Priests to no longer bless coffins at morgue but before parish funeral mass

Declining number of clergy in parishes and lengthy travel times lead to “difficult decision” by Curia

A funeral hearse. Source: Wikimedia Commons
A funeral hearse. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Archdiocese of Malta has directed clergy to receive funeral processions at the church door, instead of the morgue, where a blessing of the coffin will take place before the funeral mass.

The change in practice will mean priests will no longer accompany corteges from the morgue at Mater Dei Hospital to the funeral service, and instead carry out the blessing of the coffin before the funeral mass.

“The bishops have taken this difficult decision, after consultation with parish priests, due to the declining number of clergy in parishes, increasingly lengthy travel times and a long-felt need for priests to be present in church before the funeral service takes place to console relatives and friends as well as hear confessions,” the Curia said.

Priests will continue to be available when loved ones pass away, either in a residence or in hospital, and will also continue to take part in the procession from the church to the cemetery where burial takes place.

The new measure will take effect immediately after Easter, on April 10.

“The bishops fully appreciate that the loss of a loved one is a difficult and heartrending experience for family and friends and assure the faithful that the clergy remain fully committed to providing consolation, compassion and support at this trying time.

“The faithful are encouraged to immediately request the assistance of a priest whenever they or their loved ones are admitted to hospital or residential care and to make those responsible for their care aware of their wishes,” the Curia spokesperson said.