The prefect of the Vatican’s liturgy office has intervened against the implementation of resolutions of the German Synodal Way that demand laypeople should be able to regularly baptise and preach the homily at Mass in churches across Germany. Source: CNA.
In a letter to the German Bishops Conference president on Wednesday, Cardinal Arthur Roche said neither was possible – despite at least one German diocese already announcing both practices.
The written intervention by the Vatican’s prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments was addressed to Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg.
Apart from covering the question of homilies and baptisms by laypeople, the seven-page letter also reminded the German bishops that liturgical translations must be confirmed and approved by the Vatican.
On the issue of homilies, Cardinal Roche wrote that the reason why laypeople cannot regularly preach at Mass is not due to their need for “better theological preparation or better communication skills”. Nor is the intent to create “inequalities among the baptised”.
Instead, the cardinal pointed to “distinctions made by the Spirit, who produces different charisms that are distinct and complementary”.
The British cardinal wrote that well-formed laypeople should contribute, for instance, as catechists or by conducting conversations about sacred Scripture.
However, he added that laypeople could not give the homily at Mass since only someone ordained “sacramentally represents Christ by virtue of the sacra potestas [sacred power] conferred on him at ordination.”
The cardinal also rejected the introduction of laypeople regularly administering baptisms, something already in practice in some German dioceses. He wrote that justifying this with a lack of priests, for example, was not possible under canon law.
Responding to Cardinal Roche’s communication, a spokesperson for the German Bishops Conference on Thursday said the bishops would continue to seek dialogue with Rome on these issues.