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Bishop of Meath Dr. Michael Smith Photo by: Dioceseofmeath.ie

Bishop slams ‘dumbing down’ of Catholic funerals with poems, songs and readings

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Bishop of Meath Dr. Michael Smith Photo by: Dioceseofmeath.ie

One of Ireland's largest Catholic dioceses has established a ban on funeral eulogies that include songs, poems, and readings that do not meet specific religious guidelines.

Bishop of Meath Dr. Michael Smith has issued this ban to priests in his diocese, which contains most of counties Meath and Westmeath as well as parts of Offaly, Longford, Louth, Dublin, and Cavan.

The bishop took issue with the "dumbing down" of Catholic funeral services, maintaining that priests must uphold the "integrity of the mass," reports the Irish Independent.

Appreciations or eulogies, particularly those that involve readings or addresses that do not fall within the realm of the doctrine, should not take place in the church, he says. Instead, they may take place after the Rite of Committal in the cemetery or at a later stage.

Secular songs, poems, and texts devoid of Christian content are out of place in the funeral liturgy, though a "reflection of a prayerful nature" can be given after Communion - but this must be agreed upon by the the relevant priest.

Some priests believe that books of condolence have no place in the church as well, and there should be arrangements in place for the signing of these books. Clear arrangements should be put in place in each parish.

Sometimes, a funeral planner is involved the organization of a burial, but the bishop also established that priests should engage only with the family involved. The context for the bishop's new restrictions is that there has been a growing trend amongst mourning families to make their own contributions to a funeral Mass.

These contributions can take the form of personal verbal tributes from the altar, or the reading of poetry or anecdotes from the deceased's life. As these usually have little to no direct correlation to religious material, the bishop fears that the funeral services are being gradually "dumbed down."

The bishop enacts these rules to fight against using non-religious texts "as a cloak for a eulogy."

Read more: Atheist weddings soar as Ireland turns away from the Catholic Church

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