On the morning of March 28th, Monsignor José Leonardo Lemos Montanet and Monsignor José Rico Pavés, presidents of the Episcopal Commissions for the Liturgy and for the Evangelization, Catechesis and CatechumenateThe meeting was held with journalists to present a document prepared at the request of the plenary session of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. It is the "Guidelines on the institution of the ministries of lector, acolyte and catechist", which will be tested during the next five years and which highlight the richness of the Church and its members.
These guidelines come in response to two documents published by Pope Francis in 2023, "Spiritus Domini"by which he allowed women to be instituted in ministries, and "Antiquum ministerium"by which he instituted a non-liturgical ministry: that of the catechist. As the bishops state in the document presented, the Pope's novelties "have prompted the Spanish Church to reflect on the praxis of the ministries and, as a result of this reflection, the following are offered Orientations".
Reception, openness and hope
Monsignor José Rico Pavés described the document as a "document of reception, open and hopeful". Of reception, because the main idea is "to welcome in the scope of the dioceses of Spain the latest directives of Pope Francis".
On the other hand, it is open in that the Episcopal Conference is in the "process of accepting recent directives and is proposing guidelines of an experimental nature. And, finally, it is hopeful "because it places us in the broad wake of the acceptance of the guidelines of the Vatican Council II".
It is important to delve deeper into the nature and identity of ministries, since "a living Church is a Church rich in ministries," Rico Pavés observed. Such ministries, moreover, are not purely concessions from the clergy to the other members of the People of God, but "have their origin in the Baptism"and thus indicate the richness of all the members of the Church.
José Leonardo Lemos Montanet, when he said that the lector, the acolyte and the catechist "are not substitute ministries, they are not meant to replace priests. They do not substitute, but cooperate with the ordained ministry".
Training and conservation
The tasks of those instituted as ministers, as can be seen, cannot be taken lightly. For this reason, Lemos Montanet emphasized the idea that "those who feel called in the Church to serve in these ministries must be formed in an adequate manner." Hence also the importance of the Orientations presented.
However, when considering these guidelines, the clarification made by Monsignor José Rico Pavés is important: "It is not a matter of inventing new things, but of recovering what has belonged to the Church since ancient times".
The first part contains an explanation of the constituted lay ministries; the second deals with the competencies, nature and identity of the minister instituted as lector, acolyte or catechist; and finally, the bishops present a formation proposal with elements common to all three ministries and specific to each of them.
As the document states, "the lay ministries (read: lector, acolyte and catechist) are services of collaboration and, in special cases, can also make up for the absence of ordained ministries". They are special calls from God to serve that must be discerned by the Church and, in particular, by the bishops.
The lector's ministry is a liturgical ministry "at the service of the Word of God". The competencies of the instituted minister include "proclaiming the non-evangelical readings," substituting for the psalmist or deacon for the prayer of the faithful, and preparing other lectors. In addition, he or she may also be in charge of coordinating other ministries, tasks related to ongoing formation, preparing the faithful for the reception of the sacraments, and other activities related to the reading of Sacred Scripture.
The ministry of the acolyte is liturgical and is "at the service of the altar, the presider and the other ministers". The acolyte is also "an extraordinary minister of the Sacred Liturgy". communion The "coordination of the liturgical team, the preparation and rehearsal of the celebrations, coordination of the other extraordinary ministers, etc." may be entrusted to him.
It is "the great novelty of these Orientations"The catechist is "not strictly speaking a liturgical ministry". The catechist is "at the service of the ad and the transmission of the faith in all its dimensions. Its competencies are very diverse and "it can be entrusted with tasks of formation, work of first proclamation, catechesis of initiation in the Christian life of children, adolescents or adults, ongoing formation, Christian reinitiation, family ministry...".
An opportunity for pastoral renewal
In summary, and as a conclusion to the "Guidelines on the institution of the ministries of lector, acolyte and catechist", the bishops consider this "a precious opportunity for pastoral renewal, which should not be overlooked, and which will be concretized in each diocese according to concrete needs".