MANCHESTER, ENGLAND. The Liverpool archdiocese has become the first diocese in England and Wales to commission laypeople to preside at funerals due to a lack of priests and deacons.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly formally commissioned 22 lay ministers to celebrate funeral ceremonies in an effort to relieve pressure on priests who sometimes must celebrate seven or more funeral Masses a week.
The move was announced through a brochure, "Planning a Catholic Funeral," published recently by the archdiocese. The brochure described a funeral as the "community's main celebration and prayer for the deceased."
"This could be a funeral Mass but ... it may be a funeral. service led by a lay funeral minister or a deacon," it said.
Vocations in Liverpool have declined sharply in recent years, and the archdiocese projected that the number of priests will decline from 170 to 100 by 2015.
Lay ministers already preside at funerals in some parts of the world where no priest or deacon is available. Kelly's decision represents the first time such a step was authorized by the …