Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 22, 1999
Funerals must take place in church
Archdiocese issues new guidelines for funerals
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The parish church, not the funeral home, is the appropriate place for the celebration of the funeral liturgy, says recently-released archdiocesan guidelines on funerals.
"In order to encourage the participation of the whole parish community, eucharistic celebrations may not be held in a funeral home or any place other than the parish church."
The seven-point policy was drawn up by the Liturgy Commission and Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries. Archbishop Thomas Collins approved it in September.
The purpose of the guidelines, based on the 1990 Order of Christian Funerals of the Canadian bishops, is to clarify the "recommended practices" in the archdiocese, said Margaret O'Connell, executive secretary of the Liturgy Commission.
"We felt that some clear, definite statements were necessary."
Funeral liturgies must take place in the church "because that's the place where the people of God meet to celebrate the Eucharist, weddings, Baptisms, funerals," O'Connell said.
"The church building is the house for the Church, for the people of God. If we are celebrating funerals elsewhere, all of this kind of symbolism of what Church is would be lost."
The vigil service, held the night before the eucharistic celebration, may be celebrated at the funeral home, although it's recommended that this service also take place at the parish church.
As for the committal service, the guidelines recommend it immediately follows the funeral liturgy, rather than taking place after the funeral lunch.
Eulogies, or words of remembrance, are appropriate at the vigil service but should not be part of the eucharistic celebration, warn the guidelines.
"If, for pastoral reasons, it is necessary to include words of remembrance at the funeral liturgy, they should be brief and should be shared before the eucharistic celebration begins."
While cremation is permitted, "it's preferable that cremation take place after the funeral liturgy has been celebrated, unless for good and sufficient reason (for example, death outside the country), cremation has already taken place."
During the funeral, the casket should be covered only by a funeral pall and other objects such as flowers or flags should be removed "so that the symbolism of the pall is not lost."
The pall is a baptismal garment which "recalls that we have been baptized in Christ," O'Connell explained.
Catholics are also strongly urged to use the archdiocesan cemeteries (Holy Cross, St. Albert, St. Joachim, St. Anthony and Our Lady of Peace) for the burial of a body or cremated remains.