Prayer and Worship Office
Order of Christian Funerals

“It has been the Church’s custom in the funeral rites not only to commend the dead to God but also to support the Christian hope of the people and give witness to its faith in the future resurrection of the baptized with Christ.”

(Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship Decree on the Rite of Funerals August 15, 1969)

Note: The following document condenses the General Introduction from the Order of Christian Funerals. The s in parentheses are reference paragraphs for further elaboration and theology in the complete text.

General Introduction(1-7)

The mystery of death and resurrection is at the very heart of the belief of the Christian person. Hope in eternal life, the value of prayer for the dead, reverence for the emains of the body and the sense of mystery which envelopes death are the ingredients reflected in the rituals of Christian burial. The whole liturgy of Christian burial signifies the community’s pivotal beliefs in life, death and eternal life. The prayers, reflections and rituals unite the faithful with the Paschal Mystery and the hope of life eternal. This document serves to guide clergy, parish life directors, liturgy teams and funeral directors in the pastoral care of the bereaved. Ministry and Participation (8-15)

The Parish community is the primary minister of consolation in the celebration of the funeral rites, in the support of the immediate family and friends, and by their presence (9-13). Therefore, the ordinary place for the Eucharistic liturgy is in the church where the parish community regularly meets for worship. Only in cases of grave need, where pastoral judgement deems necessary, may eucharist be celebrated in a secular setting.

The ministers for the funeral rites are priests, deacons, and parish life directors who serve as teachers of faith and ministers of comfort (14). Other liturgical ministers are readers, musicians, ushers, pallbearers and eucharistic ministers (15) liturgy teams providing programs and hospitality, Catholic cemetery staff and funeral directors.

Ministry of the Mourners and the Deceased (16-20)

The pastor and other ministers should take into consideration the spiritual and psychological needs of the family and friends of the deceased to express their grief, to accept the reality of death, and to comfort one another. 

Liturgical Elements (21-42)

Since liturgical celebration involves the whole person, it requires attention to all that affects the senses: music, ritual gestures, processions, postures, liturgical signs and symbols affirming Christian belief and hope.

Word of God (22-29) The readings, psalmody, homily and intercessions proclaim to the assembly the paschal mystery, teach remembrance of the dead, convey the hope of being gathered together again in God’s kingdom, and encourage the witness of Christian life. At the funeral liturgy:

  • The biblical readings may notbe replaced by non-biblical readings.

  • The psalms whenever possible should be sung.

  • The homily should never exclusively focus on the deceased, i.e., be a eulogy, but rather be a delicate balance between dwelling on God’s compassionate love and the paschal mystery found in the Scripture passages and on elements drawn from the life of the deceased.

  • >Having heard the word of God, the people exercise their royal priesthood by joining together in the intercessions. Several models of intercessions are provided within the rites for adaptation to the circumstances.

Music (30-33) Music is integral to the funeral rites. It allows the community to express convictions and feelings that words alone may fail to convey. It has the power to console and uplift the mourners and to strengthen the unity of the assembly.

  • Texts of songs should express the paschal mystery.
  • Whenever possible, music should be provided for the vigil, funeral liturgy, funeral processions and the rite of committal.
  • Efforts should be made to develop the parish repertoire of musical settings for use at funerals.
  • Organists, instrumentalists, cantors and even choirs should assist the assembly's full participation in singing.

(Please refer to supplemental document “Music Selection Guidelines for Funerals.”)

Silence(34) Prayerful silence is an important element to the celebration of the funeral rites and should be respectfully regarded at all times

Reflection on the Life of the Deceased (80, 170) Please refer to supplemental document “Reflection on the Life of the Deceased.”

Symbols, Ritual Gestures and Movements (35-42)

  • The Easter candle may be placed beforehand near the position the coffin will occupy at the conclusion of the opening procession.

  • Holy Water reminds the assembly of the saving waters of baptism: during the Vigil Service, at the Reception of the Body, as a gesture of farewell and at the committal.

  • Incense is used as a sign of honor to the body of the deceased, of the community's prayers rising to God, and as a sign of farewell.

