CANBERRA (Reuters) - Keep it short, and don’t mention sex or drunkenness — those are the new rules for eulogies at funeral masses in Australia’s Catholic church.
An increase in the number of inappropriate comments at funeral masses has prompted Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, to impose a five-minute deadline on eulogies and deem some areas of a person’s life off limits.
The move is designed to cut back on the number of long-winded eulogies by friends or family members at funeral masses, and to ensure the funeral mass keeps its main focus as an act of worship to God and a place for prayers for the deceased.
“On not a few occasions, inappropriate remarks glossing over the deceased’s proclivities (drinking prowess, romantic conquests etc) or about the Church (attacking its moral teachings) have been made at funeral masses,” Pell’s new guidelines say.
He said the comments often embarrassed the priest, the family and the congregation and become the focus of the service.
The Catholic church in Ireland and most of the United States ban lay people from giving eulogies at funeral masses, but the church in Australia allows for a few short words of remembrance from a family member or friend near the end of a funeral mass.
However, Pell’s guidelines, obtained by Reuters on Friday, make it clear the eulogy must never replace the officiating priest’s homily, or sermon, which should focus on God’s compassion and the mystery of the resurrection of Jesus.
The “words of remembrance” should last no more than three to five minutes, or one typed page, and should focus on a person’s human qualities and faith,” the guidelines say.
“The reflection should be prepared beforehand, and ideally be reviewed with the priest or presiding minister beforehand, to avoid undue length or embarrassing situations,” the guidelines say.
The new guidelines say anecdotes, poems or songs, might be better kept for services at the cemetery or crematorium, or for a vigil prayer service the night before a funeral.
The Catholic church is Australia’s biggest, with about five million followers, followed closely by the Anglican church with just over four million.