BY DAN FRANK
AN IRISH archbishop has taken steps to ban pop music and eulogies from funeral Masses.
Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly has published new guidelines for celebrating the funeral liturgy. They are the result of extensive consultation with laity, priests and funeral directors within the diocese.
The decision was taken amid growing concern that secular accretions were pushing the traditional Catholic funeral liturgy into the background. The Irish Independent, for instance, reported that golf clubs formed part of one keen sportsman’s offertory procession.
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.” The guidelines make it clear that personal effects should not obscure religious symbols on the coffin and set out clear differences between the homily and a eulogy. The homily “delivered by the priest or deacon, focuses on the Christian belief in the resurrection, thus offering hope and consolation to mourners and faithful in general”. It may refer to the deceased, but should not become a eulogy; this should be reserved for the graveside.
Much secular music is deemed inappropriate, especially music with lyrics that “have no place in the Church’s sacred liturgy”. Some instrumental music, however, may be permissible, and “can enhance the funeral liturgy”. Discretion is reserved to the parish priest.
Though they may be adopted more widely, the guidelines will initially only apply to the diocese of Cashel and Emly. They are similar to rules produced three years ago by Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh. Surveys suggest that priests feel that many eulogies are too long and frequently inappropriate in content.
The booklet offers a complete guide to the funeral liturgy.