Can someone please explain to me why flag draped coffins are not allowed in the Catholic Church?
While I can certainly understand the importance of the flag-draped coffin (my grandfather and step-grandfather were WWII veterans), the casket is covered in the white pall (the burial cloth, if you will, of the Church). It is supposed to remind us of our being united to Christ’s death through baptism and in our hope in the resurrection.
It is also supposed to remind us of the white baptismal garment we wore when we were received into the Church through Baptism. That is why you also see the Paschal Candle lit during funeral liturgies.
ahh Now I understand. When I read that flag draped coffins were not allowed there was no explanation and I found it extremely distressing since most of my friends are vets. Do you know if the family still receives the burial flag?
Oh yes, they do. In fact, for my grandpa, my grandma received it. They did the full ceremony at the conclusion of the Church’s burial rite, including the 21-gun salute. The flag is simply replaced once they leave the Church. No, the servicemen and women do not lose what they so gallantly earned.
While we are proud citizens of the United States (and, in my case, Texas, since it is our Independence Day today!), we must remember that we have our primary citizenship in heaven, as St. Paul reminds us.
Good Point! Thanks for the info.
They did the same for my grandfather, it was beautiful.
In the case of my step-grandfather, the coffin was draped in the white cloth, with the folded flag placed on top over the area that his chest was.
For my grandfather he was not catholic, but rather a baptist. The coffin wasn’t covered at all because the local VA made sure it was covered by the time it reached the veterens’ cemetary. There’s not really a NEED for it to be flag draped before that point, because the folding and presentation ceremony isn’t even done inside the church.
In our parish the flag is replaced by the pall for the duration of the mass and then put back when the pall is removed.
I think it is at least desired that all caskets be covered by the pall during the funeral mass, to symbolize that we are all equal in the sight of God.
It definitely has to do with the symbolic covering in white that symbolizes when we are baptized into Christ we are also baptized into His death. The Mass is a religious ceremony. We also are not to have “eulogies” during the time set apart for the homily. That is a time for the pastor to expand on life and death and our hope in everlasting life. The pastor at my dad’s funeral Mass mentioned my dad being covered with white on that day is likened to the first day he was received into the Church at his baptism, when he was also dressed in white.
When my father (a WW2 Vet ) died, his casket had both the flag and the pall exactly as “promethius” stated, and in the same positioning. My dad had been in the navy in WW2…as had the pastor of our church who officiated at the funeral Mass and burial.
(Maybe that’s why they did it that way ??? There was never any discussion about it at the planning stage…) I do know that there were NO flowers on the casket at any time, but there were lots of flowers elsewhere. The flag remained fully opened and covering the casket after the pall was removed and rode in the hearse as such to the graveside.
It never occurred to me that the church had any restrictions on flagged draped caskets, but I had also never been to a funeral mass for a veteran.
Being the only son in the family, (my mom preceded him in death ) I was presented with the flag…dutifully presented to me after the removal and folding ceremony by active IN SERVICE young Navy men.
Just to clarify, it’s not that the Church says that there are “restrictions” on placing the flag on the casket, it’s more a matter of saying that this cannot be done without causing a conflict between the ritual of the funeral pall (which is of course important) and the proper respect due to the flag. I just want to be sure that the readers here understand that the Church does not prohibit or restrict flag-draped caskets. But from a practical perspective, it’s just not possible to have both the pall and the open flag at the same time. Neither should ever cover the other.
I hope that readers understand that removing the flag from the casket at the door to the church is a gesture of the respect due the flag–to avoid covering it with the pall.
pssst… we’re both talking about it in the other order. Folded flag placed ON TOP of the pall over the area of the heart. :shrug:
psst: I know that. Which is why I was careful to say “open flag”
I have another question. Under what circumstances is the pall used to cover a casket? I’ve only been to one funeral Mass and it was for our parish priest and he didn’t have the pall on his casket instead it was completely uncovered. Is the use of the Pall restricted to certain circumstances?
The only one who did not have a pall covering his casket was Pope John Paul II. I suspect that it might have also been the case with his two immediate predecessors. The only object on top of his casket was the Book of the Gospels.
I caught a snippet of the funeral of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. His casket was covered with a pall; however, atop the pall were the chalice, paten and stole, the symbols of the priesthood. This was also the case at the funeral of my former pastor, which I planned for him.
Paul VI started that Papal Funeral Mass tradition–the outdoor Mass, uncovered casket with Book of the Gospels on top.
A light rain fell toward the end John Paul I’s funeral. There is a dramatic funeral photograph of JP1’s casket covered with small rain droplets and the pages of the Book of the Gospels waving in the air.
well it’s quite possible I simply missed it because there were over 1500 people at the funeral and it was difficult to see since it was standing room only.
Turns out I was wrong in my earlier post. Flags are indeed forbidden on coffins during the Funeral Liturgy. Here’s the liturgical law for funerals
132 Any national flag or the flags or insignia of associations to which the deceased belonged are to be removed from the coffin at the entrance of the church. They may be replaced after the coffin has been taken from the church.
The next paragraph, 133 says that the pall is optional, according to local custom–so it’s not required.
I’ve always seen the pall used at priests’ funerals, but in response to Aydan, perhaps the pall wasn’t used because if the body of the priest was wearing the alb (most clerics are buried in vestments) the pall would be redundant. This isn’t liturgical practice, just a simple theory.
The pall is used in my present parish, but there is no ritual involved. The funeral home delivers the body, sometimes as much as an hour or so before the funeral, the priest is there to receive the body (at that point it may well be just him and the two undertakers) and the pall is placed at that time without ceremony.
In the parish where I grew up, the priest didn’t even know what I was talking about when I asked about the pall when planning my dad’s funeral. It may have been an issue of language but I did figure out that that parish doesn’t use the pall at all. I asked the funeral home not to put anything else on Dad’s casket, no flowers, nothing. The priest pretty much told me I could do what I wanted.
Does this provision also apply to inside the casket as well? For instance what if someone wanted to be buried with a small hand-held Turkish flag and or small handheld American flag? What if they have a small Turkish pendant that they never take off and they want to be buried wearing it? Would liturgical law prohibit these things?