The Archdiocesan policies present on this site are the norms and directives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and are designed to be consistent with its mission. All internal operating procedures practices, rules and guidelines of individual schools, parishes and agencies must be consistent with these policies and may not contradict them.




“The Order of Christian Funerals was canonically approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the plenary assembly on 14 November 1985 and was subsequently confirmed by the Apostolic See by decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship on 29 April 1987 (Prob. N. CD 1550/85). …From All Souls Day, 2 November 1989, its use is mandatory in the dioceses of the United States of America. From that date forward no other English version of these rites may be used.” (Order of Christian Funerals: Decree of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops). The Catholic funeral rite is composed of three distinct parts, each with its own structure: the Vigil Service (Wake), the Funeral Liturgy, and the Rite of Committal (Burial or Internment).

Vigil Service (Wake)

The Vigil can be celebrated in a funeral home, a church, or the home of the deceased (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 55). “At the vigil, the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ’s presence” (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 56).

Generally a priest or deacon is the minister at the vigil service; however, any lay person, who has received adequate formation can preside at the Vigil as well as the Rite of Committal (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 14). This service can be a Liturgy of the Word which includes Scripture readings, reflection, and prayers (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 69-81, 82-97) or it can be prayers from the Office for the Dead from the Liturgy of the Hours (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 348-396). When the Vigil Service is in the form of a Liturgy of the Word, it should be composed of the introductory rites, the Scripture readings, the prayer of intercession, and a concluding rite (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 57.). It is often the custom to pray the Rosary before or after the Vigil and this practice is to be commended and encouraged. Since the Vigil is the official liturgical prayer of the community and the Rosary is a private devotion, the faithful should be taught that it is not to be prayed during the Vigil.

This is the time for family and friends to gather to remember their loved one, pray together, and offer support to one another. For this reason, this is a most appropriate time for eulogies to be given; this is also an opportune time for relatives or friends to offer words of remembrance (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 62). It is important to note the definitions of eulogy and remembrance. A eulogy is a formal and lengthy address that praises the life of the deceased, especially his or her accomplishments. A remembrance is very brief, informal and shares the ways in which the deceased touched the life of the speaker.

Funeral Liturgy

The Funeral Liturgy is the central liturgical celebration of the Catholic funeral rite. Gathered together to celebrate the Funeral Liturgy, the Christian community gives thanks to God for Christ’s victory over death, commends their loved one to God’s mercy, and seeks consolation in their time of loss. The Funeral Liturgy is not simply a time to gather to express of sorrow and grief, but most importantly it is a time to worship as a community united in faith. Therefore, it is important the following guidelines be respected.



“The Christian faithful departed are to be given ecclesiastical funeral rites according to the norm of law.” (Can. 1176 §1) A funeral Mass should be considered the norm within the funeral rituals.


The Funeral Mass for any deceased member of the faithful must generally be celebrated in his or her parish church (canon 1177). A pastor may determine what rites may be celebrated at his parish church or the funeral home.

201.3 Funeral Masses at Non-Church Locations:

Any Funeral Mass to be held at a university, school, hospital or at any other site that may have a Catholic chapel on site must have the permission of the pastor and the Chancellor’s office.

201.4 Funeral Rites for the Poor:

Care is to be taken that the poor are not deprived of proper Funeral Rites, including the Funeral Mass (canon 1181).

201.5 Catechumens and Funeral Rights:

Regarding Ecclesiastical Funeral Rites, catechumens are to be considered members of the Church (canon 1183 §1).

201.6 Celebrating Funeral Rights for Member of Another Church:

The Church’s Funeral Rites may be celebrated for a baptized member of another Church or ecclesial community provided this would not be contrary to the wishes of the deceased person. The pastor of the parish is granted the authority to make this determination. (Canon 1183 §3, Order of Christian Funerals #18)



Unless they have given some signs of repentance before death, the following are to be deprived of ecclesiastical Funeral Rites:

notorious heretics,

apostates and schismatics;

persons who had chosen the cremation of their bodies for reasons opposed to the Christian faith;

other manifest sinners for whom ecclesiastical Funeral Rites cannot be granted without public scandal to the faithful.


If some doubt arises about whether a person should be deprived of ecclesiastical Funeral Rights, the Chancery Office is to be consulted (Can. 1184).



A priest from outside the parish should generally be allowed to celebrate the various rites of the Funeral Liturgy when a reasonable request is made. (CIC 265). He must abide by the policies established by the pastor and the Archdiocese of Baltimore.


A) Any priest who wishes to celebrate a Funeral Liturgy must have obtained faculties from the Archdiocese of Baltimore to do so. Priests from outside the Archdiocese of Baltimore must obtain at least Event Faculties before being permitted to minister in any way within the territory of the Archdiocese.

B) The pastor of the parish is responsible for making certain the proper faculties have been obtained prior to allowing any extern priest to minister in his territory. For more information see http://www.archbalt.org/vocations/priests/event-faculties.cfm.



The readers at the funeral liturgy should usually be Roman Catholic. (GIRM nos. 99, 101, and Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, no. 133). Pastors are granted permission to permit a member of another church or ecclesial community to take on the task of reader.



Music at a Funeral Mass must reflect the paschal mystery and be related to the readings from Scripture. (Order of Christian Funerals, nos. 30-34)


The liturgical music selected should “support, console, and uplift participants and help to create in them a spirit of hope in Christ’s victory over death and in the Christian’s share in that victory.” (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 31)



The norm of law is that there are to be no eulogies at a Funeral Mass. It is up to the pastor to the parish to determine whether a remembrance will be permitted at a Funeral Mass for his parish. If a remembrance is permitted is must take place according to the procedures listed below. Visiting clergy are required to abide by the decision of the pastor and this policy (GIRM no.382).


A) If a pastor permits a remembrance, it should take place immediately before the Funeral Liturgy begins.

B) It should be limited to 3-5 minutes.

C) Only one person should represent the family and friends. Multiple remembrances are not permitted.

D) The pastor may request a written outline of the proposed remembrance remarks, if he deems it appropriate.

E) The current liturgical guidelines clearly indicate, “[a]t Funeral Masses there should usually be a short Homily, but to the exclusion of a funeral eulogy of any kind.”



Pastors and associate pastors are granted permission for the Funeral Liturgy to be celebrated in the presence of the cremated remains. (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on March 21, 1997- Prot. N. CD 1589/96/L and Order of Christian Funerals Appendix 2: Cremation: Decree of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.)


A) In every case, the priest must consider the reasons for the request and receive the necessary assurance that the cremated remains will be handled with reverence and will be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. (Order of Christian Funerals Appendix 2: Cremation #417)

B) If there are plans to scatter the cremains, a clergyman or representative of the Church should not be present for the Rite of Committal.



The Rite of Committal concludes the Funeral Rites. The community gathers together for a final act of public worship and expresses the hope in the glory of the resurrection.


Internment of the faithful is traditional and preferable. However, cremation may be permitted provided it has not been chosen as a sign of rejection of the Church’s teaching regarding reverence for the human body or the resurrection of the dead (Can. 1176 §3).


A baptized member of another Christian Church or ecclesial community, who for a reasonable cause requests it, may be buried in consecrated ground (Can. 1183 §3).


For funerals involving prominent persons or for other concerns regarding the proper funeral rites to be accorded a member of the faithful, the Chancery should be consulted.


The following are best practices for funeral rites:

Providing the bereaved family with the proper information (in written form if possible) regarding these policies as the funeral is planned assists in establishing expectations in keeping with the Church’s teachings;

Asking the person giving a remembrance (if permitted) to provide the priest with a written copy of what will be “remembered” well before the Funeral Mass so the remarks can be focused and within the expected time;

Establishing a practice of having a time (an hour or half hour) BEFORE the Funeral Mass for eulogies at the Church;

Being clear and consistent with staff and parishioners about what is permitted and what is not so that all feel fairly treated; and

Having any comments from family and friends be done away from the Ambo.


“The people of God accomplish and perfect this continual repentance in many different ways. They share in the sufferings of Christ by enduring its own difficulties, carry out works of mercy and charity, and adopt ever more fully the outlook of the Gospel message. Thus, the people of God become in the world a sign of conversion to God. All this the Church expresses in its life and celebrates in the liturgy when the faithful confess that they are sinners and ask pardon of God and of their brothers and sisters. This happens in penitential services, in the proclamation of the word of God, in prayer, and in the penitential aspects of the eucharistic celebration.”

