Archbishop LEFEBVRE and the VATICAN

June 30, 1988

Programs for Priestless Sundays
Outlined in Vatican Document

As reported in The Beacon (July 7, 1988)

The document upon which this New Jersey (US) newspaper reports was issued on the same day as Archbishop Lefebvre was consecrating bishops at Ecône. While the Vatican was providing for the absence of priests, Archbishop Lefebvre was providing for the continuation of the priesthood.

Bishops with too few priests to celebrate the necessary Sunday Masses should develop programs by which deacons or appointed lay people lead Sunday prayer services, according to a new Vatican document.

The most preferable service is a Liturgy of the Word followed by distribution of Communion with previously consecrated hosts, says the document, prepared by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship.

The phenomenon of parishes and church centers without a priest to celebrate Sunday Mass is worldwide and affects mission countries as well as developed countries, said Msgr. Pere Tena, undersecretary of the congregation, at a June 30 Vatican press conference. The document, issued in Italian, was dated June 2.

Msgr. Tena said the directory was prepared at the request of numerous bishops’ conferences asking for guidelines in the preparation of their programs.

It codifies programs already in existence in many countries. In the United States the situation is known as “priestless Sundays.”

The 18-page directory gives local bishops or bishops’ conferences the power to determine whether in their jurisdictions the priest shortage is leaving church communities without Sunday Masses for long periods of time. It is also up to the bishops to determine if the distance to the nearest Sunday Mass is too great for their priestless parishes and church centers.

The local bishop is also authorized to appoint and train lay people as acolytes, readers and special ministers of the Eucharist to aid the deacon or to conduct the service if no deacon is available.

Under the Vatican rules, lay people are not authorized to preach a homily. However, they can read homilies prepared by priests, the directory says.

People attending the service must be made aware that the Mass is still the primary church liturgical ceremony and that they should make every effort to attend Sunday Masses, the directory says.

To avoid confusion between the prayer service and the Mass, “there can be no insertion in the celebration of that which is proper to the Mass, above all the presentation of gifts and of the eucharistic hosts,” it says.

The laity must be aware that the hosts distributed were consecrated by a priest during a Mass, it adds.

The Liturgy of the Word should use prayers and Bible readings from the corresponding Sunday Mass, it says. Bishops may substitute other church-approved prayer services such as vespers and have the power to make modifications in prayer services, but this should be kept to a minimum, the directory says.

Courtesy of the Angelus Press, Regina Coeli House
2918 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64109

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