DUBLIN, Ireland April 19 (CNS) -- Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, president of the Irish bishops' conference, called for strict enforcement of the church rule against eulogies at funeral Masses, saying they distract from the liturgy and can be offensive.

Archbishop Brady said his chief concern with eulogies is that they deflect attention from the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the consolation and hope that Christ triumphed over death and secured everlasting life.

"Such a practice distracts, sometimes seriously, from the sacred nature of the liturgy and occasionally may be offensive to the congregation," he said in his directive.

Archbishop Brady quoted the Vatican's Order of Christian Funerals, which states: "A brief homily based on the readings should always be given at the funeral liturgy, but never any kind of eulogy."

A eulogy is a formal speech praising a person who has died. Liturgists contacted by Catholic News Service said the provision in the Order of Christian Funerals saying that after Communion a family member or friend "may speak in remembrance of the deceased" should be understood as permitting brief, simple remarks, not a full eulogy.

Archbishop Brady ruled out any such remembrances.

He said if the officiating priest "has fully consulted and involved the family in the choice of rites and texts most suitable for the occasion, he is well placed to deal with requests by members of the family to speak after the prayer after Communion. Such requests should be firmly, but sensitively, refused."

"The funeral is not a praise of a person, but a praise of God who worked through that person."

Archbishop Brady's directive, issued in late March, drew some negative public reaction, which the chairman of the Armagh liturgy resource group, Father Paul Clayton-Lea, said "showed the extent that people in Ireland are now unfamiliar with the thinking behind the Mass, never mind a funeral Mass."

Father Clayton-Lea denied that his archbishop's directive was a "top-down edict."

"When the archbishop asked the liturgy group to produce guidelines for him, the committee's lay members were almost unanimous in asking firstly for a ruling on eulogies," Father Clayton-Lea said. "This is a directive that has come from the grass roots."

Many priests have welcomed the directive, saying that in the last five years, particularly among the Dublin middle classes, there have been a growing number of eulogies by relatives or friends after the prayer after Communion.

A parish priest in a wealthy Dublin parish, who asked not to be identified, said: "Eulogies here have been turning Mass into a bit of a circus. At one Mass recently the eulogy was longer than the Mass. Those who ask for eulogies are unlikely to go to Mass regularly, but those who go to Mass every day are unhappy with them and find them offensive. It's good that this thing is being nipped in the bud."

Father Patrick Jones of the National Center for Liturgy in Maynooth, Ireland, said, "The funeral is not a praise of a person, but a praise of God who worked through that person." The liturgy center was to issue national guidelines in June to address the appropriateness of eulogies, offertory gifts and music at funeral liturgies.

"A requiem Mass commemorates the death of two people--the death of the deceased and the death of Jesus Christ for the love of men and women and to secure their redemption and eternal life. Such a solemn event must take the central place and any speeches, tributes, poems or musical renderings must be adjusted in tone and style, so as not to stifle the central event of the Mass and its assurance of eternal life,'' Father Jones added.

According to several priests, including Father Clayton-Lea, there has also been concern at the abuse of eulogies to make political speeches, settle old family scores or, in at least one case, to call for legislation.

Monsignor Denis Faul, an Armagh archdiocesan priest, agreed: "Soon professional groups would have been hired to sing and speak at funerals for a fee! Lack of equality could easily become a feature of funerals.

"The poor must be protected at the Mass and must never feel they are getting second-class treatment. This equality is best secured if only the priests speak in the church,'' he said.

Father James Moroney, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for the Liturgy, said, "In this country some bishops have expressed concern over the length, number and quality of reflections on the life of the person after Communion.''

He said the "never-any-kind-of-eulogy'' rule in the funeral rite should make it clear that remarks after Communion should be "a fairly brief remembrance rather than a panegyric.''

Contributing to this story was Jerry Filteau in Washington.

Copyright (c) 2000 Catholic News Service/U.S. Catholic Conference. This CNS news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method, in whole or in part without the prior written authority of Catholic News Service.

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