word of God (Readings, Homily, Prayers of the Faithful); Presentation of Gifts; Music and Hymns; Mass Cards; Flowers; Address/Eulogy.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford publishes guidelines to support all those involved in the celebration of the funeral liturgy (Catholic Communications Office, Ireland 11/11/04)

Irish archbishop issues funeral guidelines (Catholic World News 11/11/04)
Who will bury me? (Catholic Voice November 2004)
Irish church crackdown on behaviour at funerals (CathNews 22/12/03)
National Centre for Liturgy: Celebrating a Catholic Funeral

12 Nov 2004