In the sacrament of penance the faithful “obtain from the mercy of God pardon for their sins against him; at the same time they are reconciled with the Church which they wounded by their sins and which works for their conversion by charity, example and prayer.”

(From the Rite of Penance, Introduction, No. 4)


301 The Sacrament of Penance[1]


Administration of the Sacrament of Penance in the Archdiocese of Baltimore shall be in complete accord with all of the ritual components of the Rite of Penance. Pastoral practice must follow Church teaching and discipline.


Particular attention should be given to the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, to the “Instruction” introducing the Rite of Penance, and to the pertinent canons of the revised Code of Canon Law (Canons 959-991). This teaching and discipline provide the foundation for the development of appropriate pastoral practice.

[1]For celebration of the Sacrament of Penance in conjunction with the process of initiation see §308 of this policy, below.



302.1.1 Opportunity:

Every parish shall offer ample opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance in the individual form.


While the custom of celebrating the Sacrament of Penance on Saturday afternoon is
acknowledged, various opportunities other than just prior to the Saturday evening Mass should be explored.

302.1.2 Time: When a parish schedules the Sacrament of Penance just prior to the celebration of Mass, both priests and penitents should be given adequate time to prepare for the celebration of the Eucharist. For this reason, confessions between closely-spaced Masses should be avoided. Regularly scheduled confessions between Sunday Masses is not permitted.

302.1.3 Conflict with Mass: The Sacrament of Penance shall not be celebrated while a Mass is being celebrated in the same place.


302.2.1 Area for Reconciliation:

Ordinarily, the Rite for Reconciliation of Individual Penitents shall be celebrated either in a confessional or a reconciliation room. Confessionals or other suitable arrangements which ensure anonymity of the penitent shall be provided.

302.2.2 Reconciliation Room:

Every parish church and place of worship where confessions are regularly scheduled must make provision for at least one reconciliation room, which provides the penitent with all the options of the Rite.


A reconciliation room is, by definition, a physical setting which provides the penitent with all the options of the Rite (i.e., both face-to-face and fixed screen for anonymity). Attention should be given to its size, furnishings, proper lighting, ventilation, acoustics and liturgical symbols. It is not to be used for any purpose other than the celebration of all the sacraments.


The Sacrament of Penance is a liturgical act of worship. Church law requires penitents to mention all serious sins, committed after baptism, both number and kind, of which they are aware and which have not yet been acknowledged in individual confession and submitted for individual absolution.

302.3.1 Form of the Sacrament: So that this form may be clearly understood as an experience of ecclesial and liturgical prayer, the Word of God should be included in the individual form of the sacrament.

302.3.2 Proper Garb for the Confessor: The confessor may follow the custom common in the United States of wearing a stole over an alb, or a cassock and surplice, or a clerical suit.

302.3.3 Role of the Confessor: Respecting the personal style in which the penitents choose to confess their sins and discern the movements of the Spirit in their lives, the confessor shall assist them to make a complete confession.


301.4.1 Penance: A penance shall be assigned by the priest or mutually agreed upon by confessor and penitent, and should be appropriate for the individual.

301.4.2 Absolution: The Church’s official words of absolution, as found in the Rite of Penance, must always be said.


Those with disabilities, who may need additional help making a good confession, are to be included in parish celebrations of the sacrament of Penance or in celebrations in small communities of faith that are flexible and responsive to a wide range of needs. The celebrant should accommodate the special needs of the individual penitent within the confines of church law.

302.5.1 The Penitent: Only those who have the use of reason are capable of committing serious sin. As long as the individual is capable of having a sense of contrition for having committed sin, even if he or she cannot describe the sin precisely in words, the person may receive sacramental absolution. Those with profound mental disabilities, who cannot experience even minimal contrition, may be invited to participate in penitential services with the rest of the community to the extent of their ability.

302.5.2 Unique Circumstances: In the case of individuals with poor communication skills, sorrow for sin is to be accepted even if this repentance is expressed through some gesture rather than verbally. In some cases where verbal communication is limited, there are a variety of aids/tools that the penitent can use to assist her or him in the confession process.

302.5.3 Autism: The National Catholic Partnership for Persons with Disabilities recently developed a mobile app for persons with severe Autism who are unable to speak. The penitent is able to tap on a picture that represents their sin and show it the priest. In posing questions and in the assignment of penances, the confessor is to proceed with prudence and discretion, mindful that he is at once judge and healer, minister of justice as well as of mercy (Canons 978, § 1; 979; 981).

302.5.4 Deaf Catholics: The following options are available for deaf Catholics receiving the sacrament of penance:

Sign Language: Catholics who are deaf should have the opportunity to confess to a priest able to communicate with them in sign language, if sign language is their primary means of communication.

Interpreter: They may also confess through an approved sign language interpreter of their choice (Canon 990). The interpreter is strictly bound to respect the seal of confession (Canons 983, § 2 and 1388, § 2).

Written Confession: When no priest with signing skills is available, nor sign language interpreter requested, Catholics who are deaf should be permitted to make their confession in writing. The written materials are to be returned to the penitent or otherwise properly destroyed.



The Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution is one of the legitimate options of the Rite of Penance afforded to all the faithful on occasion, particularly during the seasons of Advent and Lent.

303.1.1 Communal Celebration: Communal celebration shows more clearly the ecclesial nature of penance. When a number of penitents assemble at the same time to receive sacramental reconciliation, the Word of God is proclaimed, followed by an examination of conscience.

303.1.2 Individual Confession: If necessary, several priests should be available in suitable places to hear individual confessions and to reconcile the penitents. After confessing and being absolved individually, all join in praising God together.


The physical arrangements for celebration of this Second Form shall enable individuals to confess either face-to-face or anonymously.


During the communal liturgy, there shall be the usual distribution of liturgical roles.

303.4 Planning Required:

This form of the celebration of the sacrament demands proper and thorough liturgical planning. As with all forms, the basic format of the Rite shall be followed, however, considerable variety is possible in terms of Scriptural texts, themes, visual and other specific components of the liturgical action. Communal prayer and singing are integral components of this form.

303.5 Adaptation of the Rite:

Pastoral prudence may suggest adapting the celebration of the rite appropriate for the particular group participating in the sacrament. (e.g. School children, confirmation retreats, those with physical challenges, etc.)

303.6 Basis of Planning:

The Rite of Penance, with its Appendices should be used as the primary resource in planning penitential celebrations.


When using the Second Form, penitents must make individual integral confession of their sins, and absolution is always to be given individually.



In the Archdiocese of Baltimore at the present time, there are no generally accepted cases in which the conditions warranting the imparting of general absolution would be foreseen to exist. Should a confessor believe that such conditions exist in individual cases, he is required to obtain prior permission of the diocesan bishop.


The revised Code of Canon Law specifies the conditions under which general absolution may be imparted. Canon 961, §1, 1º, 2º states:

§1 Absolution cannot be imparted in a general manner to a number of penitents at once without previous individual confession unless:

1º the danger of death is imminent and there is not time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents;

2º a serious necessity exists, that is, when in light of the number of penitents a supply of confessors is not readily available rightly to hear the confessions of individuals within a suitable time so that the penitents are forced to be deprived of sacramental grace or holy communion for a long time[1] through no fault of their own; it is not considered a sufficient necessity if confessors cannot be readily available only because of the great number of penitents as can occur on the occasion of some great feast or pilgrimage.

(See also Rite of Penance #60).

[1]The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has determined that the word diu (“for a long time”) in Canon 961, §1,2º should be understood as “a month.”


305.1 Non-Sacramental Penitential Services:

In addition to three sacramental forms of reconciliation, the Rite of Penance also offers non-sacramental, communal penitential services. These are further options which may be afforded to the faithful.

305.2 Avoiding Confusion with the Sacrament of Penance:

In planning, publicizing and celebrating such non-sacramental services, care must be taken that people do not confuse these with the celebration of the sacrament of penance.

