BISHOP Edward Daly of Derry has ordered that in future paramilitary funerals cannot be celebrated with the coffin present in church.
The ban followed the funeral of Gerald Logue, when an Irish Tricolour and black beret and gloves were placed on his coffin and gunmen fired at least 15 shots over it in an IRA salute.
Bishop Daly criticised the security presence at the funeral, which he described as "heavyhanded", but saved the most severe criticism for those who exploited the funeral for what he viewed as a "cheap military stunt".
The bishop's statement announcing this ban included a strong denunciation of the IRA — "they are not freedom fighters.. they have not the slightest respect for true freedom" he said.
The Sinn Fein spokesman, Martin McGuiness, responded to the bishop's statement by accusing the Church of a lack of "genuine concern" for the nationalist population.
Bishop Daly said that his churches must not become battlegrounds and that the events surrounding the Logue funeral had desecrated church grounds and that those who took part in such acts were Christians only "by some stretch of their own imagination".
A spokesman for Cardinal Tomas O'Fiaich, the Primate of all Ireland, refused to comment on the bishop's statement and refused to say whether the Cardinal's permission had been sought from the bishop before he released the statement.