funeral pall-smThe Liturgy

In the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life and that Jesus, the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanity.

At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The celebration of the Christian funeral brings hope and consolation to the living. While proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and witnessing to Christian hope in the resurrection, the funeral rites also recall to all who take part in them God's mercy and judgement and meet the human need to turn always to God in times of crisis.

The Order of Christian Funerals

The Order of Christian Funerals, published in 1990 by the Canadian Bishops, guides the Catholic community with specific rites and prayers to express consolation to those who grieve, to give thanks to God for the blessings received by and through the deceased and to ask God for mercy on all sinners. It is designed to help confront death in light of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Funerals for Catholics have three distinct parts:

  • The Vigil
  • The Vigil is the principal celebration of the Christian community during the time before the funeral liturgy. (OCF#45)
  • The Vigil includes a solemn reading of the Word of God and prayers for the deceased and those who mourn. This is the suitable occasion for a eulogy and for sharing remembrances of the deceased. Members of the local parish community are also encouraged to participate as a sign of concern and support for the mourners. A priest, a deacon or, in their absence, a lay person leads the community in prayer.
  • The Funeral Mass
  • Christians celebrate the funeral rites to offer worship, praise, and thanksgiving to God for the gift of life which has now been returned to God, the author of life and the hope of the just. The Mass, the memorial of Christ's death and resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian funeral. (OCF # 5)
  • There is an emphasis on the baptism of the deceased since it is through baptism in Jesus that each person receives the promise of eternal life. The white pall draped over the casket, the holy water and the Easter candle are symbols of Christ's life which is bestowed through the waters of baptism.
  • The Rite of Committal
  • Prayers are offered to commit the body of the deceased to its final resting place. When the body has been or will be cremated, appropriate adaptions are made to the prayers of committal and signs of farewell.

Frequently Asked Questions


To learn more about Christian Funerals, these resources may help:

© Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto - used with permission

SPC banner 840