305.3 Cathechetical Opportunity:

Non-sacramental penitential services provide a catechetical opportunity for catechumens and candidates during their conversion, as well as helping children gradually form their conscience about sin in human life and about freedom from sin through Christ. (See #37 Rite of Penance) These services could also be used in the following situations: RCIA, Lenten service in predominantly non-Catholic student body, Respect Life, or by an individual teacher in classroom setting.

305.4 Presiding Minister:

If an ordained minister is not present, a non-ordained minister may preside at such non-sacramental penitential services.

305.5 Source for Planning:

The appendices of the Rite of Penance should be used as a resource book in planning such penitential services.



When Catholics return to the Church after a long absence, seeking to be reconciled, priests are to be sensitive to their personal history and unique spiritual needs. Through the Sacrament of Penance, the returning Catholics are welcomed back to the Eucharistic table.

306.2 Sensitivity Needed:

Pastoral leaders should be sensitive to the needs of returning Catholics and be aware of various methods and programs to assist in the process of welcoming them back.

306.3 Returning Catholics not included in the Catechumenate:

Ordinarily, returning Catholics should not be included in the Catechumenate with the unbaptized or with Christians seeking full communion with the Church. (See also §308 The Sacrament of Penance and Christian Initiation, herein)

306.4 Rite of Welcoming Not Appropriate:

Though the process of welcoming back returning Catholics may parallel aspects of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), they do not belong in the RCIA process. The Rite of Welcoming is not appropriate for fully initiated Catholics returning to the Church. (RCIA #411, RCIA National Statute #36. See Policy 307, herein.)


Those who plan for celebrations of Reconciliation involving children need to be aware of and sensitive to the particular stages of moral and psychological development of these age groups. Emphasizing the mercy of God while enabling people to assess their lifestyles, relationships, attitudes, values, and behavior is always a delicate responsibility. It is especially important when dealing with children. God’s loving mercy and forgiveness need to be clearly demonstrated. (Signs of God’s Love, Regulations and Guidelines for Sacramental Catechesis, Part One, Archdiocese of Baltimore, [2004; hereinafter SOGL-1], Section III-B-3)

“Catechesis for children prior to their first reception of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation must always respect their natural disposition, ability, age, and circumstances. Since the family is intimately involved with the formation of a child’s moral conscience and ordinarily integrates the child into the wider ecclesial communities, parents should be involved in the preparation of their children for this sacrament so that they can affirm and reinforce frequent participation in the sacraments. They orient the child toward God and encourage continue growth in the understanding of God’s mercy and love.” (National Directory for Catechesis, 135)


307.1.1 Separate Instruction:

Formal instruction for the Sacrament of Penance must be separate and distinct from preparation for the first reception of Eucharist so that the integrity of each sacrament is maintained. (SOGL-1 III-A-2.)

307.1.2 Parental Involvement:

The parents’ right and responsibility to direct the religious formation of their children must be safeguarded and enhanced. For this reason, preparation for first reception of the sacrament shall involve the parents and provide guidance to them in helping prepare their children. (SOGL-1 and Canon 793)

307.1.3 Age of Reason:

Typically when children reach the “age of reason”, they and their parents are invited to participate in catechesis for Reconciliation. (SOGL-1 III-A-1-2)

307.1.4 Parental Formation:

Parental formation in the Church’s understanding of the Sacrament of Penance is a prerequisite for their ability to assist in the preparation of their children for the sacrament and in order to make an informed decision regarding their children’s readiness for reception of the sacrament.

307.1.5 Role of the Parish:

The parish is responsible for offering formation and resources for children and their parents for the first reception of the Sacrament of Penance.

307.1.6 Children with Disabilities:

It is important to invite children with disabilities and their parents into this process and provide appropriate accommodations for them. (SOGL-1 III-A-1) (See also Policy §302.5 herein)


Children shall be offered a genuine opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance before their first reception of the Eucharist. (Canon 914 and SOLG-1 III-A-2) To facilitate this, every parish shall have a special celebration of the Sacrament of Penance before the first reception of the Eucharist for those who have been prepared for the two sacraments. (Canon 914 and SOGL-1 III-A-3)

307.2.1 First Experience:

It would be well if the child’s first experience with the Sacrament of Penance occurred within a communal setting. All celebrations of reconciliation with children should be well planned and respect the liturgical integrity of the rite. (SOGL-1 III-3)

307.2.2 Collaborative Instruction:

In order to provide suitable catechesis for the first celebration of the Sacrament of Penance before the reception of the Eucharist, parishes in collaboration with parents should provide instruction for the Sacrament of Penance prior to first Eucharist. (cf. c.777)

307.2.3 Appropriate and Ongoing Instruction:

It is understood that such instruction will be commensurate with the ability of the child to understand. The catechesis for these two sacraments, as well as all others, is to be ongoing so that there will be development in the person’s knowledge and understanding as he or she matures.

307.3 Outreach to Parents:

The pastor and his staff shall, when necessary, explain to the parents the Church’s discipline in regard to first confession before first Communion and the catechetical reasons for it. (SOGL-1 III-A1-2) Such an explanation should help the parents understand the values underlying the norm. It is important that both parents and children correctly understand the nature of sin and forgiveness. The sacrament is not intended to be an experience of judgment that condemns but of a love that pardons. (SOGL-1 III-A1-2)

307.4 Choosing not to Receive Sacrament of Penance:

In those cases in which a child, because of exceptional reasons and under the guidance of his or her parents, chooses not to receive the Sacrament of Penance, he or she shall not be deprived of the right to receive his or her First Holy Communion. The child shall be encouraged to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance later so that he or she will not be deprived of it altogether. (SOGL-1 III-A-2)


As with adults, children have the right to celebrate the sacrament face-to-face or from behind a screen. Children shall always be free to choose their own confessor.


Although not a sacrament of initiation, there are often questions about celebrating the Sacrament of Penance in conjunction with the process of initiation. These policies are provided here for the sake of completeness.


Candidates are to receive a thorough catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance and to be encouraged in the frequent celebration of the sacrament. (National Statutes #27 & 36) They shall be invited to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance prior to their reception into full communion, but not at the same liturgy. Candidates are required to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance prior to their reception into the full communion of the Roman Catholic Church if they are guilty of serious sin. All candidates should be encouraged to do so in any case. (RCIA #482)


Catechumens preparing for baptism (both children and adults) do not celebrate the Sacrament of Penance prior to baptism. They are to be invited to participate in non-sacramental penitential rites as found in the RCIA #141, 291, so that they may come to understand the reality of sin and appreciate the comforting message of God’s pardon.


Non-Catholic children who are baptized in infancy but preparing for reception into the full communion of the Roman Catholic Church should be adequately prepared and encouraged to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance some time prior to their formal reception into the Catholic Church. (RCIA #482, National Statutes #27)


Rev. Joseph M. Champlin, “Second Thoughts on First Penance,” Church Magazine, Spring, 1996, pp. 39-40.

Andrew Cuschieri, The Sacrament of Reconciliation, A Theological and Canonical Treatise. New York: University Press of America, 1992.

James Dallen, The Reconciling Community: The Rite of Penance. New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1986. Currently published by Liturgical Press.

James Dallen & Joseph Favazza, Eds. Removing the Barriers: The Practice of Reconciliation. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1991.

Martin Doodle & Geoffrey Rowell, Eds. Confession and Absolution. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990.

Robert J. Kennedy, Ed. Reconciliation: The Continuing Agenda. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1987.

Jeffrey Sobosan, Act of Contrition: Personal Responsibility and Sin. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1979.

Rev. Paul Turner, “Reconciliation,” Ministry & Liturgy Magazine, 1996, Resource Publications, Inc.

Xavier Thevenot, Sin: A Christian View for Today. Liguori: Liguori Publications, 1984.

Rite of Penance, Catholic Books Publishing Co., New York, 1975.

Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1995. http://www.usccb.org


In ministering to the engaged couple and in celebrating their marriage, the Church not only expresses its love and support for the couple, but acknowledges the value of their married life as a help to each other to attain holiness, and as a blessing for society and the life of the Church. In forming a family, they become a domestic church. By word and example they are the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #11)

Because of the dignity and holiness  of the vocation of Christian marriage, the Church has an obligation to do all that it can to preserve the sacredness of marriage and offer its members the guidance and support that will help to prepare a couple for their married life.

