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Circular letter
on the ecclesiastical burial of the faithful
in irregular matrimonial situations


Rome, May 29, 1973.

Many Episcopal Conferences and numerous local Ordinaries have asked this Sacred Congregation that the current practice be mitigated regarding the ecclesiastical burial of those faithful who, at the moment of their death, find themselves in an irregular matrimonial situation.

The opinions and the reflections that have come to us in this regard, after an attentive study on the part of this Sacred Dicastery, were submitted to the examination of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation in 1972.

In this Assembly, the Fathers have decided, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to make the celebration of an ecclesiastical burial easier for those faithful Catholics who have violated the norm of canon 1240.

Derogating from this canon insofar as it is necessary, a new regulation will be promulgated as soon as possible, in which the celebration of religious funerals will no longer be prohibited for those faithful, who, though found in a manifest condition of sin before death, retain their adherence to the Church and give some sign of repentance, provided that public scandal to the other faithful is avoided.

The scandal to the faithful and to the ecclesiastical community may, however, be mitigated or avoided to the extent that Pastors take care to illustrate in a suitable manner the meaning of Christian funerals, which many see as an appeal to the mercy of God and as a testimony to the faith of the community in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

With the present letter, I ask Your Excellency to communicate to the Ordinaries of this Episcopal Conference that the text of the new decree will soon be published regarding ecclesiastical burials, and will take immediate effect beginning on the day of the notification.

Communicating these things to you with devoted respect, I remain yours,

+ Franjo Cardinal Šeper

+ Jérôme Hamer, O.P.
Titular Archbishop of Lorium