06 February 2018
French bishop bans Catholic funerals in secular sites
'May local residents know that they are welcome in the Catholic Church' the Bishop of Grenoble writes
Catholic funerals must be held in a church rather than in municipal funeral centres, the Bishop of Grenoble has decided, after the growing use of a secular site meant it could soon host the majority of such services in the southeastern French city.
In a letter to Grenoble parishes, Bishop Guy de Kerimel said "there is no need to go to a secular site to be welcomed by the Church and to pray for the departed".
The diocese began allowing Catholic prayer services in a municipal funeral site about two decades ago, because increasing numbers of French would not attend a service in a church and some parishes did not have enough priests to preside at religious ceremonies.
"What was envisaged as an exception has become significant ... which could result in confusion between civil and Catholic funerals," the bishop wrote. "May local residents know that they are welcome in the Catholic Church."
Religious funerals can be a delicate exercise in France. Some attendees are clearly embarrassed because they are unfamiliar with the rite, and convinced atheists typically hang around outside for the service to end.
Until now, parish volunteers were authorised to accompany the mourning families before the burial and hold prayer services with a cross and candle at the municipal centre before the corpse is transported to the cemetery.
Some lay volunteers now think more families will opt for a totally secular funeral rather than add a detour to a church for a religious ceremony there. But Bishop de Kerimel said the new rule "would let people who no longer know Jesus Christ and his Church to have the beautiful experience of a respectful reception, the discovery of the Word of God, a meeting with the Resurrected and the entry into the Church".
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