Parish ministers sometimes encounter couples who might not worship regularly or be fully catechized. Their notions of marriage may be more influenced by the media than by the Christian tradition. Furthermore, one of the partners may not be Catholic or Christian.

For many couples, marriage preparation is their first experience as adults of encountering Christ through the Church. They may come with disinterest, apprehension, misconceptions or unreasonable expectations. But their coming to the Church at this moment is in itself a movement of grace.

Parish ministers need to see in this occasion an opportunity for evangelization. A warm welcome and a genuine concern for their welfare may be a turning point in their lives as they encounter Christ from a new perspective. This demands patience and sensitivity and, above all, a love that can both challenge as well as rejoice with the couple preparing for marriage.

These policies and procedures cannot cover every possible situation pastoral ministers will encounter in serving the needs of the engaged. However, they are intended to give order and direction to our celebration of marriage in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

While respecting the personal and familial nature of each marriage celebration, the Church has an obligation, in the exercise of its teaching office, to lead and guide all the faithful to a truly Catholic understanding of marriage as a public act, a communal treasure, and a sacrament of the Church and for the Church.

The council fathers of Vatican II taught that “The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws…God himself is the author of marriage” (Gaudiun et Spes 48, n. 1). The Church teaches that marriage is a covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. Through this marriage covenant, both a man and a woman enter a permanent relationship that is characterized by unity, exclusivity, and indissolubility. A man and the woman marry by consenting to give and to accept each other through this irrevocable marriage covenant. 



The vocation to Christian marriage demands a serious commitment. Consequently, the Church desires to do all that it can so that couples are adequately prepared to accept the responsibilities of Christian marriage and to fulfill them faithfully.


The parish community shall take responsibility for preparing couples for their wedding day and for the life-time commitment of living a Christian marriage.


The formal preparation for marriage shall begin at least six months before the anticipated date of the wedding.


Canon 1065 §1 states “Catholics who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation are to receive it before they are admitted to marriage if it can be done without grave inconvenience.”


A) Immediate preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation could be included as part of the marriage preparation process.

B) The right to marriage cannot be denied if a person has not yet been confirmed.

C) Pastoral leaders should assist the confirmation candidate in seeking out opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with other parishes or at an Archdiocesan celebration at time prior to the wedding.

D) The celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation presumes a proper disposition on the part of the candidate.


No firm date for a wedding shall be set until the conclusion of the couple’s first meeting with the parish minister and the parties are determined to be free to marry in the Catholic Church.


In addition to the personal interviews and the instruction and counseling provided by the parish minister, a variety of marriage preparation offerings are available to meet the individual needs of engaged couples. The parish minister shall recommend the appropriate marriage preparation process in which the couple is to participate.

401.6.1 Preparation: Priests, deacons, pastoral associates, and Pastoral Life Directors are to share the responsibility for preparing couples for marriage with parishioners who have received suitable catechesis and formation in marriage preparation and who can appropriately minister to engaged couples.

401.6.2 Persons with Disabilities: The inclusion of persons with disabilities in sponsor couple programs is an especially effective way of supporting both the needs and the gifts of couples preparing for marriage.

401.6.3 Six Sessions: It is strongly urged that there be six sessions devoted to marriage preparation:

  • Session I: Initial meeting with parish minister, including the Pre-nuptial Investigation.
  • Sessions II, III, and IV: Include catechesis and personal formation for marriage.
    • These sessions may be satisfied by three sessions with a pastoral minister or by attending a marriage preparation program, in accord with the Archdiocesan Sacramental Regulations and Guidelines for marriage. See the Archdiocesan website for approved forms for marriage preparation programs: www.archbalt.org/family-life/marriage-family/marriage-preparation/index.cfm.
    • Topics for the sessions should include catechesis on the sacrament and vocation of marriage, communication skills, decision making, finances, spirituality, sexuality, and family planning.​
  • Session V: Follow-up session with parish minister, to discuss the catechetical and personal formation sessions.
  • Session VI: Follow-up session with parish minister, to complete planning for the wedding liturgy.

401.6.4 Parish Preparation: Parishes should maintain at least one type of process for catechetical and personal formation of couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. Parishes may also collaborate with neighboring parishes to provide this part of marriage preparation for couples who request it. Parishes may collaborate with the Office of Family Life and Ministry for the formation of pastoral ministers and for support in offering marriage preparation opportunities.

401.6.5 Publicizing Policies: Expectations for marriage preparation are to appear in the parish bulletin, parish website and in parish sacramental handbooks.


The right of the faithful to marry must be properly respected and the decision to delay the marriage of any couple should be approached cautiously.

401.7.1 Special Circumstances: When special circumstances are present, (for example:, an unwillingness to prepare for marriage; a lack of openness to faith; a serious lack of maturity; teenagers 18 years of age or younger; pregnancy; extended separation before or after the wedding) or if some reasonable question is raised concerning the couple’s readiness to marry, delaying the wedding would be prudent.  Further consultation and evaluation may be required before a wedding date can be set.

401.7.2 Right of Appeal: To insure that a couple’s rights are respected, a couple must be informed of their right to appeal the decision to delay their wedding date to the Chancellor.

401.7.3 Consultation: The parish minister should consult with the Chancellor in difficult cases or where concerns are expressed by the couple.

401.7.4 Decision of Parish Minister: Upon consultation with the Chancellor, the parish minister can decide:

  • The special circumstances warrant delaying the wedding.
  • The special circumstances are not of a serious enough nature to impede a couple’s ability to enter into a successful marriage. If such a decision is reached, the date of the wedding can be set and formal marriage preparation can begin.
  • Additional information is needed. The parish minister will undertake a more in-depth assessment. No date for the wedding can be set until a positive decision has been made.



The celebration of Catholic marriage takes place in the midst of the community. The presiding minister, who is the official witness of marriage for the Church, is presumed to have a pastoral relationship with the couple.


Priests and deacons who have appropriate faculties have the responsibility for witnessing Catholic marriages.

402.2.1 Clergy Incardinated in the Archdiocese of Baltimore: Faculties of the Archdiocese of Baltimore provide that clergy incardinated in this Archdiocese have the general faculty to witness all marriages within the parish where they are assigned when one party is of the Latin rite. If they wish to witness marriages outside their territory, the permission of the proper pastor is required for validity

402.2.2 Religious Order Clergy or Externs: Religious order clergy or externs, who are assigned as territorial pastors or associate pastors, have the faculty to witness validly at marriages within their boundaries for parishioners or for non-parishioners provided one is of the Latin rite. If they wish to witness marriages outside their territory, the permission of the proper pastor is required for validity.

402.2.3 Visiting Clergy: Visiting Clergy who have faculties to witness marriages in their dioceses, must obtain Event Faculties (see http://www.archbalt.org/vocations/priests/index.cfm) from the Office of Clergy Personnel and delegation to witness a marriage in the Archdiocese of Baltimore from the local pastor of the parish in which the marriage is to take place or from the  Tribunal (Canon 1111) after appropriate conditions have been met. Clerics from other dioceses must comply with Archdiocesan requirements to receive Event Faculties prior to their arrival to witness a wedding or other liturgical event.  Pastors of parishes are charged with communicating this requirement to all clerics seeking such permissions. Pastors should be certain such faculties are issued before the wedding or any other liturgical event takes place.

402.2.4 Deacons: When deacons minister at a marriage celebrated at Mass, the priest who presides at the Mass is ordinarily the witness of the marriage vows. For pastoral reasons, the priest may permit the deacon to witness the marriage vows at Mass.

402.2.5 Non-Catholic Officiants: Marriages involving non-Catholic officiants require a dispensation from canonical form that is to be obtained from the Diocesan Tribunal. (see Policy §404.3.1., Place of Wedding, herein)


Parishes shall be sensitive to the special language and cultural needs of those being married in the churches of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.


When a couple cannot find an ordained clergy available to meet their special language or cultural needs, the priest should recommend that the couple contact the Office of Marriage and Family Life to inquire about the possibility of making special arrangements for their situation.


