Archbishop Dermot Clifford publishes guidelines to support all those involved in the celebration of the funeral liturgy

11 Nov 2004






The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford, today published guidelines for
celebrating the funeral liturgy.

Archbishop 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.”

“Today’s guidelines will ensure that the celebration of the funeral liturgy is a
dignified, prayerful and consoling experience for mourners and all who participate
in the funeral ceremonies.  They have been compiled to assist all those whose duty it
is to make the necessary arrangements for the Christian burial of one of the faithful.”

“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.  However,
the Church’s funeral liturgy is a rich source of consolation and hope at this difficult
time,” concluded Archbishop Clifford.

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.

Notes for Editors

* Please see full set of guidelines below.  These guidelines were drawn up in
consultation with the laity, priests and funeral directors of the diocese of
Cashel and Emly.

* The guidelines were drafted in response to the Irish Bishops letter of November
2003 entitled Celebrating a Catholic Funeral as well as concerns about local
practices and customs.  Earlier this year Archbishop Clifford and the Council of
Priests met with the funeral directors who serve the diocese.  Their objective
was to discuss the celebration of funerals with a view to drawing up guidelines
for the diocese.

* Parishioners throughout the diocese were advised of the publication of these
guidelines via a letter from Archbishop Clifford which was read out at all Masses
over the weekend of November 6th and 7th, 2004.

* The Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly has:
46 parishes;
a Catholic population of 78,536;
84 Catholic Churches; and the
Patron of the Archdiocese is St Ailbe.

For further information please contact:

Martin Long, Director of the Catholic Communications Office on 086 17 27 678;
Archbishop’s House, Thurles, Co Tipperary, telephone 0504 21512.


Guidelines approved for the Archdiocese of
Cashel & Emly   

Lord God,
whose days are without  end
and whose mercies beyond counting,
keep us mindful that life is short and the hour of death unknown.
Let your Spirit guide our days on earth
in the ways of holiness and justice,
that we may serve you
in union with the whole Church,
sure in faith, strong in hope, perfect in love.
And when our earthly journey is ended,
lead us rejoicing into your kingdom,
where you live for ever and ever.

                (Order of Christian Funerals)
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.  Yet despite
the shock and loss, many practical arrangements have to be made at short notice, including
the planning of the funeral liturgy.

At this sad and painful time of bereavement people of faith turn to God and the Church
seeking comfort and support.  The Church’s funeral liturgy is a rich source of consolation
and hope at this difficult time.

The enclosed Guidelines are designed to ensure that the celebration of the funeral liturgy
is a dignified, prayerful and consoling experience for mourners and all who participate
in the funeral ceremonies.  They have been compiled to assist all those whose duty it is
to make the necessary arrangements for the Christian burial of one of the faithful.  

These Guidelines are now presented to the faithful of the archdiocese of Cashel & Emly
as a means of ensuring the continued worthy celebration of the funeral liturgy and the
strengthening of Christian hope among the bereaved and all the faithful.

1 Arranging the Funeral Liturgy.

The worthy celebration of the funeral liturgy requires careful planning.  The priest
who celebrates the Funeral Mass will be happy to assist bereaved relatives in planning
the funeral liturgy, especially in the choice of Scripture readings, prayers of the
faithful, hymns, liturgical music and other such matters.

2 Communication
As soon as possible following the event, funeral directors/relatives are asked to notify
parish clergy regarding the death of a parishioner.  Such timely notification facilitates
the necessary planning of the funeral liturgy.

The times for reposing of remains, removal to church and arrival in church should be
indicated in death notices published in newspapers and on radio.  Such will help to
avoid unnecessary delay and encourage more people to participate in the liturgical
ceremony of Reception of the Body at the Church.

3 Prayers in the Home/Funeral Parlour

The Order of Christian Funerals provides a variety of prayer services for use in the
more intimate setting of home or funeral parlour.  

These prayers can be led by a priest, a family member or a parishioner.  This is the
appropriate setting in which to recall and celebrate the deceased’s interests and
associations.  The priest in your parish will be happy to visit the home or funeral
parlour to pray for the deceased and the mourners.

4 Reception of the Body at the Church
This rite signifies the transition from the private expression of the personal grief
of the family in the home to the more public liturgical expression of the local parish
community’s prayerful support for the deceased and relatives.

Christian Symbols
The prayers and symbols used at the Reception of the Body at the Church emphasize the
dignity of the Christian.

· The coffin is sprinkled with holy water to recall the pledge of eternal life received
in the waters of baptism.

