MELBOURNE (Reuters Life!) - Football club songs and pop or rock music have been banned from funerals in Catholic churches in Australia under new guidelines distributed this week to priests and funeral directors.
A funeral should not be a "celebration" of the deceased's life, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said in the rules, but a final sacred farewell. Celebrations of that life should be held at social occasions before or after the funeral, he said.
"The wishes of the deceased, family and friends should be taken into account ... but in planning the liturgy, the celebrant should moderate any tendency to turn the funeral into a secular celebration of the life of the deceased," the guidelines state.
"Secular items are never to be sung or played at a Catholic funeral, such as romantic ballads, pop or rock music, political songs, football club songs."
Some funeral directors, however, said the directive was insensitive to relatives' needs as many grieving families wanted to incorporate multimedia presentations, including photographs and video of the deceased person's life as well as music.
"Funerals have become a celebration of people's lives and there aren't many that don't include a DVD presentation," John Fowler, the general manager of Le Pine Funerals, told Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper.
"It really gives you a sense of the joy that this person has brought to the world."
Pop songs have become more common at funerals as new technology allows churches and funeral parlors to install sound systems and more people opt for services conducted by celebrants instead of religious ministers.
Centennial Park, a leading provider of cemetery, crematorium and memorial services in Australia, in 2008 compiled a list of the 10 most popular songs at Australian funerals.
The top song was Frank Sinatra's version of "My Way," followed by "Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, "Time To Say Goodbye" by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, and "Unforgettable" by Nat "King" Cole.
Rounding out the top 10 were "The Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler, "Amazing Grace," "We'll Meet Again" by Vera Lynn, "Over the Rainbow" by Judy Garland, "Abide With Me" by Harry Secombe, and "Danny Boy."
The list of top 10 most popular unusual funeral songs included listed as Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," AC/DC's "Highway to Hell, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by Monty Python, and "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" from "The Wizard of Oz."
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith