herald

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Priests clash over beer and cigs at funeral masses

Fr Tomas Walsh
Fr Tomas Walsh

A priest has criticised a fellow clergyman's call for a ban on "appalling" items being taken to the altar as offertory tokens during funeral masses.

Fr Timothy Hazlewood, of the Association of Catholic Priests, said the church had had "enough black and white rules in the past".

He was speaking after Fr Tomas Walsh wrote that items like cigarettes, beer and football jerseys being taken to the altar were "unsuitable".

Fr Walsh, of Gurranabraher parish in Co Cork, said the majority of people who offered such inappropriate gifts were from families of little or no faith.

However, Fr Hazlewood, parish priest for Killeagh Inch, Co Cork, said such items were an attempt by people to connect to something close to those who had died.

"This is just trying to make something personal of the funeral ceremony," he said.

"It's about talking to people and bringing people along and sometimes it is appropriate.

"I've had situations with young people at funerals and these are the things young people associate with. So it's about being sensitive and understanding.

"I wouldn't tell anyone what to do. They are not gifts, they are symbols that represent the life of the person.

Personal

"They know the people better than we do and it makes the funeral more personal. The Association of Catholic Priests' view would be that we've had enough black and white rules and regulations in the past."

Fr Walsh also expressed his frustration with eulogies that go on "for as long as the mass itself, sometimes longer".

Fr Hazlewood said there was again a need for a personal element at a funeral.

"Very often priests don't know the person at all. So are you just performing a ceremony that is impersonal?" he said.

"This is an important moment in a family's life so I would have no problem with a eulogy.

"It's about communication and letting them know what the eulogy is supposed to be about, but again not making rules.

"I heard a priest say an awful lot of eulogies he's heard are better than what the priest said, so it can be very positive."

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