1. What needs to be done in order to take care of arrangements at the time of death:

A. Medical Death Certificate

  • If the person has died in hospital, the medical death certificate will be issued by the hospital.

  • If the person has died at home, the medical death certificate must be issued by a certified medical practitioner who has been treating the person immediately prior to demise.

It is advisable to take photocopies of this death certificate as the original will have to be handed over to the undertaker who will, in turn, submit it to the municipality once the burial formalities are completed.

Please note that the official document is the Municipal Death Certificate which must be collected from the pertinent Ward Office (usually available 15 days to a month after burial). The doctor’s certificate is only required for intimation of death to the Municipal authorities and for burial. It may also be used for announcements in the Press. For all other official purposes, only the Municipal Death Certificate is valid.

B. Contacting the Undertaker

Once the death has been certified, it is advisable to contact the undertaker of your choice. It is best to be guided by someone who has experience of a particular undertaker, or you could check the Net for undertakers in your general locality (most undertakers have websites). You will have to provide the Undertaker with:

  • The original Medical Death Certificate.

  • A complete set of clothes that you wish the person to be buried in plus a rosary.

  • The name of the cemetery/burial site/crematorium.

  • If you own a grave, then you will have to provide the grave number/receipt no. issued by the cemetery.

  • If you do not own a grave, the undertaker can purchase a temporary plot for you.

  • The undertaker will have to be informed as to whether the body will first be brought to the house before removal to the church, or is to be taken directly to the church.

  • Check with the undertaker regarding necessary compliances. Confirm all costs involved as these can increase considerably with every service offered including type of coffin, transport from church to graveyard and back, morgue, etc.

C. Formalities with your Parish Church

  1. Request for the issue of a Grave Order. This will be needed by the Undertaker, as this certifies the person’s entitlement, as a Catholic, to be buried in consecrated ground.

  2. Decide the day and time of the Funeral Mass and make the necessary booking.

  3. If the celebrant is not a priest from the Parish, indicate this as permission may need to be sought from the Parish Priest.

  4. If it is desired that announcement of the death and funeral be made in the Parish, provide the necessary details and request that the announcement be made at Masses immediately prior to the funeral.

  5. If floral arrangements are desired, consult your Sacristan or person in charge. They will guide you as to the nature of the arrangement and the cost involved.

  6. Most parishes have choirs / groups who will come forward to provide the music for funerals. Consult your Parish Priest or Community Leader for the details. Remember that the choice of hymns and readings has to be in consonance with the liturgical norms laid down by the Church.

  7. One priest will be assigned to accompany the body to the graveyard to conduct the final rites.

  8. All burial formalities have to be completed before sunset.”

D. Notification in the Press

If you wish to notify the death in the Press/Newspaper of your choice, you will need to provide one copy of the Medical Death Certificate and a clear photograph (if you wish to include this in the insertion). Make sure that you have the details available, such as full name of the deceased, date of birth (optional) and date of death, day, time and location of Funeral Mass and location of burial. Additional information regarding relationships (mother/father/son/daughter/brother/ sister/husband/wife…etc), residence, reason for death (long illness, accident…etc.) may also be provided, depending on the family’s wishes.

For insertion, most Newspapers have a contact person who will guide you through the whole process which can even be carried out online.

It is understandable that you will be overwhelmed by all that is needed to be done and in the time of grief, it is hard to think clearly and cover all that is required. Do accept the help of neighbours, near and dear ones, and your Community Leaders who can also take care of other minor details not mentioned here. You will need to indicate preferences and provide information, but they can help with notifying the persons concerned and carrying out your wishes. Also, do remember that funerals incur fairly heavy costs and you will need to make provision for this. Check at every step regarding the costs involved so that you are not left with too heavy a burden.

2. Can children, whose parents had intended to have them baptised but who died before baptism be allowed Church funeral rites?

Yes. According to the provisions of Canon 1183 §2 children whose parents had intended to have them baptised but who died before baptism, may be allowed Church funeral rites by the Local Ordinary.

3. Is it permissible to perform funeral rites if the person concerned has not been baptised but is only a catechumen?

According to the provisions of Canon 1183 §1, as far as funeral rites are concerned, Catechumens are to be reckoned among Christ’s faithful.

4. Is it permissible to perform the funeral rites for a baptised person who does not belong to the Catholic Church if his/her own minister is not available?

According to the provisions of Canon 1183 §3, provided that their own minister is not available, baptised persons belonging to a non-catholic Church or ecclesial community may, in accordance with the prudent judgement of the Local Ordinary, be allowed Catholic funeral rites, unless it is established that they did not wish this.

5. If a person is a manifest sinner can the person be given a Church funeral?

According to the provisions of Canon 1184 §1, Church funeral rites are to be denied to manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral could not be granted without public scandal to the faithful unless they gave some signs of repentance before death. In case of doubt the matter should be referred to the Local Ordinary.”

Since the denial of a Church funeral to one of its members is always a sensitive issue, one must bear in mind that the Church funeral is primarily to pray for the spiritual support of the person who has died, i.e. to plead for God’s mercy so that the person may be admitted to the eternal life merited by the death and resurrection of Christ; and also to honour the dead body which had been a temple of the Holy Spirit by reason of baptism; and to bring to the living the comfort of Christian hope which carries the certainty of reunion in eternal life.

6. Is it permissible for a person to be cremated? If so, is it necessary to obtain permission from the Local Ordinary?

According to the provision of Canon 1176 §3 the Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.”

It is not necessary to obtain the permission of the Local Ordinary for cremation.