Under canon law, who is allowed to preach at Catholic Mass?


DOMRADIO.DE: The Apostles’ Day is celebrated for the third time in Germany. But if only the consecrated are allowed to preach at Mass, the women actually go out, right?

Mathias Peter (Editor of Theology): This is so, at least for the celebration of the Eucharist, that is, for Mass. The sermon derives from the Latin praedicátio “to praise, glorify, preach” or from the praedicáre “to shout, glorify” and is the proclamation of faith in the form of language, usually in the context of ecclesiastical rites.

The sermon in the Mass is called the homily, which interprets the readings given in the Mass. And this is allowed only for the ordained, that is, for deacons, priests, or bishops. And again, only men are allowed to do this.

DOMRADIO.DE: Not every priest can preach well. Wouldn’t it be a better woman who has more talent for that?

Petras: At the level of canon law, it does not matter. The sermon on the Mass is the teaching of the faith for the officers of the church.

This can be seen, for example, from the fact that the bishop, when giving a sermon during Mass, usually wears a miter and holds a cross in his hand. This shows that he is now in his position as a teacher. And for the above-mentioned reasons for restricting consecration, a woman cannot perform this kind of teaching duty at Mass.

DOMRADIO.DE: And yet women preach not only at the Feast of the Eucharist on May 17th.

Petras: Yes, it always depends on local conditions what the clergyman allows or not. I know of parishes where women who volunteer in the church preach, that is, they may be, “even” untrained theologians. Canon law, especially Canon 767, Part 1, is clear on this point. He makes it clear that the homily is only for priests and deacons. But there is more than just a homily.

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DOMRADIO.DE: Does this mean that laity are allowed to preach today, but does it depend on the form of worship?

Petras: Yes. There are also Sunday celebrations of the word of God, that is, church services that are not a celebration of the Eucharist. Men and women are allowed to preach there. For example, pastoral messengers receive a sermon assignment depending on the diocese. Because canon law allows laymen to preach in certain circumstances, but does not include it in the homily.

The sermon is also available during worship or the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours. And there is the so-called station. It is a kind of sermon in the Mass, but it is not inserted after the Gospel, the place of true homily, but elsewhere. The laity then speak, for example, in a testimony of faith or interpret an excerpt from the Bible.

DOMRADIO.DE: The women’s Catholic community today isn’t just demanding that women be admitted to all cabinets. How likely is it that women will be allowed to say homily at Sunday Mass at least once?

Petras: We are completely in the realm of speculation. On the one hand, there will be fewer Sunday Masses due to a shortage of priests. And in the feasts of God’s word, which then sometimes change the masses, the laity are also allowed to preach, as I said.

In fact, I see no sign that the ban on secular homily is being relaxed at the level of the universal Church. Thus, under canon law, women will not be allowed to say homilies during Mass in the near future.

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Interview conducted by Dagmar Peters.



A sermon (from the Latin praedicátio “praise, glorify, proclaim”, from praedicáre “to proclaim loudly, to praise”) is the proclamation of faith in the form of language, usually in the context of ecclesiastical rites.

A sermon in the Holy Mass is called a homily (“conversation, language, teaching”), which interprets the pericopes proclaimed at the Holy Mass.

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