During the Mass, are Priests alllowed...


to come off the altar area during the homily and give his homily among the faithful, as in standing between the pews?


No, they are not supposed to leave the sanctuary area. The homily is supposed to be delivered from the ambo where the readings are read from.


Do you know where that is exactly stated?


So then, let me ask this question. When the church is set up in a circle or semi-circle with the altar and ambo in the middle, where should the priest sit?

In our diocese (Saginaw, MI) many of the churches are set up that way and the presider sits in the first row of benchs or chairs (we don’t have pews in many churches) with the congregation and goes back and forth as needed. Whats the ruling on that situation?


or the presidential chair

This is one of those areas that the bishop of your diocese moderates.


I have read the following:

*The priest celebrant gives the Homily from the ambo or while standing at his chair, from the ambo, or when appropriate, in another suitable place. In particular circumstances, such as in
an unrenovated church or at a celebration with children, the homilist may need to approach closer to the congregation in order to communicate effectively. *


I believe the celebrating Priests is always supposed to be able to be seen. If they sit in a pew many people cannot see him.


Well the priest and deacon as well as the servers are supposed to be in the Sanctuary. Which is supposed to be distinctly separated from the church body in some way, raised up three steps to a platform area or divided by an altar rail, or something.


In answer to the various points, from the GIRM:

Regarding the Sanctuary258. The sanctuary should be clearly marked off from the body of the
church either by being somewhat elevated or by its distinctive design
and appointments. It should be large enough to accommodate all the

The priest and his ministers have their place in the sanctuary, that
is, in the part of the church that brings out their distinctive role,
namely, to preside over the prayers, to proclaim the word of God, or
to minister at the altar.

  1. The priest celebrant’s chair ought to stand as a symbol of his
    office of presiding over the assembly and of directing prayer. Thus
    the best place for the chair is at the back of the sanctuary and
    turned toward the congregation, unless the structure or other
    circumstances are an obstacle (for example, if too great a distance
    would interfere with communication between the priest and people).
    Anything resembling a throne is to be avoided. The seats for the
    ministers should be so placed in the sanctuary that they can readily
    carry out their appointed functions.[83]

*Regarding the Homily: *The readings, responsorial psalm, and the Easter Proclamation
() are proclaimed from the lectern; it may be used also for
the homily and general intercessions
(prayer of the faithful).

**This doesn’t appear to be too definitive. **

(All GIRM quotes from christusrex.org/www1/mcitl/girmch5.html)


It seems to me that the Priest has latitude and can say the homily from anywhere he deems right.


see ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/zlitur45.htm


From the 2002 General Introduction to the Roman Missal (GIRM) which can be accessed from romanrite.com/girm.html :

“136. The priest, standing at the chair or at the ambo itself or, when appropriate, in another suitable place, gives the homily. When the homily is completed, a period of silence may be observed.”

This gives the priest a lot of latitude. If he thinks that an appropriate, suitable place is between the pews then he would not be breaking this instruction.

A general description of the sanctuary has:
“295. The sanctuary is the place where the altar stands, where the word of God is proclaimed, and where the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers exercise their offices.” But I see this as descriptive, not a strict rule that he must only minister from the sanctuary.

We understand that he is not in the sanctuary for the whole of Mass. There is an entrance procession for him to arrive there. Sometimes Communion is not distributed from there. The priest is not expected to remain in the sanctuary to sprinkle holy water, if this is done.

There is encouragement for the priest to remain in the sanctuary for the Sign of Peace, but an exception has been permitted for the USA:
“154. … The priest may give the sign of peace to the ministers but always remains within the sanctuary, so as not to disturb the celebration. In the dioceses of the United States of America, for a good reason, on special occasions (for example, in the case of a funeral, a wedding, or when civic leaders are present) the priest may offer the sign of peace to a few of the faithful near the sanctuary.”

So it depends on the priest’s judgement of what is a suitable, appropriate place. There is not a prohibition on him leaving the sanctuary.

Some other points on who should be in the sanctuary:
“195. Upon reaching the altar, the lector makes a profound bow with the others. If he is carrying the Book of the Gospels, he approaches the altar and places the Book of the Gospels upon it. Then the lector takes his own place in the sanctuary with the other ministers.”
“310. … Likewise, seats should be arranged in the sanctuary for concelebrating priests as well as for priests who are present for the celebration in choir dress but who are not concelebrating.”
“294. … The priest celebrant, the deacon, and the other ministers have places in the sanctuary. Seats for concelebrants should also be prepared there. If, however, their number is great, seats should be arranged in another part of the church, but near the altar.”


In my opinion in general the priest should not to leave the sanctuary once the Mass begins until it is ended. Yes even to distribute Holy Communion he should reman in the Sanctuary.

I tend to think that even “from a suitable place” means within the sanctuary.


As far as I know the priest is generally expected to stay within the sanctuary during the mass when possible… so for many parishes, this might mean that he needs to come out of the sanctuary for the Eucharist etc. I’ve also heard of priests sometimes walking between the pews to deliver the homily in some circumstances (ex. to be heard, if it’s a school mass and he needs to keep the kids’ attention etc.) but usually only in special circumstances.


Our pastor delivers the children homily sitting at the feet of the sanctuary and after that he goes back to the ambo and he continues with the homily for the whole congregation. That is when he switches from the lets be good (for the children) to the fire and brimstone (for us).


During our school Mass, that is what the priests do. They will come down and go down the aisles…mainly to hear the children, I think.

However, during Mass other than a school Mass they do not.



Totally off the track, but to me ‘on the altar’ means LITERALLY on the altar, so when I hear about someone being ‘on the altar’ or ‘off the altar’ I always have a mental image of them literally clambering on top of the altar and then jumping off of it again when they’re done :smiley:



I’m glad I’m not the only one that drifts off like this :wink:

Our priests brother when he visits does the homily not up at the ambo but down infront of the altar, he is very old and retired. I’d worry about him making it up the stairs to do the homily. He likes to joke about his brother thinking he is special way up there! :smiley: I think they like to rib each other.


AS I said: “altar area.”


To all,

Thank you for the replies. It seems very clear that the Priest has some fairly wide latitude on this issue, it is another area that simply is not well defined, so Priests saying the homily between the pews and among the faithful are **NOT **breaking any rules.

Thanks again–no point in continuing in this thread, the answer is clear. :slight_smile:

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