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Beer, cigarettes are inappropriate as gifts – Irish priest

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An Irish priest has spoken out over “inappropriate” items such as tins of beer and cigarettes being used as offertory gifts during funeral Masses.

Fr Tomás Walsh, who is based in Cork city, said such items “don’t tell us anything uplifting” about the deceased.

Writing in a July newsletter, he said it happened “more and more, especially when there is little faith present”.

He said other inappropriate items included mobile phones, remote controls and football jerseys.

Speaking to Good Morning Ulster on Wednesday, Fr Walsh said he would accept shirts of local sports teams the deceased were involved with but that he believed Premier League football jerseys “might be idol worship”.

The priest, who is based in Gurranabraher parish, told the programme he was not being dogmatic but wanted people to reflect more on what was appropriate for funerals.

“A packet of cigarettes or a can of beer I would consider inappropriate – very often it may well have been the cigarettes that killed the person,” Fr Walsh said.

“I don’t think the church would be the appropriate place to do that – you can place it on the graveside.

“A requiem Mass is the Christian community coming together with the family who have lost a loved one.”

Fr Walsh, who also criticised “eulogies that go on for as long as the Mass itself” in the newsletter, said he did not rule out such items but that they “tell us nothing beautiful about the person’s life or even about the pain the family are going through”.

“I said that there were more appropriate kinds of memorabilia that could be brought up and I mentioned family photographs or a flower or something.”

Speaking about sports jerseys, Fr Walsh said he did approve of shirts or tops of local sports team “if the person was involved” with the club.

“Then it might be very appropriate to bring it as the person made a big contribution to the community through their club involvement,” he said.

“I think maybe a lot of the Premier Division football jerseys and things; I think a lot of that might be idol worship.”

Fr Walsh said he had been amazed by the response to his article in the parish newsletter.

“I think nearly every media and radio station in Ireland has been wanting me to go on to explain or justify what I said.”

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