· The lighted Paschal Candle symbolises the risen Christ’s victory over sin.

· Other Christian symbols such as a Cross, the Book of the Gospels and a funeral pall
may be placed on the coffin at this time.

Personal Emblems
The family may also wish to carry other emblems which reflect the deceased’s interests
and personality.

· These should not conflict with the Christian symbols which are used in the ceremony.

· Such personal emblems may be placed near the coffin or the family but they should
not displace the Christian symbols which represent the baptismal calling of the deceased.

On occasion, relatives may wish to drape the coffin with the national or other
appropriate flag.  In such circumstances the following procedures apply:

· The coffin may be draped with an appropriate flag as it enters the Church.

· While lying in church the flag should not obscure the Christian symbols placed on
the coffin.  This will necessitate the partial folding of the flag.

· In some parishes the funeral pall is used to drape the coffin at all funerals.  
Local custom should be followed in this matter.
5 Funeral Mass
The Funeral Mass is the central liturgical celebration for the deceased.  Relatives
and friends are welcome to actively participate in the celebration of the Mass.  Such
active involvement in the Mass includes the reading of Scripture, reciting the prayers
of the faithful and the presentation of the gifts.  However, grieving relatives should
not feel obliged to engage in public performance on such a sad occasion.

Word of God

· Family members are encouraged to choose appropriate Scripture readings for the
Funeral Mass.

· Reading of the Word of God alone is permitted at the Eucharistic celebration.  Secular
readings may not replace the Word of God.

· 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.

Prayers of the Faithful
· In the prayers of the faithful the Christian community calls upon God to bring comfort
to the bereaved and to show mercy to the deceased.

· Family members or friends who wish to compose these prayers should consult with the
celebrant of the Mass to ensure that these intercessions conform to liturgical norms.

6 Presentation of Gifts
It is desirable that relatives or friends of the deceased present the bread and wine for
the Eucharistic celebration.

It is not appropriate at this time to bring forward other emblems of the deceased’s life
and interests.  As previously indicated (cf. No 4 above) such emblems may, if required,
be brought forward at the Reception of the Body at the Church, or prior to the commencement
of the Funeral Mass.

7 Music and Hymns
Appropriate music and hymns enhance the funeral liturgy and are recommended.  Many parishes
have choirs and organists available to participate in Funeral Masses.

When choosing suitable hymns and music for the funeral liturgy relatives of the deceased
should consult with the celebrant and/or parish organist and choir.  This is particularly
important when outside musicians or cantors are engaged to lead music and song in the
funeral liturgy.

Secular lyrics have no place in the Church’s sacred liturgy.

On occasion, appropriate secular music, especially instrumental music, can enhance the
funeral liturgy.  Judgment regarding the appropriateness of such music should be made
by the celebrant and/or parish organist.

8 Mass Cards
It is not appropriate to place Mass cards on the coffin.

A suitable basket or other container for this purpose should be located in the vicinity
of the coffin.

9 Flowers
When flowers are presented at funerals it is recommended that only one wreath should
be placed near the coffin in church.

Other wreaths are more appropriately located in the church porch or other suitable
storage area near the entrance to the Church.

Such an arrangement enhances the dignity of a Christian funeral while also facilitating
the easy movement of the cortège into and out of the church.

10 Address
Should a relative or friend of the deceased wish to deliver an address on the occasion
of a funeral a number of options are available:

The address, which is a resume of and tribute to the life and achievements of the
deceased, is most appropriately delivered at the graveside following interment.

The following arrangements apply where relatives wish to have an address in church;

i. The address, which should be brief,  may be delivered either at the end of the
ceremony of Reception of the Body;  prior to the Funeral Mass or at the conclusion
of the Final Commendation following the Funeral Mass.

ii. The sentiments expressed in an address delivered in church should be in harmony
with the sacred surroundings of the house of God and the funeral liturgy.

iii. Hence, the person delivering the address should discuss the matter with the
celebrant in advance.

iv. It is not appropriate to deliver an address during the celebration of Mass.

In the funeral liturgy we commend the deceased to God, pray for the bereaved and
nourish our faith in the resurrection.  

By faithfully observing these Guidelines our funeral liturgies will be what they
are intended to be – prayerful expressions of Christian faith in a good and merciful
God who is compassionate to all.

May those who mourn and all the faithful find renewed hope and strength through the
worthy celebration of the funeral liturgy.

         “I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord,
        whoever believes in me will never die”.

        (John, 11, 25-26)