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Why no funerals inside churches

by Michael Ford last modified 07 May, 2020 03:54 PM

The Church of England has responded to the call by some MPs to ease restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak to allow small-scale funerals in churches.

A letter signed by 36 Conservative MPs suggests clergy be allowed to enter their churches to officiate at funerals while observing safety measures.

Churches closed in March, with funerals only permitted to take place at the graveside or the crematorium.

Responding to the letter, the Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England's adviser on healthcare policy, said:

"The death of a loved one is painful under any circumstances and the current situation has made this all the more difficult for those who have been bereaved.

"The House of Bishops has been meeting frequently and advice is reviewed regularly and updated as circumstances allow.

"The Church of England has consistently stated that it will always ensure that, where requested, a priest is present to conduct a funeral service, either at a crematorium or at the churchyard.

"Any suggestion that the Church of England is responsible for 'direct cremation' could not be further from the truth - that is against both Government guidance and the Church's commitment to provide pastoral care for all.

"The advice not to conduct funeral services in church buildings - and it is advice, not instruction - was given because of concerns about parishes having capacity to conduct funerals safely, including being able to deep-clean church buildings between services."

In the letter, addressed to the Lord Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops of the Church of England, the MPs say they are concerned "that the wishes of the deceased and bereaved are not being fulfilled with a proper committal in the church of their wish".

It says the government guidance on funerals "is clear" and that services can take place with "proper measures in place".

"It is now a matter for you to decide, and is within your ability, to enable small-scale funerals within the Church of England to now take place."

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