BY Staff Reporter | September 21 | comments icon 1 COMMENT     print icon print

5-GRAVESIDE

Lay people to preside at funerals

Liverpool becomes the first diocese in the UK to authorise the involvement of the laity

Liverpool has become the first diocese in the UK to commission lay people to preside at funerals.

Archbishop Patrick Kelly has formally commissioned 22 lay ministers to celebrate funeral ceremonies, the first time such a step has been authorised by the Church in England and Wales.

The move was announced to parishioners through a brochure, Planning a Catholic Funeral, which was recently published by Liverpool Archdiocese, which has brought in the change to help ease pressure on priests.

The brochure described a funeral as the ‘community’s main celebration and prayer for the deceased.’

“This could be a funeral Mass but… it may be a funeral service led by a lay funeral minister or a deacon,” it said.

Support from priests

Liverpool Archdiocese’s Council of Priests supported the move after Archbishop Kelly consulted with its members and examined the 1990 Order of Christian Funerals.

The document calls for the lay ministers to preside at funerals when clergy are unavailable, Archbishop Kelly explained earlier this month.

The document, he said, also recommends that a Mass ‘be celebrated for the deceased at the earliest convenient time.’

“In some of our parishes in the diocese priests are being asked to celebrate over 120 funerals each year,” Archbishop Kelly said. “That does not neatly work out at two or three times a week. Some weeks there can be six or seven.”

Training

Archbishop Kelly said that the lay ministers—some of whom are drawn from the roster of Eucharistic ministers, catechists and religious sisters—would receive continuing support and training to ensure that the service they provide is ‘of the best quality’ and was not seen by Catholics as ‘second-class.’

Vocations in Liverpool have declined sharply in recent years, and the archdiocese has projected that the number of priests will decline from 170 to 100 by 2015. Lay ministers already preside at funerals in some parts of the world where no priest or deacon is available, but the move by Liverpool is the first such case in a UK diocese.

Comments - One Response

  1. Kevin Porter says:

    I believe this is yet something else that sends out a message that the Sacrifice of the Mass is being demoted. I find it hard to believe that a funeral Mass is taking second place to the burial. At Mass Christ gives to those to whom the Mass apples, the fruits of His passion and death – and the Mass applies to both the living and the dead. That, to me, is the priority. There are many other activities within a parish that the laity can assist – but this isn’t one of them.

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