Catholic Funerals in South Africa

Catholic funerals in South Africa are limited as Catholicism is not a popular religion in this country. Although Catholics are Christians, their beliefs follow different tenets which are evident in a Catholic funeral ceremony.  While conventional reformed Christian funerals are common, the Catholic funeral has a distinctively different and more formal process.  This typically follows three separate phases.  The first phase is to convey the body of the deceased to the church.  Priests and clerics will go to the house where someone has died while carrying a cross and holy water which is sprinkled onto the coffin.  Then a procession follows to escort the coffin to the church.  During this journey various psalms are recited or chanted.  The body is then traditionally placed in the middle of the church.   
The second stage involves the ceremony within the church, known as a mass.  Prayers are offered while candles are lit during the reading of the gospel.  Candles are particularly important during the Catholic funeral service.  The coffin will be covered by a white pall and the priest wears black or purple vestments traditionally – these colours can vary with slightly different ceremonies.  Giving absolution is the third and last part of the entire ceremony.  The priest will offer prayers over the body of the deceased.  The priest will incense the coffin and sprinkle it with holy water during the absolution.  The body is then carried to the grave by pall-bearers.
At this time, the burial plot is blessed if need be.  Mausoleums are to be blessed only if they are being used for the very first time.  The body is again sprinkled with holy water and incense is wafted over it.  The Priest will intone final scripture as required before the coffin is then lowered into the grave.  The Lord’s Prayer (a specific prayer) is then said.  This signifies the end of the graveside ceremony and that of the entire funeral.  Catholic funerals have changed little over the many centuries.  Some variation is present depending on the culture and type of Catholic.  For example, Roman Catholics will adhere to strict proceedings for a funeral.  Most modern Catholics may omit some of the more traditional elements.  The funeral for a priest or member of the clergy also follows a different order than a funeral for normal men and women.
The Catholic community of South Africa is small and for the most part quite modern in it’s practices.