Diocese prepares faithful for lay-led funerals as coronavirus saps priests
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March 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) –– A diocese in England has issued guidance for laypeople to conduct funeral services in the event that a priest or deacon is unavailable due to the coronavirus and anticipates that some funerals may be led by those with the barest minimum of belief in the Catholic faith.
The Diocese of Lancaster has published online downloadable directions for “[p]arishes, other denominations, families and funeral directors” to use “so that funerals may be provided at a time of emergency.”
“In the absence of a priest or deacon, a lay-led Catholic funeral service should be offered to the bereaved,” reads the short announcement. “The service can take place in a church, or chapel, at a crematorium, in a cemetery, or other place if necessary.”
“The civil authorities may limit the length of time given to a service, especially at a crematorium,” cautions the diocese. “They may also limit the number of those attending. The service can be cut-down in length as circumstances dictate, but should not feel rushed.”
A designated lay parish leader or other competent person in the parish leadership team is cited as the first preference for a funeral celebrant. If no such leader is available, then a practicing Catholic family member or any family member or friend (or funeral director) is permissible, but the diocese warns that a person who has no Christian beliefs should not be asked to lead the funeral.
The document lays out themes that should be incorporated into the service, including faith in the resurrection of Christ Jesus; hope in eternal rest in the presence of God, together with all the angels and saints; and the importance of a life well lived as a disciple of Jesus in accordance with His teaching and gospel values.
Prayers for God’s mercy in the context of judgment along with support and prayers for the bereaved, especially family and others close to the deceased, should also be included.
The diocese also prefaces its directives for lay-led funeral services by advising that incorporating music might be problematic if not impossible and that adjustments would have to be made for the funerals of infants and young people.
The full document can be read here.