Church of England under pressure from MPs to allow church funerals

5 May 2020, 12:13

A letter from MPs says the "grief of bereavement is being translated to trauma" for some families (file photo)
A letter from MPs says the "grief of bereavement is being translated to trauma" for some families (file photo). Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

More than 30 Conservative MPs are calling on Church of England bishops to allow funeral services in churches again.

The Church is under pressure to start conducting "small-scale" funeral services again after church services were suspended due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Thirty-six MPs have written to Lord Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops asking them to "fulfil the wishes of the deceased and bereaved."

The letter said: "The grief of bereavement is being translated to trauma in many cases, especially where it is resulting in the tragedy of direct cremation.

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"The Government guidance is clear: funerals, with proper measures in place, are permitted and indeed encouraged."

The MPs, including former Cabinet ministers Liam Fox and Theresa Villiers, called for the House of Bishops to consider the matter at a virtual meeting on Tuesday.

Priests are conducting services at crematoriums or in churchyards, but the Church of England said the advice not to conduct services within church buildings was due to safety concerns.

The MPs urged bishops to "consider, most intently, the pain and anguish of those families unable to have a funeral" and allow their "compassion to shine through" when considering the issue.

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The Rev 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."