The funeral rites of the Catholic Church as well as social patterns at funerals have changed over the years. A recent policy published by the Diocese of Cork and Ross takes account of recent changes while preserving the sacred nature of these rites and of churches.
Commenting on the recent policy in a letter to clergy, Bishop Fintan Gavin has highlighted some of the changes.
- Reposing the deceased in the church overnight is still possible. The new norm is that Vigil Prayers are celebrated on the evening before the Funeral Mass (in the home or in the funeral home). A private [un-advertised] removal to the church may then follow once the Vigil Prayers have been celebrated.
- Vigil Prayers for the Deceased are an important part of the funeral rites and are to be part of every funeral. These are prayed on the evening before the Funeral Mass and are lead by members of the Parish’s Funeral Ministry Team. The time of the Vigil Prayers should be included in the death notice so that people may attend.
- If the remains of the deceased arrive to the church on the day of the funeral, the Funeral Mass is to start immediately without leaving a gap between the reception prayer and Mass.
- Anything that allows visitation to take place in the church (with coffin open or closed) is not permitted and should not be included in funeral notices.
The need for the Vigil Prayers at all funerals in parishes may put pressure on priests where Parish Funeral Ministry Teams remain to be formed. The Bishop has asked that lay people be recruited for this ministry in every parish. Details of a formation programme for this ministry have also been published.
The complete Diocesan Funeral Policy is available here in full.