Laypeople distributing Communion without a priest


The Diocese of Speyer, Germany has announced that from the First Sunday of Advent in 2015, it will permit laypeople to distribute Communion in the absence of a priest in services called “Wort-Gottes-Feiern”, for which I do not know the English equivalent, but it translates as “Word of God celebration”.

This type of service is a Liturgy of the Word, and not a Mass. Is there an equivalent in English?

Is this sort of thing permitted? I find it hard to believe.


There is service called something like “Communion Service in the absence of a Priest”.

It is permitted only for situations where it is a day of obligation, and no Mass is reasonably available. e.g. a remote parish in Alaska where the priest only visits once a month.

It is not to be used in place of daily Mass, or even for Sunday Mas if there is another parish within a reasonable distance. i.e. if your priest is on vacation, with no substitute available, and there’s another parish 5 miles away, congregants should be directed to go there for Sunday Mass.

This, however, is abused in some places.

God Bless


The “Wort-Gottes-Feier” is quite common here in Germany, but it doesn’t replace Mass, at least not on a Sunday.


What is its purpose if Mass is available?

As far as I know, the Church only permits such a service if Mass is unavailable.

God Bless


One example. I just checked the website of my nearest parish, and they do not have Mass on Monday. They have Mass on every day, except that day. Instead, they have one of the above services. There is a regular priest there, in fact at least two.

I couldn’t tell you what the purpose is. I’d always go to Mass.


As far as I know, the Church does not permit that type of “Communion Service”.

If no priest is available on Mondays, Monday Mass should simply be cancelled. There is no obligation to attend on Monday.

Our Eastern Catholic brethren don’t generally have daily Mass at all, just Sundays.

In an ideal world, nearby parishes would coordinate so that their priests take different days off, so daily Mass is available somewhere.

God Bless


In my area (not Germany) services like this are common at places like hospitals, nursing homes, etc where they might be a group of Catholics who find it difficult to travel and where a priest cannot be on a Sunday because of his obligations to his parish.

It is also used in areas with few priests. Even in places other than Alaska, there are “circuit-rider” priests and it may be difficult for the communities to follow the circuit also due to distance, expense, or lack of reliable transportation.

There are, unfortunately, more and more places without a full-time priest. We have 4 priests in our parish currently (2nd largest in our diocese) and I am eternally grateful for that blessing!


I suppose one reason for this is that German laity like to demand they be “involved” and “treated equally”.


Yes, if a Mass is unavailable, it is permitted on a Sunday or day of obligation. Those examples you cite fit that model.

But, those people already have their obligation lifted since Mass is not reasonable available to them. They don’t need to attend a communion service.

God Bless


Sure they don’t need to. But they might want to. They might find it uplifting and comforting to join together for a reading of the Word and communion, even if it was consecrated a week or two ago.

They would also benefit from a recitation of the LOTH (which is a universal public prayer of the church). But many elderly or ill people might find that difficult to follow since it is not something familiar to them. A communal recitation of the rosary is often a better option.


I strongly suggest supressing this thread until more facts are known.

God Bless.


No, they don’t have to, but the Church does say that the community should be provided with an opportunity to gather and worship together.

***Redemptionis Sacramentum:
***[164.] “If participation at the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible on account of the absence of a sacred minister or for some other grave cause,”[269] then it is the Christian people’s right that the diocesan Bishop should provide as far as he is able for some celebration to be held on Sundays for that community under his authority and according to the Church’s norms. Sunday celebrations of this specific kind, however, are to be considered altogether extraordinary. All Deacons or lay members of Christ’s faithful who are assigned a part in such celebrations by the diocesan Bishop should strive “to keep alive in the community a genuine ‘hunger’ for the Eucharist, so that no opportunity for the celebration of Mass will ever be missed, also taking advantage of the occasional presence of a Priest who is not impeded by Church law from celebrating Mass”.[270]

There are many communities in my diocese where these celebrations are all they have for months on end because there are not enough priests to travel to those communities on a regular basis. Do you deny them Communion for months on end?


Here is a link for more information on these services, from CatholicsUnited for the Faith, a very reliable group:


That’s not your decision. Nor has the Catholic Church issued any such blanket command. It’s left up to the local bishops. One place where communion services are conducted here locally (and properly) are nursing homes and retirement communities.

Eastern Catholics don’t have “Mass” at all. They celebrate one of the various Eastern divine liturgies or another sacrificial liturgy. More and more such parishes are offering such liturgies on a daily basis.

There seems to be a handful of things here that some posters here believe are cut and dried prohibited and they are certainly not. They include:

  • Communion services which are conducted on non holy days of obligation.

  • Holding of hands (by those that wish to) during the Lord’s Prayer.

  • Approaching a priest or deacon for a blessing during holy communion.

Disseminating bad information is very wrong.


Please provide a source for your statement that: “It is permitted only for situations where it is a day of obligation, and no Mass is reasonably available”

That is not and never has been my understanding. The the contrary, the USCCB has promulgated norms for the conducting of Communion Services in the Absence of a Priest which expressly referrence such celebrations on weekdays.


  1. Particular Celebrations carried out in the Absence of a Priest

[166.] Likewise, especially if Holy Communion is distributed during such celebrations, the diocesan Bishop, to whose exclusive competence this matter pertains, must not easily grant permission for such celebrations to be held on weekdays, especially in places where it was possible or would be possible to have the celebration of Mass on the preceding or the following Sunday. Priests are therefore earnestly requested to celebrate Mass daily for the people in one of the churches entrusted to their care

It is not encouraged, but it is not forbidden. It is up to the Bishop. Granting permission is not an “abuse”.


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