Ottawa Catholics are no longer able to give eulogies for lost loved ones during funeral masses, after the Archbishop for the region issued a decree ending the practice this month.

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast issued the decree, effective as of Feb. 2, because he said eulogies take away from what the funeral mass should be about — praying for the deceased and their family, not praising them.

Archbishop Terrance Prendergast

Archbishop Terrance Prendergast said priests in Ottawa have long allowed eulogies, but said the custom has gotten out of hand. (CBC)

The decree states that eulogies or words of remembrance are not an official part of the Catholic funeral rites, and rightfully belong at a wake service or at a grave site.

"Technically the books that guide us don't allow them, but they had crept in," Prendergast told Hallie Cotnam on Ottawa Morning.

Eulogies are "words of praise without reference to God" said Prendergast, while a mass "is an act of faith."

Prendergast said the church was facing increasing pressure from families to have more eulogies and even multiple eulogies within the same service and said the mass itself was getting lost.

But given the long-standing practice of allowing eulogies, Prendergast and his bishops came up with a compromise: allowing a three to four minute 'Words of Remembrance' speech before the service begins.

Prendergast said the length of the Words of Remembrance is a guideline only, but in spirit he wants to see shorter talks.

"We're trying to have a regulation for people that is consistent," he said.

Prendergast said the move risks driving people away from the church but said the church already faces competition from funeral parlours and other secular venues.

"Our people have lost the sense of the importance of the funeral mass, that we pray for the person. Most people when they go, they canonize the person. I hope they won't say that about me because I know I'm only going to get into heaven with the prayers of the faithful."