  • The Pall is a reminder of the baptismal garment in that all are equal in the eyes of God.

  • The Book of Gospels or a bible may be placed on the coffin as a sign that Christians live by fidelity to the Word of God.

  • A cross may be placed on the coffin as a reminder that the suffering of Jesus marks the Christian and brings them to the victory of resurrection.

  • Fresh flowers are a sign of life and hope and can enhance the funeral rites.

Note: Any other symbols, national flags or the insignia of associations to which the deceased belonged are to be removed from the coffin at the entrance of the church. They may be replaced after the coffin has been taken from the Church (132).

liturgical color chosen for funerals should express Christian hope but should not be offensive to human grief or sorrow. By custom, white has become the norm in our culture and many vestment designs are including violet and black. Violet should not be overlooked as an option depending on the circumstance of death.

On Cremated Remains

Cremated remains can now be reverently received at the door of the church and given a place of honor in the sanctuary or they may be put in place before the liturgy without ceremony. If the remains are received at the door they are sprinkled with holy water as usual. Prayers, which mention the body, should be omitted or reworded. The preference of the church is that cremation takes place after the rites (except committal).

For further information, see Appendix: Cremation that may be a separate insert or printed in the funeral ritual.

Selection of Rights from:

The Order Of Christian Funerals (43-49)

The Order of Christian Funerals makes provision for the minister to choose those rites and texts that are most suitable to the needs of the mourners, the circumstances of the death, and the customs of the local Christian community. These rites include:

  • Prayers after Death

  • Gathering in the Presence of the Body

  • Vigil for the Deceased

  • Transfer of the Body

  • Funeral Liturgy in two forms

  • Funeral Mass

  • Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass

  • Rite of Committal in two forms

  • Rite of Committal

  • Rite of Committal with Final Commendation

  • Funeral Rites for Children – provides an adaptation of the principal rites used in the funerals of infants, young children and those of early school age

  • Various Texts from Sacred Scripture

  • Office for the Dead: Morning and Evening prayer

  • Additional Texts for Particular Circumstances

The subcommittee on funerals of the Cincinnati Archdiocesan Worship Commission has compiled the following list of suitable alternatives already found in the lectionary.

The numbers given here refer to the location of the reading in every lectionary.

Old Testament

Proverbs 31:10:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 157A A worthy wife is to be praised
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 453 To everything there is a season.
Song of Songs 2:8-14 197 Arise, my love, my dove, and come away!
Song of Songs 8:6-7 731 Love is as strong as death.
Sirach 44:1, 10-15 606 I will praise our ancestors.
Isaiah 35:1-6,10 7 Now will the eves of the blind be opened.
Isaiah 41:8-10,13 877-3 Fear not, I am with you.
Isaiah 57:15-19 887-3 Peace! Peace to the far and near!
Isaiah 61:1-3 719-6 God has sent me to comfort all who mourn.
Isaiah 65:17-21 244 No longer will there be weeping or mourning.
Ezekiel 34:11-16 172 I will watch over my sheep.
Ezekiel 37:12-14 34 I will open your graves, my people.
Micah 6:6-8 737-17 Do right, love goodness, walk humbly with God.
Zephaniah 3:16-20 867-4 I will gather you up and bring you home

New Testament

Ephesians 3:14-21 476 Experience a love beyond telling.
2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18 591 I have fought the fight and finished the race.
1 Peter 1:3-9 43 We are given new birth into everlasting life.
Revelation 22:1-7 508 We shall see God face to face. 


Matthew 6:19-23 369 Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.
Luke 1:67-74 201 You shine on those who sit in the shadow of death.
John 3:13-17 638 All who believe will have eternal life.
John 10: 11-18 1000-4 I am the good shepherd.
John 10:27-30 51 I give my sheep eternal life.

Also available: Funeral Rite Guidelines—Deacons” 

Approved by Howard J. Hubbard, D.D., Bishop of Albany January 31, 2006 

Date April 18, 2001
Revised February 2, 2006 

Prepared By the Liturgy Sub-Committee
of the Albany Diocesan Liturgical Commission 

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