Pope Francis will preside over the celebration for the Sunday of the Word of God on 23 January in St. Peter’s Basilica. As explained by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, this year’s liturgy includes some important novelties.
The Sunday of the Word of God is observed annually on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time (occurring this year on 23 January), ever since Pope Francis established this celebration on 30 September 2019 to remind Catholics of the importance of knowing Scripture.
As highlighted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (PCPNE), during the upcoming ceremony there will be some very significant moments.
New ministries for lay men and women
During the liturgy, the ministry of Lector will be conferred on both lay men and women “in a stable and institutionalized form through a special mandate, which in this celebration is realized and expressed in a liturgical rite.”
Previously, ministries were reserved only to men because they were considered preparatory to receiving Holy Orders. A statement from the PCPNE explains that the “well-established practice in the Church, however, has confirmed that lay ministries, founded on the sacrament of Baptism, can be entrusted to all the faithful who are suitable, whether male or female, according to what is already implicitly indicated by canon 230 of the Code of Canon Law, which the Pope has modified for the occasion.”
The ministry of Catechist
Also during the celebration, the Pope will confer the newly established ministry of Catechist on several members of the lay faithful, both women and men.
The statement notes that both ministries will be conferred through rites prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which will be used for the first time in Sunday’s celebration.
The candidates will be “summoned” before the homily — that is, they will be called by name and presented to the Church.
Missionary character of Catechists
“After the Homily,” the PCPNE adds, “those who access the ministry of the Lectorate are given the Bible, the Word of God that they are called to proclaim. Catechists, on the other hand, are entrusted with a cross, a reproduction of the pastoral cross used first by St. Paul VI, then by St. John Paul II, to recall the missionary character of the service they are about to administer.”
Presence of faithful from across the world
The statement also reveals that among those receiving the ministry of the Lectorate will be members of the lay faithful representing the People of God from South Korea, Pakistan, Ghana, and various parts of Italy.
Also present, to receive the ministry of Catechist, are two lay persons from the Apostolic Vicariate of Yurimaguas (Peru), in the Amazon; two faithful from Brazil who are already involved in the formation of Catechists; a woman from Kumasi, Ghana; the current President of the Centro Oratori Romani (the COR was founded by catechist Arnaldo Canepa, who dedicated more than forty years of his life to the foundation and direction of Oratories for children, the first of which was opened in 1945); and a lay man and a lay woman from Łódź (Poland) and Madrid (Spain), respectively.
Due to travel difficulties caused by the health restrictions currently in force, the hoped-for presence of two faithful, one from the Democratic Republic of Congo and one from Uganda, will not be possible.
The event will be televised and streamed live by Vatican Media.
With thanks to Linda Bordoni and Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.