The standard of evaluation for readiness to marriage is the same for all, including those with persons with disabilities. Pastors and others preparing couples for entrance into marriage, should keep in mind the right of all to receive the sacraments if properly disposed. Each couple is unique and the proper prenuptial investigation and preparation may be tailored for their situation.

402.4.1 Clergy and Pastoral Life Directors: Clergy and Pastoral Life Directors are to evaluate readiness for marriage on an individual basis and in light of pastoral judgment based upon consultation with diocesan personnel involved with disability issues, as well as with canonical, medical and other experts.

402.4.2 Expert Opinions:  Medical and canonical opinions should be sought in determining the presence of any impediments to marriage.

402.4.3 Paraplegia:  Paraplegia in itself does not always imply impotence nor the permanence of such a condition, and it is not in itself an impediment to readiness for marriage. In case of doubt with regard to impotence, marriage may not be impeded.


Although it is preferable that both witnesses at a marriage ceremony in the Catholic Church be Catholic, when circumstances warrant, non-Catholic persons may serve as witnesses without the need for special permission.  A witness to marriage must be over the age of 18 years and able to indicate what events transpired during the wedding ceremony.  (c. 97).


Catholics may serve as witnesses at weddings of friends of other faiths except where there is reason to believe that the marriage to be witnessed is invalid.


Because there are a number of canonical and legal consequences to a marriage celebrated in the Church, it is important for the parish priest or deacon to process all the necessary documentation and forms required by civil law and the canon law of the Church. Accurate records and adherence to requirements for particular documentation, including dispensations, where applicable, are a serious pastoral responsibility. When a visiting priest is delegated to witness a marriage, the pastor or pastoral life director is responsible for seeing that all necessary documentation has been procured prior to the wedding.

402.7.1 Baptismal Certificate:  A Catholic baptismal certificate issued within the last six months should always be obtained. Baptismal certificates from other denominations should also be obtained.

402.7.2 Notations: Catholic baptismal certificates should always be authenticated personally by one of the priests, deacons, or parish ministers. They must include an indication about the presence or absence of all notations about sacraments received, any previous marriages, religious profession, or ordination.

402.7.3 Photocopies:  Photocopies of documents (i.e., baptismal and marriage certificates, divorce papers, etc.) should not be accepted unless they are certified by a priest or proper authority. Original documents must be presented and a photocopy may then be placed in the prenuptial file. (See Sacramental Records Policy for the Archdiocese of Baltimore)

402.7.4 Civil Law Requirements:  The civil requirements for marriage (e.g. a civil marriage license) must be met prior to the celebration of the marriage in the Church.

402.7.5 Dispensations and Permissions:  Requests for dispensations for disparity of cult and special permissions should be sent to the Tribunal in a timely fashion, accompanied by the full premarital file. Dispensation forms should be filled out fully and the names of the parties should be properly entered on the return stub. Documents to be retained in the prenuptial file include grants of dispensations or permissions, the prenuptial questionnaire, recent baptismal records, all legal documents (civil or ecclesiastical) needed to confirm the parties’ freedom to marry, and witness affidavits if needed.

Common Types of Permissions


Result If Not Granted

Who May Grant in Archdiocese of Balt

Mixed religion

c.1124, 1125

Marriage illicit

Diocesan Bishop, Vicar Bishops, Vicar General, Tribunal Vicars of the Catholic party














Marriage of Transients

c. 1071, 1°

Marriage illicit

Marriage unable to be recognized by civil law

c. 1071, 2°

Marriage illicit

Marriage of person bound by natural obligations toward another party or children arising from a previous union

c. 1071, 3°

Marriage illicit

Marriage of person who has notoriously left the Catholic faith

c. 1071, 4°

Marriage illicit

Marriage of minor child when parents reasonably opposed

c. 1071, 6°

Marriage illicit

Ceremony by priest in non-Catholic church

c. 1118

Marriage illicit

Ceremony in place other than a church

c. 1118

Marriage illicit

Permission for Catholic to be married outside their parish

c. 1115

Marriage illicit

Local Ordinary or Pastor

Common Types of Dispensations Canon Result If No Dispensation Who May Grant in Archdiocese of Balto
Disparity of Worship

(Catholic & Non-baptized person)

c. 1086 Marriage is invalid Diocesan Bishop, Auxiliary Bishops, Vicar General, Tribunal delegates

of the Catholic party

Disparity of Worship ad cautelum

(doubtful baptism)

c. 1086 Marriage is invalid

(blood relationship)

c. 1091 Marriage is invalid

(marital relationship)

c. 1092 Marriage is invalid
Canonical Form

(not available for 2 Catholics)

c. 1127 § 2 Marriage is invalid
Delegation c. 1111 Marriage is invalid Diocesan Bishops, Local Ordinary, Pastor or Associate Pastor or parish Deacon

402.7.6 Role of the Tribunal:  Requests for prenuptial permissions, dispensations, or a Nihil Obstat, as well as for declarations of nullity due to lack of form should be sent to the Tribunal. The Tribunal handles all formal and documentary annulment processes and all Pauline Privilege and Privilege of the Faith Cases.

402.7.7 Dispensations from Canonical Form:  Dispensations from canonical form can be granted only by the local Ordinary of the Catholic party and not by the Ordinary of the place where the marriage will be celebrated. Prenuptial papers for a marriage celebrated with a dispensation from canonical form are to be filed in the parish that made application.

402.7.8 Transfer of Pre-Nuptial File to Place of Marriage Outside the Diocese: According to traditional protocol, marriage papers for marriages to be celebrated in a Catholic Church in another diocese should be transmitted through the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Baltimore for review and the granting of a visum or nihil obstat, who will in turn send it to the diocese where the wedding will be celebrated. (See Policy §404.15. Weddings Occurring in Another Diocese, herein)

402.7.9No Fees:  No fee is required for marriage permissions, or dispensations.

402.7.10  For those who have been previously married:

  • Decree of Nullity:  If a decree of nullity of the previous marriage has been issued by the Tribunal, a copy of this should be included in the prenuptial papers. If the decree places a restriction of any kind on the party planning to enter a new marriage, no wedding date should be set before first contacting the Tribunal for additional information and consultation. (Canon 1684 §1.)
  • Lack of Form:  If not previously obtained, petitions for a declaration of nullity due to lack of form must be filled out fully and signed by both the petitioner and the parish minister.

Such petitions must be accompanied by the following documents:

  • A certificate of the marriage attempted outside the Church,
  • A record of the civil divorce or annulment,
  • A recent baptismal certificate of the Catholic party, and
  • If a baptismal certficate is not available, affidavits from two qualified witnesses testifying that the marriage in question was never validated by a Catholic priest or deacon.

No wedding date should be set for a marriage requiring a declaration of nullity due to lack of form until after the decree of nullity has been issued.

402.7.11 Record of Marriage:  Marriages are to be recorded according to the proper procedures in the parish record book of marriages. Notification of the marriage is sent to the Church of Baptism. (See Canon 1121 and the Archdiocese of Baltimore Sacramental Records Policy)



A fair and reasonable parish policy needs to be established to ensure that Catholics have reasonable options available to them in scheduling their marriages at Mass or outside Mass. This will have to take into account the full schedule of parish services and the number of available clergy in each parish.


The parish policy for the scheduling of marriage celebrations should be clearly communicated to all parishioners. The parish policy should appear regularly in the parish bulletin. parish website, and be available in print as part of whatever marriage preparation materials are given to engaged couples. Since the number of weddings celebrated at Mass may be limited in a particular parish, couples should be helped to understand that it will not always be possible to celebrate a wedding on the day of their first choice.


In the scheduling of marriage liturgies, the communal nature of the sacrament of marriage should be fostered. Appropriate catechesis of the faithful is necessary to help the community to understand the communal dimension of this sacrament. This is especially important, if marriages are to be celebrated occasionally at a regularly scheduled Sunday Mass or if several marriages are celebrated together.


In establishing a parish marriage schedule, the integrity of the liturgical calendar and the community’s celebration of Sunday should be respected.




