Extraordinary Mass Taiwan joint wedding and funeral ceremony draws mixed reactions in China

Chinese Catholics have expressed mixed reactions after priests in Taiwan celebrated an Extraordinary Mass to mark both a wedding and a funeral for a family in the south of the country.

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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 play

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

(Francis Kuo)
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Chinese Catholics have expressed mixed reactions after 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 up to 100 days and at least one year between the two events to accommodate a suitable mourning period.

However, one bride shunned this custom recently. Hsu Chia-ling said she had planned her wedding well in advance but unfortunately, her father died suddenly after battling cancer for the last two years.

According to her, she wanted her father to 'witness' the ceremony and consulted her local priests to come up with a Mass that could blend the funeral rite with the matrimonial sacrament.

The event was held on Saturday, March 7, 2015, at the Holy Name of Jesus Church in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.

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

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

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

Others shared contrary views, seeing the ceremony as 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.

According to Fr. John Baptist Luo of Fujian, 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."

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