St Corban's Cemetery, Naas
The coronavirus has led to the cancellation of all gatherings and events with over 100 people in attendance, including Mass at all Catholic churches in the dioceses — but what about funerals?
The traditional Irish family wake at home has been ruled out by the HSE guidelines, and it is recommended that immediate family members only attend services and that the coffin remain closed.
According to Fr. Liam Morgan, Naas Parish Priest, funeral masses can go ahead as normal if families wish, just with a strict limit on numbers. “The directive from Bishop Denis Nulty states that every Catholic is entitled to a dignified Christian burial and we will of course facilitate that. Attendance at funeral services and Masses should be limited to close relatives, few people as possible, and numbers must not exceed 100 attendees within the church building.
“These are difficult times. The Parish always wants to support, comfort and accompany a family as best we can under these circumstances, but we also have a duty to help stop the spread of this virus.”
“The motivation for these new restrictive measures is a sense of care for the common good and especially for those most vulnerable,” according to Bishop Nulty.
According to a Naas funeral undertaker, funerals will go ahead as usual but with restrictions on numbers. “We are publishing death notices without giving service details,” he explained. “That way, the bereaved family only tell immediate family members where the service is and when, and they must keep numbers to a minimum, bearing in mind the absolute maximum of 100 people.”
Those who cannot pay their last respects at a funeral can send a mass card or letter, or send their condolences through social media, telephone, or the special section on RIP.
The family may decide to hold a memorial service at a future date.
And funeral directors are also taking precautions themselves. “There is no embalming when someone dies of coronavirus. The body will be taken straight from the hospital in a body bag and placed into a coffin.”
The HSE has published National Interim Guidelines for Funeral Directors on managing infection risks when handling deceased individuals.
The guidelines state that after death, the human body does not generally create a serious health hazard for Covid-19 infection. “In the interests of infection control, all staff should use standard precautions as a matter of course, treating all human remains as though potentially infected.
“In the current situation waking in the domiciliary setting is not advised.
“It is likely that only a few key people close to the deceased will attend the funeral home. The coffin should remain closed. In exceptional circumstances where family members have not had the opportunity to view the remains in the hospital mortuary, the coffin can be opened. Staff must wear appropriate PPE to open the bag and fold it back leaving head, shoulders and arms exposed.
“The family should be advised not to kiss the deceased and should clean their hands with alcohol hand rub or soap and water if they touch the deceased.”
The option of cremation is at the discretion of the family.
The restrictions will definitely remain in place until March 29 and it’s likely that they will continue for some time after that, until the coronavirus is under control.