Taiwan joint funeral and wedding Mass draws mixed reactions in China

In an unconventional move that has drawn mixed reactions from Chinese Catholics, priests in Taiwan celebrated an Extraordinary Mass to mark both a wedding and a funeral for a family in the south of the country.

In Chinese society, family celebrations of “red and white” events — red signifying weddings and white signifying funerals — are strictly segregated, with at least 100 days and up to one year between the two events to accommodate a suitable mourning period.

Hsu Chia-ling said she had planned her wedding well in advance but that her father died suddenly after having successfully battled cancer for the last two years.

She said she wanted her father to ‘witness’ the ceremony and consulted her local priests to come up with a Mass that blended the funeral rite with the matrimonial sacrament. The event was held on Saturday at the Holy Name of Jesus Church in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

The mother of the bride, Lai Yue-cai, informed guests prior to the unusual Mass that attendees should dress for “a joyful celebrative moment” and described it as a “graduation ceremony of life” and an “inauguration ceremony of married life”.

News of the unorthodox proceedings quickly made the rounds in Chinese Catholic communities on social media after a Taiwan priest posted images of the event.

Hsu Chia-ling, center left, stands before her father's casket as guests pay reverence during a combined funeral and wedding mass in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan (Photo by Francis Kuo)

icture: chiffon wedding dress

While viewers in Hong Kong and Taiwan described the Mass as “moving” and “creative”, commentators in mainland China said the violation of Church custom and Chinese tradition was “crazy”.

“The focus of a matrimonial sacrament is on the union of a man and a woman, while a funeral rite stresses the eternity of life,” Fr John Chai of Tianjin told ucanews.com.

“So it is not good to have two different focuses in the same Mass, though there is no restriction against it.”

Others were less accommodating, seeing a threat to conservative liturgical practice.

“If we do things only according to our preference, then what is the use of the liturgical rites, the canon laws and teachings of the catechism? If one does whatever he or she likes, why do we need the Church,” Paulus Wang, a young Catholic from Shanghai, told ucanews.com.

Fr John Baptist Luo of Fujian said the Church has certain rules specific to the Lenten season, which began on February 18.

“It is the Lent season and the 15-day Chinese New year celebration has just ended. Holding a marriage ceremony in the Church is inappropriate,” he said.

The priest added that though the Church has no prohibition against combining a funeral and wedding Mass, Chinese custom does.

“We still have to follow Chinese traditions. Holding the father’s funeral along with the wedding ceremony of the daughter is against Chinese filial piety.”

read more: QueenieBridal lace wedding dresses