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Vatican Says “No” to Laymen’s Preaching and Baptizing in Germany

Cardinal Roche clearly says that “It is not about creating inequalities among the baptized, but about recognizing that there are discernments made by the Spirit, which produce different, different and complementary charisms”.

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Joachin Meisner Hertz

(ZENIT News / Germany, 04.11.2023).-The Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, English Cardinal Arthur Roche, sent a letter to the President of the German Episcopate last Wednesday, March 29. In it, the Pope’s representative refers to the conversations held  with the German Bishops and during the German Episcopate’s ad Limina Visit in November 2022 in Rome.  

The Prefect of the Dicastery for the Liturgy and the Discipline of the Sacraments makes clear  the negative response of the Dicastery to a practice introduced in Germany allowing lay people to preach sermons and carry out Baptisms.  The practice was relaunched after the last session of the German Episcopal Path.

Cardinal Roche said that the present liturgical law reserves to clergymen the preaching during a Eucharistic Celebration (the homily): “This is not an exclusion of the laity, nor is it, of course, a negation of the right and the duty of every baptized person, man or woman, to proclaim the Gospel, but, rather, a confirmation  of the specificity of the way of the proclamation, which is the homily.” 

Cardinal Roche said clearly that “It’s not about creating inequalities among the baptized , but about acknowledging that there are discernments made by the Spirit, Who produces different charisms — different and complementary.”

Throughout her history, the Church has held that, in virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the ordained minister is responsible for the proclamation of the Word and the thanksgiving for the bread and wine: “Word and Sacrament are inseparable realities and, in the measure in which they are not only a formal expression of the exercise of the ‘sacra potestas’ [‘spiritual authority’], they are not separable or to be delegated.” 

He also adduces that the laity’s  best theological preparation and capacity of communication of the laity is not a valid criterium to entrusts the homily to them. 

Cardinal Roche directs to channel the ministries of Lector and Acolytes to the laity, according to Pope Francis’ request: “This opening offers the laity the opportunity to assume a significant liturgical ministry in the exercise of the ministry of Lector and Acolyte.” 

Just last March, the 5th Synodal Assembly of the German Synodal Path issued an action text called “Proclamation of the Gospel by the Laity in the Word and the Sacrament.” The Bishops exact there the elaboration of an ecclesiastical law for the whole of Germany to normalize the laity’s preaching. Such a rule needs the Vatican’s approval. 

Cardinal Roche also pointed out that there is, in the German language, a ritual approved by the Holy See for the administration of Baptism by a lay person. The “ecumenical rite of Baptism for children in inter-confessional families,” published in 2021, does not have the Holy See’s approval and, hence, cannot be used.

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