Canada's Bishops issue guide to funeral requests linked to assisted suicide


Euthanasia debate

Euthanasia debate

Catholic Bishops in Canada are advising priests to refuse 'high profile' funerals for people who die through assisted suicide.

Six Bishops from Alberta and the Northwest Territories have issued guidelines for priests asked to provide funerals for those who die after choosing assisted suicide.

"If the Church were to refuse a funeral to someone, it is not to punish the person but to recognize his or her decision -- a decision that has brought him or her to an action that is contrary to the Christian faith, that is somehow notorious and public and would do harm to the Christian community and the larger culture," say the guidelines.

Support should be offered to the families of the dead but that to offer a funeral in such circumstances "would be truly scandalous, as it would be an encouragement to others to engage in the evil that is euthanasia."

In an interview, the Archbishop of Edmonton, Richard Smith, said: "The general principles are clear. The various situations in which they apply can be highly nuanced and diverse."

He explained: "It's going to be the role of the priest in these situations to say how best do we bring all of this together -- the care of the person, the care for the family, respecting the integrity of the sacraments?''

"If there can't be a funeral, priests may agree to hold prayers at a graveside or funeral home, he said. The guidelines say a memorial mass is another option.

In June, "physician-assisted" death became legal in Canada.

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