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Archdiocese approves funeral blessings outside churches

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BRAINTREE -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley has approved a new guidance for funerals that will allow priests or deacons to recite the prayers of commendation and bless the casket of the deceased with holy water in front of the church.

In a statement released April 29, the archdiocese said it hopes that these prayers and blessings will be "a source of comfort for the family knowing that their loved one was able to have one last moment to receive some of the funeral rituals of the Church at their place of worship."

The statement explains that, "on the way to the cemetery from the funeral home the hearse would stop in front of the church and the priest/deacon, vested in alb and stole, would stand on the steps of the church."

The member of the clergy will then "recite the Prayers of Commendation and bless the casket, which would remain in the hearse, with holy water. The family would remain in their cars. No more than 10 people would be allowed in the procession."

This new procedure eases the previous restriction on funeral rites issued in March that only allowed for the priest or deacon to officiate a graveside committal service, which the new guidance continues to encourage.

When Cardinal O'Malley issued the first directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic March 13 restricting church services, funeral Masses were originally allowed to continue, limiting attendance to 25 people. However, on March 19, the archdiocese notified priests that, because of the difficulty in limiting attendance at funerals, effective March 23 all funeral Masses and services were also suspended.

The archdiocese has recommended that families celebrate a Memorial Mass once Masses and other religious services resume.

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