The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Celebration of life – Tributes at funerals

Thursday, 29 July 2021, 07:57 Last update: about 3 months ago

Whoever watched the recent funeral of Italian entertainment icon Raffaella Carra’ would probably agree that the most poignant part of the ceremony was when tributes were paid to her life by people who knew her. They talked about her character and achievements, her being special to those around her, dotting their short speeches with a few anecdotes. It was a much more personal homage that any priest celebrating the Mass could ever come up with.


In Malta, such tributes are no longer allowed during funeral services.

Until some time ago, a member of the family, or a friend of the deceased, was allowed to read a poem, a short note or simply thank the congregation for attending the funeral and share that moment of sorrow. Some families did not avail themselves of this opportunity, but the option existed.

Some years back, this practice was eliminated. Families who now ask to pay tribute to their loved one are politely told by the priest that it is no longer possible. Instead, it is the priest saying Mass that says a few words after Holy Communion, just to thank the people present on behalf of the family of the deceased. A short, dry expression of gratitude, but nothing more.

What’s more, there have been times when the priest delivering the homily would not have even known the person who died, and this turns it into a bland, rehearsed speech without any emotion. The congregation switches off when this happens.

No explanation has ever been forthcoming as to why such a practice has been removed. It is probable that some families exaggerated in the way they paid their tributes; maybe there were some hysterical scenes too.

This pushed the Maltese Church authorities to issue a blanket set of instructions prohibiting anyone else from doing so. As usually happens, the whole community has to suffer because of the actions of the few.

Maybe it is time for the Maltese Curia to revise the situation.

We have seen changes to the traditional ways funerals are held. There have been some in which families asked the congregation not to wear black or dark clothes for the services. This happens mostly when the deceased are young people, children in particular.

Many have come to prefer using the words “celebration of life” instead of “funeral”. It does not change the fact that someone died, but it is a less sad way of describing the inevitable “goodbye” to the departed.

So one asks: why is the Maltese Church so adamantly against having a relative or a friend say a few words about the deceased person?

It would “give life” to the ceremony, and it would then truly be a celebration of the deceased person’s life. To make things easier, the tribute would need to be written and seen by the priest before it is read out from the pulpit.

The Church should no longer be in opposition to such a practice.


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