O.T. Sundays
Parish Mass Yes No 1 Yes
Extra Mass Yes Yes All Yes
Sundays of:
Advent/Lent/Easter Yes No 1 Yes
Epiphany, Pentecost,

Corpus Christi

Yes No No Yes
Sundays of Christmas Season:
Parish Mass Yes No 1 Yes
Extra Mass Yes Yes All Yes
Christmas Yes No No Yes
Paschal Tridium No No No No
Easter Sunday Yes No No Yes
Easter Octave Yes No 1 Yes
All Saints Yes No No Yes
Assumption Yes No 1 Yes
January 1 Yes No No Yes
Immaculate Conception Yes No No Yes

403.5 Policy for the Number and Time of Weddings:

A parish, through consultation with the Chancellor, may develop a policy scheduling the number and the time of weddings on a given day depending on the pastoral situation and the number of ministers available to celebrate marriages. This parish policy also includes the scheduling of special wedding anniversary Masses.


The Ritual of Marriage outside Mass (II) may be used with no restriction, keeping in mind the character of the season.


A Catholic satisfies the obligation to participate in the Mass in a Catholic rite by attending or assisting at any mass, including wedding Masses, on a Sunday, Holy Day, Saturday evening or the vigil of a Holy Day (Canon 1248). While the Code of Canon Law does not provide an explicit definition, “evening” is generally understood as late afternoon from about 4:00 PM.


Parish communities may invite more than one couple to consider celebrating their weddings at the same ceremony or Mass. Parishes shall continue to offer couples the option, however, of having individual celebrations of marriage. (Canon 1115)


If visiting Catholic clergy have been invited to witness a wedding, it is understood that they are to honor the parish’s scheduling policy as well as Archdiocesan and parochial expectations for marriage preparation and the celebration of the liturgy. They are also to obtain proper Event Faculties through the Office of Clergy Personnel before they arrive to witness the event. (See Policy §402.1.1., Responsibility for Witnessing, herein)



The Catholic experience of celebrating marriage vows clearly conveys the Church’s beliefs about the Sacrament of Marriage. The Rite of Christian Marriage needs to be respected in its structure and content.


The pastoral circumstances of the couple, including their religious and family background and practice, their language and culture, the available resources of the parish, the liturgical norms, and canon law are to be considered in the course of planning the celebration of Christian marriage. The Rite of Christian Marriage offers a number of legitimate options to meet these various needs.


Clergy and laity involved in the marriage preparation of engaged couples should help couples appreciate the liturgical nature and the liturgical norms relevant to the Rite of Christian Marriage. Parish ministers should encourage engaged couples to avoid all forms of extravagance that would detract from the sacred character of marriage as a sacrament of the church.


The Rite of Christian Marriage for two Catholics may take place at Mass. However, this presumes that the couples regularly participates in the Sunday Eucharist and are not strangers to their own faith tradition. In some cases, pastoral ministers may need to respectfully encourage the celebration of marriage outside of Mass.


Parish policies governing the style of marriage celebrations in the parish should be clearly communicated and easily accessible for engaged couples. These parish policies should appear at regular intervals in the parish bulletin.


In the Rite of Christian Marriage, the presiding minister serves as the Church’s official witness. A priest or deacon is never permitted to officiate at a wedding in the role of merely a civil official; nor may he officiate at a wedding in which neither of the parties is Catholic, except in the case of catechumens. (Also see Policy §404.8.1 Christian Marriages Involving Catechumens, herein).


As is the norm in all liturgical celebrations, the assembly shall be encouraged to participate in the wedding liturgy by making the proper recited and sung responses.


Weddings ordinarily shall take place in a parish church. The Archbishop of Baltimore may permit a wedding between two Catholics or between a Catholic and a non-Catholic or a Catholic and a non-baptized person to be celebrated in another church, oratory or suitable place (canon 1118). While always encouraging the faithful to celebrate their wedding in a place of worship, another venue may be deemed a suitable place by the Archbishop or his delegate.

404.8.1 Parish Churches: All Catholics who are baptized and free to marry in the Catholic Church may celebrate their marriages in the parish church of either the bride or the groom. Permission to be married in another parish is to be obtained from either the pastor of the bride or of the groom. It is preferred that weddings occur in the parish church of one of the Catholic parties rather than in any school, university, hospital or other Catholic chapel.

404.8.2 Weddings at a Catholic High School, Catholic University or College Chapel or Other Catholic Location

404.8.2.1 Who May Marry at Approved Catholic High Schools, Universities, Colleges or other Catholic Locations: As a general rule only the alumni, current employees, or others closely connected to the institution are eligible to be married in the chapel at a Catholic High School, University, College or other Catholic location.

  1. If these persons are baptized Catholics, they must be in good standing with the Church and free to marry in the Catholic Church to be eligible to be married at the chapel at approved Catholic venue.
  2. In other words, every wedding involving a Catholic (practicing or not) must be able to be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church which means it must be able to be witnessed by a priest or deacon.

404.8.2.2 Who May Officiate at Approved Catholic High Schools, Universities, Colleges or Other Catholic Locations: Baptized Catholics may be married only by a priest or deacon in good standing and properly recognized by the Church. No former Catholic priests or deacons may act as officiants for any wedding on the property, whether in the chapel or not.

404.8.2.3 Weddings Between Non-Catholics at Catholic Chapels: Weddings between two non-Catholics may occur in the chapel with proper liturgical preparation as long as they are alumni, current employees or other closely connected to the institution and the sacramental character of the chapel is maintained during the ceremony.

Procedure: How Catholic High Schools, Universities, Colleges or Other Approved Catholic Locations May Host Weddings

404.8.2.4 Institutions Who May Apply: Any currently operating Catholic High School, University, College or other Catholic location within the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Baltimore may apply to the Chancery office to allow approved Catholic weddings to take place at its location.

404.8.2.5 Application Process: A proper application for this permission must be filed with the Chancellor and include all items listed in 404.8.2.6 below.

404.8.2.6 Marriage Policy Agreement: A signed Marriage Policy agreement with the local parish in which the Catholic Institution is located indicating the manner in which the parish and Institution will be working together with couples seeking to be married at the Institution location (for examples, please contact the Chancery).

  1. Freedom to Marry and Preparation:  This agreement must establish who will be responsible for determining the freedom to marry of the engaged couple as well as the proper preparation and liturgical norms that will be observed at the proposed Chapel location. (See Archdiocese of Baltimore Marriage Policy, 401 et. seq. for more information)
  2. Signatures:  The agreement must be signed by the Institution President or their equivalent and the current pastor.
  3. New Pastor – New Agreement:  A new application must be made when a new pastor is appointed to the local parish in which the chapel is located to assure harmonious relations in this area.
  4. Catholic Institution Contact Person: The name of the person responsible at the Institution’s location for scheduling Catholic weddings;
  5. Instructional Session: A promise by the Institution that the person responsible for scheduling Catholic weddings will attend the annual instruction session regarding the wedding process held by the Metropolitan Tribunal;
  6. Policy Promise: That the Institution would comply with the policy regarding Catholic weddings at its chapel in regard to the qualifying couple, suitable clergy and the preparation and execution of all pre-marriage papers including the granting of dispensations and permissions (see policy below).
  7. Reporting Requirement: The Institution will send a report to the Chancellor, Judicial Vicar and the pastor of the Parish on or about January 1 of each year that will detail for the previous calendar year:
    1. The total number of weddings held at the site;
    2. The total number of Catholic weddings held at the site;
    3. The number of weddings involving Catholics resident in the Archdiocese of Baltimore married at the site;
    4. A complete list of all Catholic priests or deacons who witnessed weddings at the site and their diocese or  religious community of incardination; and
    5. Total amount of income acquired from weddings held at the site.
  8. The Approved Institution’s Responsibilities for a Catholic Wedding at an Approved Chapel:
    1. Freedom to Marry:  The Chapel location will be responsible for making sure any baptized Catholic (practicing or not) is free to marry in the Catholic Church and is marrying according to the requirements of church law as determined in the agreement with the local parish as referred to above.
    2. Parish Notification:  The Chapel will immediately notify the local Parish that there has been a request for a wedding at the Chapel location and will work with the parish in which the couple reside using the approved procedure developed by the Chapel and parish (see above section) in order to allow for good relations between the Chapel and the proper preparation of the couple for the Sacrament of Marriage.
    3. Clergy Suitability: The Chapel will be responsible for making sure that all Catholic clergy (priests and deacons) from any diocese or religious community have been granted faculties from the Archdiocese of Baltimore (see 5 below). For more information about clerical faculties in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, see https://www.archbalt.org/clergy-personnel-division/event-faculties/
    4. Dispensations and Permissions:  All dispensations and permissions must also be obtained from the Metropolitan Tribunal including the permission for a wedding outside the parish church.
    5. Access to Files: The Chapel will allow access to its marriage files by the Judicial Vicar, the Pastor or his delegate should any questions arise regarding these matters.

