Priest: Use of term RIP a worry for Catholic and Protestant alike

A copy of the King James Bible
A copy of the King James Bible

A Catholic priest has responded to an article in the Orange Order’s magazine which discouraged the use of the term ‘RIP’.

The article in the Orange Standard, which was widely publicised in late July, said using the term in reference to people who had died was “unBiblical” and un-Protestant”.

A piece in response from Father Alexander Lucie-Smith – a Catholic priest and doctor of moral theology – appeared on the online version of the Catholic Herald on Tuesday.

Father Lucie-Smith (who is also consulting editor of the Herald) said: “Sometimes one is asked: ‘What are the differences between Catholics and Protestants?’

“This can be quite a difficult question to answer, for there are so many different places where one might begin. But now, thanks to the ever-helpful Orange Order, answering this question just got a little bit easier.”

He said RIP stands for “requiescat (or requiescant) in pace” – in other words, “may he or she (or they) rest in peace” and amounts to “shorthand for a prayer”.

He said: “The idea of praying for the dead so that they may be released from their sins and journey to God is a Catholic idea, and has been the consistent practice of the church since time immemorial...

“RIP is a Catholic term that has been divorced for most people from its living roots; they use it because they wish to say something, and it is a term that easily comes to hand; but it does not indicate any faith in the afterlife, or belief in Purgatory, nor is it, usually, in any sense a prayer made on behalf of the deceased.

“Widespread use of the term is a sign, perhaps, of the decline of religious literacy and practice, something that should concern all of us, Catholic as well as Protestant.

“In drawing attention to the use of this Catholic phrase, the history of which most Protestants do not understand, the Orange Order is highlighting an important task for us Catholics.

“We need to catechise and evangelise, so that when people do write the letters RIP on social media they will know what they mean, and perhaps utter the prayer they stand for with their lips and more importantly in their hearts.”