FUNERAL eulogies including songs, poems and readings which are not within strict religious guidelines are to be banned in one of the country's largest Catholic dioceses.
Bishop of Meath Dr Michael Smith has issued the new directive to priests in his diocese, which includes most of counties Meath and Westmeath, plus parts of Offaly, Longford, Louth, Dublin and Cavan.
The bishop warned against "dumbing down'' at Catholic funeral services, and emphasised that priests must uphold the "integrity of the Mass''.
Appreciations or eulogies should not take place in the church, he says.
However, they may take place after the Rite of Committal in the cemetery or at a later stage.
The guidelines also state that secular songs, poems and texts, devoid of a Christian content are out of place in the funeral liturgy.
A "reflection of a prayerful nature" can be given after Communion but this should be agreed beforehand with the relevant priest.
It should not be used "as a cloak for a eulogy''.
The new directive also states it is important that clear arrangements are in place for the signing of books of condolence. Some priests believe these should not be allowed in the church.
Clear arrangements, allowing people the opportunity to offer sympathy to the family of the deceased, should be put in place in each parish.
In some places a person described as a 'funeral planner' is involved, but priests should only engage directly with the family in relation to relevant funeral arrangements.
The background to the Bishop's new guidelines is that in recent years there has been a growing trend for family members and friends of the deceased to make their own contribution to a funeral Mass.
This can take the form of a personal verbal tributes from the altar.
There has also been the practice of special readings such as quoting lines of poetry.
These usually have no direct religious connection, prompting fears that Catholic funeral services are being increasingly "dumbed down''.