404.8.2.7 Granting of Permission: After receiving all information required from the applying entity, the Chancellor will review this information and notify the Catholic Institution of the decision within 30 days of receiving the application. Permission is granted initially for three years and can be renewed if a new application is presented. If a new pastor is appointed during this time, a new agreement with the Catholic location is required for weddings to continue at that site.

404.8.2.8 Withdrawal of Permission:  If a specifically approved Institution does not comply with these policies, their ability to continue to host Catholic weddings will be withdrawn by the Chancery Office at its own initiative.

404.8.2.9 Effects of Catholic Chapel Recognition by the Chancery:  Once approved as a Catholic marriage site by the Chancery Office, the name of the location will be listed on the Archdiocesan policy website. The Judicial Vicar will refer to this list of approved sites in order to grant permission for weddings at these locations. If the location is NOT on the approved list, proper application must be made to the Chancery office under section 404.8.3 below.

404.8.3 Weddings Outside the Parish Church Including Indoor or Outdoor Wedding Venues (not at an approved Catholic chapel location)

404.8.3.1 These norms apply to the Catholic subjects of the Archbishop of Baltimore who reside (have a domicile or quasi-domicile) within the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Baltimore;

404.8.3.2 Who May Apply for a Wedding Outside the Parish Church: Requests for weddings to be held at outside a parish church are to be made by the preparing priest or deacon to the Archbishop of Baltimore through the Chancellor’s office at least six months in advance.

404.8.3.3 Type of Ceremony Permitted: In a ceremony outside the parish or approved Catholic chapel location, a Liturgy of the Word ceremony with Exchange of Consent and blessings is permitted. All liturgical norms for weddings continue to apply (see Archdiocese of Baltimore policy on the Sacrament of Marriage, 400 et. seq.).

404.8.3.4 Venues:  Wedding venues outside the parish church should be reasonable and in keeping with a religious celebration. The place of the ceremony should establish a prayerful, sacred feeling for the couple and their guests. The couple should not irrevocably secure the venue until they have received permission from the Chancery office for the wedding to take place at the proposed venue.

404.8.3.5 Venues Outside the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Baltimore:  Requests for venues outside those boundaries will require accommodation by the bishop of other dioceses and cannot be guaranteed. The Chancery Office will work with other dioceses to try to secure the requisite permissions.

Examples of Unsuitable Locations: Some examples of places not suitable for the celebration of a wedding would be (this list is not exhaustive) on a boat, any place where alcohol is served as a matter of course such as casinos, bars, night clubs or the like. Locations that are deemed unsuitable by the Archbishop will not be permitted.

404.8.3.6 Outdoor Venues: An outdoor venue must meet the same criteria as is listed above AND it MUST have an approved indoor venue available in case of inclement weather. Other criteria include:

  1. Same County Requirement: Both the outdoor and indoor venues must be in the same county to avoid issues related to the issuance of a marriage license for the ceremony (in Maryland the couple must obtain the marriage license in the county or City of Baltimore location in which they are to be married);
  2. Respect for the Sacrament: All requests must be made in good faith, which would illustrate the desire to maintain a respect and reverence toward the Sacrament of Marriage.
  3. Proper Preparation Required: The requesting couple must complete the required pre-nuptial preparation for all persons seeking the Sacrament of Marriage within the Archdiocese of Baltimore (see Archdiocese of Baltimore Marriage Policies, 401 et. seq.)
  4. Proper Liturgical Music Required:  The norms regarding Sacred Music are to be observed for the wedding ceremony and properly trained Church music ministers are to be employed at the approved wedding location.
  5. Local Faculties Required: The preparing priest or deacon must have faculties within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. All priests who reside outside the Archdiocese of Baltimore and wish to witness a wedding within its boundaries must at least acquire Event Faculties well prior to the wedding itself. For more information regarding this process visit this link: https://www.archbalt.org/division-of-clergy-personnel/priests/

404.8.3.7 Procedure for Chancery Approval of Venue:

Submission of Petition: A petition to permit a wedding outside the parish church must be sent to by the preparing cleric to the attention of the Chancellor via regular mail, email or fax and must be received at least 6 months in advance. The application form is to be utilized for this purpose.

  1. Response to Petition:  Once the petition is reviewed and within 30 days of receiving the complete information, the Chancellor will issue a letter addressing the request.
  2. Granting the Request:  If the request is granted the letter will indicate the proper parish location for delegation and the retention of the pre-nuptial file.
    1. This letter will include the permission required under canon 1118, the name of the parish where the wedding will take place and instructions regarding the proper place for the prenuptial file.
    2. A copy of this letter is to be sent to the requesting priest or deacon, the couple, the Judicial Vicar and the pastor of the parish in which the event is to take place.
  3. Declining the Request: If the request is declined, the reasons for the refusal will be included in the letter. The decision of the Archbishop of Baltimore is final.

404.8.3.8 Delegation from Pastor Required: Any priest or deacon witnessing a wedding outside the parish church must contact the local pastor as identified in the Chancery letter granting the request to obtain local delegation and provide the pastor with the complete pre-nuptial file for review at least 60 days prior to the date of the wedding so he can give informed delegation.

404.8.3.9 Additional Dispensations/Permissions if the Request Is Granted: If the request is granted, any additional requests for dispensations or permissions are to be submitted to the Judicial Vicar for proper handling.

404.8.3.10 Chancery Record Keeping: The Chancery Office will retain a record of the petitions submitted for weddings outside a parish church that shall include the names of the parties, their baptismal status, their parishes of domicile, the name of the requesting priest, the place of the proposed wedding, the parish where the proposed wedding is to take place, the date of the request, the date of the letter addressing the request, whether the request was granted or not. This information is to be provided to the Office of the Tribunal so it can be preserved with the other records regarding dispensations or permissions concerning marriages.

404.8.4 Dispensations from Canonical Form for Marriages at other locations:  Dispensation may be granted for:

  1. A wedding between a Catholic and baptized Christian where the ceremony will be witnessed by the baptized Christian’s minister in a recognized house of worship for that denomination; or
  2. For a Catholic – Jewish wedding where the Jewish official will witness the ceremony at a house of worship or other appropriate indoor venue; or
  3. For a Catholic – Non-baptized wedding (Mormon, etc.) where the religious official will witness the ceremony at a house of worship or other appropriate indoor venue.


In a marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic, it is expected that the Rite for Celebrating Marriage Outside Mass be used. If circumstances justify it and the non-Catholic party agrees to have a Mass, the rite for celebrating marriage within Mass may be used, except that, according to the general law, communion is not given to the non-Catholics.

404.9.1 Pastoral Considerations: Celebrating a Christian marriage at Mass may make the celebration awkward for both parties by highlighting their differences in faith traditions. This awkwardness is further accentuated in cases where non-Catholic clergy are invited to participate in a marriage celebrated at Mass.

404.9.2 Distribution of Communion: In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the distribution of Holy Communion shall not be included in marriage ceremonies celebrated outside of Mass. The only exception to this policy is when a deacon witnesses a marriage ceremony in order to meet the special language or cultural needs of a couple. In such an instance, a communion service, while not encouraged, is permitted.

404.9.3 Communion Service: While the Rite of Christian Marriage allows a communion service to be celebrated after the exchange of vows, a sufficient number of priests available to celebrate a wedding Mass in the Archdiocese of Baltimore makes the use of this option of the Rite unnecessary in the Archdiocese.


When a marriage is celebrated between a Catholic and someone of non-Catholic Eastern tradition, only one religious ceremony is to take place. If the marriage is celebrated in the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic ritual is used and, for the sake of integrity, the rituals of the two traditions should not be integrated into one ceremony.

