I know that proclaiming the Gospel at Mass is restricted to ordained folks. But, is it permissible for a lay man or woman to lead a word and communion service and read from the Gospel?

Can they lead a different sort of prayer service in a Catholic Church that includes the proclamation of the Gospel?

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    Just as an FYI, Baptists open up the Gospel reading to everybody. Episcopalians delegate the OT, Psalm, and NT to laity, but reserve the Gospel lesson specifically to the clergy. Feb 23, 2012 at 20:11
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    Also, FYI: I've been to churches where woman aren't allowed to get behind the lectern, much less read the Gospel. Feb 23, 2012 at 20:48
  • Probably could start another question for this if necessary, but I'd like to see the answer to the same question with the word "When" changed to "Normally, why aren't" Feb 27, 2012 at 22:55
  • @dotnetengineer: The Gospel is not read, it's proclaimed. It's the liturgical function of the deacon to proclaim the Gospel, and when a deacon is not available it's delegated upwards to a priest (whose diaconal ordination is still effective) rather than downwards to the laity (who aren't ordained). A real question might indeed be useful -- as might a "Liturgy" tag. Mar 10, 2012 at 22:12

3 Answers 3


Well, at a minimum, most people read from the Gospel on Palm Sunday and Good Friday (only about four lines which are labeled "[said by the] crowd:"). I think that counts as laity ;-).

As to "communion service", the prayers of an EM with the homebound can be considered a "communion service," and anyone is allowed to read there.

Coming back to this post several years later. It should be noted that Mass is the only liturgical prayer of the church where the reading of the gospel is specifically designated to the clergy. In the normal form of the Divine Office, there is no gospel. There is, however, a canticle from Luke which is read or sung in common. In the Lectio Divina, sometimes prayed in conjunction with Matins, Vigils, or as a separate service, the gospel may be read by any in attendance, according to the norms of the particular community.

None of this is different from prior to the reforms of the liturgy under Paul VI. The Divine Office was open to all and supported a variety of expressions, even within the more restrictive hours (you can read more about the different liturgical approaches to Vespers here). The Lucan Canticles were said in common.

Preaching on the gospel, however, was a good deal more restricted. However, even in this case, there was a good deal of leeway. It is the task of the prior, whether ordained or no, to exhort the brethren while they eat. This implies 1. that a quasi-liturgy is in effect, and 2. that a non-ordained person is preaching.

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    I forgot about the Passion. We've only got one priest so he pretty much does the Jesus part and there are two other lay lectors functioning as the narrator and other speaking parts. But I'm mainly asking about reading the gospel in a church, in place of a priest.
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 23, 2012 at 22:17

When are lay men and women permitted to proclaim the Gospel in a Catholic church?

Your question has to be answered in three parts and must be answered with a sober yes; but the yes can be only permitted in or by a case of grave necessity.

The ordinary ministers of the Eucharist are the bishop and the priests of the diocese or religious house. The ordinary ministers of proclaiming the gospel are the bishop, the priest and the deacon. As is far too common nowadays, there is a genuine shortage of priests and/or deacons in many parishes. Most diocese have permitted parishes to have a certain number of extraordinary ministers of holy communion. These same extraordinary ministers of holy communion are not permitted to read the gospel at Mass. The Archdiocese of Vancouver has very clear rules on this point.

It can arise that the number of priests is so few that a diocesan bishop may have recourse to Rome to have some Pastoral Administrators established in order to fulfill the Sunday obligations for the faithful. This naturally involves reading the Gospel during a communion service (outside of Mass). The Diocese of Whitehorse, Yukon has between 4-8 priests at any one time and has several Pastoral Administrators working in the diocese.

A second case in which a lay person may read the Gospel at Mass and in a church is when reading the Passion on Good Friday. I have seen this in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass.

Finally, abbesses are permitted to read the Gospel of the day at matins and vespers. In fact, prior to the Second Vatican Council some abbesses (Cistercian and Carthusian) had the privilege of wearing a stole for this occasion. Carthusian abbesses were permitted to wear the maniple also, but on the right arm and not the left like priests. I am unaware if this privilege still exists or not. We should not look into this privilege as some form of ordained deaconesses.

Carthusian nun

At Matins, if no priest be present, a nun assumes the stole and reads the Gospel. - Carthusian nun


For the Divine Office in the Poor Clare monasteries the Gospel may be read at the Office of Readings by the Abbess, when no priest is present.

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    Generally speaking Poor Clare's do not have abbesses, even though the title is often employed in their convents, to their superiors. A helpful link would greatly improve your response.
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 23, 2018 at 15:37

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