The Malta Independent 17 June 2024, Monday
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TMID Editorial: Priests, (traffic) and funerals

Wednesday, 29 March 2023, 12:06 Last update: about 2 years ago

The dwindling number of priests and the ever-increasing traffic problems has pushed the Church authorities to take one drastic action this week.

As from Easter Monday, priests will no longer go to the morgue to give their blessings before the funeral cortege leaves on its way to the church. They will wait for the coffin to arrive at the church and proceed with the service. They will still accompany the coffin to the cemetery, where final prayers are said before the burial takes place.

In an explanation given as part of the pastoral letter for Lent, Archbishop Charles Scicluna gave the reasons why this was happening.

“In Malta, we have become accustomed to a priest accompanying us from the morgue to the church for the funeral, and then from the church to the cemetery where the burial takes place,” he said. “However, due to the steady decline in the number of priests in our parishes, and the length of time it is taking for clergy to travel to the morgue and back to the church due to increased traffic, it is with a heavy heart that we have taken the difficult decision that priests will no longer make the journey to and from the morgue.”

We have come to the point when the increase in traffic is dictating how funerals should take place. Depending on the location of the funeral, it takes between one and two hours for a priest to be picked up from his home, taken to the morgue, say prayers, and return to the church where, in most cases, he will lead or at least take part in the funeral Mass.

That the Church felt the need to make this drastic change – both because the number of priests is on the decline but also because it is taking way too long for priests to be taken to the morgue and back to the church – is symptomatic of how traffic is affecting our lives so negatively.

Families will now be deprived of the presence of a priest before the coffin of their dear departed is closed. As things stand now, families and sometimes friends gather around the coffin at the morgue, with a priest leading prayers as they get one last glimpse of the person they loved so much before the coffin is closed. It is usually a very poignant moment. As from Easter Monday, this will no longer happen.

Archbishop Scicluna has tried to sugar the pill, saying that “this new arrangement will also mean priests can fulfil a long-felt need to be present at the church before the funeral service takes place to console relatives and friends as well as hear confessions.” It is a valid explanation, but it is of little consolation to families who will now face a most difficult moment without the comforting presence of a priest.

It is a pity that we have come to this point. That there is a serious lack of vocations is a situation that has been building up for years. But that traffic issues have now also affected the way families says goodbye to their loved ones is hugely depressing.


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