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Vatican releases comprehensive guide for homilies

February 10, 2015

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The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship has released a Homiletic Directory, designed to help priests improve their preaching.

Introducing the new document at a February 10 news conference, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said: “The Directory was not born without a reason. The aim is to respond to the need to improve the service of ordained ministers in liturgical preaching.”

In a decree introducing the Homiletic Directory, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera—who was prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship at the time the document was completed—notes that Pope Francis devoted a substantial portion of his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium to the need for good preaching. The importance of homilies, he added, had been discussed at length at meetings of the Synod of Bishops and in other papal documents.

Cardinal Sarah told reporters that in practice “it is precisely the homily, considered as good or bad, interesting or boring, that is the yardstick by which the entire celebration is judged.” While the homily is not the essential part of the Mass, he said, it does help to ensure (or discourage) the participation of the congregation. The homily, he said, “makes demands of he who pronounces it,” and the new document should help priests to make proper preparation for preaching.

Archbishop Arthur Roche, the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, told Vatican Radio: “The responsibility of the priest is to bring the reality of God’s life into a practical application with the reality of people’s lives.”

The first part of the Homiletic Directory focuses on the role of the homily in the context of the liturgy. This section confirms that the homily should be preached by an ordained minister, and should be based on the Word of God.

The second section concentrates on the art of preaching, offering guidance for priests in interpreting the Scriptures. The Directory provides notes for all the readings of the liturgical cycle—including readings for weddings, funerals, and weekday Masses.

The Directory includes two appendices. The first deals with the role of the homily in conveying Catholic doctrine, and refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The second appendix offers references to various teachings of the magisterium that might be included in homilies. The Vatican had announced last December that the Homiletic Directory had been completed. The introductory decree signed by Cardinal Canizares is actually dated June 29.

Note: The full text of the Homiletic Directory is now available; see the link below.


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  • Posted by: phil L - Feb. 12, 2015 9:26 AM ET USA

    The full text of the Homiletic Directory is available in English, and we have linked to it. Under the news story, see the box for "Additional Sources." The final link is to the full text.

  • Posted by: mclom - Feb. 12, 2015 5:44 AM ET USA

    I am filled with joy to hear of this publication after enduring years of disappointment at not hearing sermons relevant in any way to the Liturgy of the day, and hearing so very many delivered with a complete lack of passion for the subject. If the priest is indifferent why should the congregation care? It wasn't until we discovered the Birmingham Oratory in England that we found consistent preaching that enlightens the Bible and remains true to Church doctrines.

  • Posted by: Bernadette - Feb. 11, 2015 11:12 PM ET USA

    My pastor wants a copy of this directory; he cannot find it on the Vatican website. Where can he get it? Thank you.

  • Posted by: stpetric - Feb. 11, 2015 10:56 AM ET USA

    Where and when will this be available in English?

  • Posted by: chady - Feb. 11, 2015 9:16 AM ET USA

    It has been my experience here in the UK - since the start of the new millennium that sermons by priests have become more Bible based. That is not a criticism. However there is a need to help pew Catholics to relate what they hear into every day situations and the challenges we face being part of a social and spiritual Family.