The Vatican said on Monday that in very exceptional circumstances and with special permission, lay Catholics can be allowed to perform marriage rites.
In a document issued by the Holy See office for clergy, the Vatican said that could only happen if there are no priests or deacons available, the nation’s bishops sign off on the exception and the Holy See OKs it too.
The same document stresses that lay faithful can preach at liturgy services, but never can give homilies at Masses.
The Vatican document said that the local bishop, using his “prudent judgment,” may entrust to lay faithful in “exceptional circumstances” such duties including celebrating funeral rites, administering baptism, assisting at marriages — with the Holy See's permission — and preaching in a church in case of need.
It noted that “where there is a lack of priests and deacons, the diocesan bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages" after the nation's bishops conference signs off on the decision and the Vatican gives its permission, too.
“Under no circumstances, however, may lay people give the homily during the celebration of the Eucharist,” said the Congregation for the Clergy.
The document is aimed at encouraging parishes to be more dynamic in carrying out the church's evangelizing mission and less focused on themselves, as desired by Pope Francis.
It also offered advice on the often sensitive situation where faithful give money to the local church or priest. In some places, including after a funeral or marriage, or when Mass is said in memory of a deceased parishioner, faithful offer money.
The Congregation for the Clergy recommended: “one might think of receiving offerings in an anonymous way, so that everyone feels free to donate what they can, or what they think is just, without feeling an obligation to respond to an expectation or a price.”