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Funerals should be held in private, mourners urged

Churches here are urging their clergy to hold all funerals in private because of the coronavirus crisis.

And they're recommending that only close family members and friends should be allowed to attend the funerals.

A statement from the Irish Council of Churches (ICC) last night also said that no public announcements should be made about funeral arrangements.

The statement, signed by the Rev Brian Anderson who's the President of the ICC, was issued in response to the latest government restrictions on public gatherings.

The statement said: "Many of our member churches have now issued guidance that while government restrictions around public gatherings, and appeals for social distancing measures remain in place, consideration should be given to funerals being private, for close family and friends only, and with no public announcement of funeral arrangements."

It went on: "Formal government guidelines about public gatherings should be strictly adhered to at all times. As churches we are deeply conscious of the desire in local communities to come alongside those who have been bereaved, and accompany them in their grief.

"For the duration of the high risk posed by Covid-19 the way that we do that will have to change."

The statement said the churches' proposals were designed to protect "the most vulnerable in our society and the vital services we all rely on".

The ICC statement added: "In these exceptional times, we are called to be good neighbours by keeping our distance to help contain this virus.

"When this threat has passed, there will be other opportunities to come together in prayer, and in the short term there are other ways in which we can express our condolences."

An organisation representing funeral directors in Northern Ireland said last night that they were endorsing the churches' statement.

The Northern Ireland Federation of the National Association of Funeral Directors spoke of "exceptional times" in relation to the conducting of funerals in line with government guidance on social distancing and in the interest of public health.

The Federation said that they were assuring the public that their members would continue to provide "a professional and dignified service for all".

A statement said: "We ask everyone to bear with us during this unprecedented and difficult period for the country."

Earlier this week Belfast City Council announced that the chapel at Roselawn Crematorium would be closed to mourners from Monday.

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