COVID-19: Church Leaders respond to NI Justice Minister’s statement on funerals

23 Mar 2020

The leaders of Ireland’s main Churches have commended Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister, Naomi Long MLA, and the Department of Justice, “for their concern, sensitivity and understanding of the need to ensure dignity and respect, for both the deceased and bereaved …” in relation to new funeral arrangements during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that were announced this evening.  In their statement the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches said:


“Exceptional times call for temporary extraordinary measures to suit the needs of the hour, and forward planning is vital.  We commend the Justice Minister, Mrs Naomi Long, and the Department of Justice for their concern, sensitivity and understanding of the need to ensure dignity and respect, for both the deceased and bereaved at this difficult time and in the weeks that lie ahead.

“Funeral rites and practices vary in different parts of the world.  In many parts of this country we have come to expect that a funeral service with burial/cremation will normally take place around the third day after death.  With the evolving Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis that may not be possible, especially if there are numerous deaths and the authorities come under severe pressure.

“As Church Leaders, we give assurances that appropriate prayerful pastoral support will be offered to all facing bereavement as they undertake what is always a painful journey.  We also commit to perform funeral liturgies and services as soon as legally and practically possible, working with funeral directors and others as appropriate.

“As Christians we believe that every aspect of what makes us human is important to God, so physical bodies are precious.  However, at this time we also emphasise, as a means of reassurance, the Christian understanding and belief that, after death, the spirit lives on.  That does not, in any way, diminish the necessity for a respectful Christian burial or cremation for the physical body of a loved one after their death.

“As Churches we will support bereaved families through the inevitable challenges that will arise in the coming days.  Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with all who are having to make these most difficult decisions and with those involved in offering funeral, support and bereavement services.”

The Church Leaders’ statement concluded with a passage from John, Chapter 11 verses 25 & 26, “‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ says the Lord.  ‘Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet shall they live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.’”

Rev Brian Anderson
President of the Irish Council of Churches

Rt Rev Dr William Henry
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Rt Rev John McDowell
Church of Ireland Archbishop-elect of Armagh

Most Rev Eamon Martin
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore and Primate of all Ireland

Rev Sam McGuffin
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678