404.10.1 Questions regarding Marriages Involving Orthodox Christians:  Questions regarding marriages involving a Catholic and an Orthodox Christian should be directed to the Tribunal or Chancery. The canonical form obligation in such cases is only for lawfulness (liceity); for validity, the presence of a sacred minister from the Orthodox church is required along with the observance of other requirements of  Orthodox law (proper exchange of the vows, nuptial blessing, etc.).

404.10.2 Status of Christian marriages entered by an Eastern non-Catholic and another non-Catholic: In those cases where an Eastern non-Catholic and another non-Catholic enter marriage before someone other than an Eastern non-Catholic priest are considered invalid by the Catholic Church, and a declaration of nullity for such marriages can be obtained from the Tribunal in a procedure similar to Catholic Defect of Form cases.

404.10.3 Status of Marriages between Latin Rite Catholics and Eastern non-Catholic Christians:  Marriage between Latin Rite Catholics and Eastern Non-Catholics entered without a dispensation from canonical form on or after March 24, 1967, before an Eastern non-Catholic priest are considered valid; such marriages between Eastern Catholics and Eastern non-Catholic Christians entered on or after January 21, 1965 (April 7, 1965 for Ukrainian Catholics) are also considered valid.


Marriages involving a non-Christian (after reception of a dispensation from disparity of worship), shall be celebrated at a Liturgy of the Word and not at the Eucharistic liturgy. (See The Rite of Marriage, #8). While recognizing that catechumens are already joined to the household of the church, marriages involving catechumens shall likewise be celebrated at a Liturgy of the Word. Chapter III of the Rite of Marriage is to be followed with allowance for the nuptial blessing in Chapter I, #33 to be used (omitting all references to Eucharistic sharing.) (See National Statutes for the Catechumenate, #10, The Sacraments of Initiation, herein)

404.12 Marriage between Catholics and Unbaptized PersonsA Catholic priest or deacon with the faculty to witness marriages may witness the marriage of a Catholic and an unbaptized person with the usual dispensation from disparity of cult. The preferred choice would be to celebrate the marriage in the Catholic Church or a chapel or other suitable place on parish property. The Catholic marriage ritual is preferred, modified to include sensitivity to the party of the other religious tradition.  Customs of the other party’s tradition may be incorporated into the ceremony, unless they are contrary to Catholic teaching.

404.12.1 Exchange of Vows: The clergy person of the other religious tradition can be invited to participate in the ceremony, but the Catholic priest or deacon officially witnesses the exchange of vows. (See Policy §404.3., Place of Wedding, herein)

404.12.2 Pastoral Sensitivity: In all of the above situations, Catholic priests and deacons should be aware of the sensitive nature of ministering to a Catholic who is engaged to someone unbaptized. Catholic-unbaptized engaged couple. Pastoral care prior to and following the wedding should offer the couple support and assistance. Priests and deacons should not hesitate to get involved in the marriage preparation and celebration of marriage for these couples.   (See Policy §404.3., Place of Wedding, herein)

404.12.3 Review of Religious Significance of Other Religious Rites: The traditional wedding ceremonies in some other religions include rites which in effect would constitute joining another religion (communicatio in sacris). For this reason a pastoral minister should inquire carefully into the religious significance of traditional wedding customs before permitting them to be included in a Catholic ceremony. For example, there is no traditional Islamic marriage rite other than the witnessing of the contract and the public transfer of the bride to the house of the groom. Given that this traditional Islamic ritual can include elements foreign to Christian marriage, very careful planning and agreement must precede any dispensation to allow this rite. The traditional form in an Islamic marriage usually requires the partner to make the profession of faith which converts a person to Islam as a prior condition. Since this would constitute apostasy by formal act, it is impossible for the Catholic to participate in such a ritual. It is conceivable though that, with careful consultation, a modified traditional Islamic celebration could be planned which would be acceptable and a dispensation could be granted for this form.


The wedding couple shall be helped to appreciate their special role in the marriage rite in which they in fact are the ministers, and as such, they confer the sacrament on one another through the exchange of vows. Respecting the liturgical principle that only one role should be exercised at the liturgy by each individual, other members of the family and parish community shall be invited to serve in the marriage liturgy as lectors, cantors, musicians, or ushers


Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion can be invited to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion, if needed.


While the couple are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage, it is not appropriate for them to serve in any other liturgical role.

404.14.1 Administration of Communion: It is not appropriate for the wedding couple to administer Holy Communion to each other or to the assembly.

404.14.2 Eucharistic Prayer:  It is also inappropriate for the wedding couple to stand on either side of the presider during the Eucharistic prayer as if they were concelebrants.


Admission to Holy Communion to members of non-Catholic churches at Catholic weddings is not possible under present circumstances. Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law.

404.15.1 Norms: Specific norms governing admission are clearly articulated in the policy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which states: “We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us ‘that they may all be one’ (John 17:21).”

404.15.2 Requirements under Canon 844: Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the oriental churches which do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches, which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned” (CIC 844 § 3). Christians in these churches should, of course, respect their own church’s guidelines regarding when it would be permissible for them to receive Communion in a Catholic church.

404.15.3 Protestants: The circumstances in which Protestants are permitted to receive Communion are more limited, though it is still possible for them to do so under certain specifically defined circumstances.

404.15.4 Danger of Death: Canon law explains the parameters:”If the danger of death is present or other grave necessity, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or the conference of bishops, Catholic ministers may licitly administer these sacraments to other Christians who do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and on their own ask for it, provided they manifest Catholic faith in these sacraments and are properly disposed”. (CIC 844 § 4)


Ethnic and folk customs associated with the celebration of marriage in the Catholic Church from other countries are to be respected and may be incorporated into the liturgy. The manner in which these or any other customs are incorporated into the liturgy must always respect the integrity of the liturgy and the universal principles articulated in The Rite of Christian Marriage and should not be contrary to Catholic teachings.


When questions arise regarding the appropriateness of a proposed cultural adaptation of the rite of Christian marriage, parishes are to consult with the Office of Worship and Sacramental Formation (or with the Chancellor).


Choice of music at weddings must be in accord with all the norms governing music in the liturgy, especially those found in Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship. (#216-222).

404.17.1 Couple to Choose with Assistance: The pastor and/or pastoral musician/liturgist shall assist the couple in selecting appropriate music for the wedding ceremony. Furthermore, the musician shall make an effort to provide a wide range of music selections to the couple, particularly in the choice of music to be sung by the entire assembly present for the liturgy(Sing to the Lord, # 218)

404.17.2 Basis for Judgements: In consultation with the pastoral musician/liturgist, the choice and placement of wedding music should follow the three judgments proposed in Sing to the Lord (#126).  “Judgments must be made together, and no individual judgment can be applied in isolation from the other two.”  The judgments include: liturgical, pastoral and musical.  (See Sing to the Lord, #126-136)

404.17.3 Secular Music: “Secular music, even though it may emphasize the love of the spouses for one another, is not appropriate for the Sacred Liturgy.  Songs that are chosen for the Liturgy should be appropriate for the celebration and express the faith of the Church.”  (Sing to the Lord, #220)

404.17.4 Recorded Music: Recorded music “should not, as a general norm, be used within the Liturgy.” (Sing to the Lord, #93) The use of any recorded music must be approved by the pastor and/or pastoral musician.


In those situations where a Catholic lives in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and seeks to marry another (Catholic or non-Catholic) in a different diocese (whether in the US or abroad), the parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore is obligated to assist the Catholic party in preparing for marriage.

404.18.1 Responsibility of Clerics:  It should be remembered that most couples have little understanding or experience in preparing for a Catholic marriage, therefore, clerics and pastoral leaders must provide leadership and assistance to them at this crucial time. Priests or deacons in the Archdiocese of Baltimore must assist in any possible way all those who reside in the territory of their parish to assure the wedding is a valid marriage regardless of where the wedding is occurring. The cleric or pastoral leader at the place of domicile must cooperate with the cleric who will witness the union to coordinate the necessary pastoral preparation, document preparation and other items so the couple’s wedding may occur without difficulty.

404.18.2 Prenuptial Documents:  If the prenuptial documents are prepared in the Archdiocese of Baltimore for a Catholic residing here, the full prenuptial file is submitted to the Archdiocesan Tribunal so proper permissions and/or dispensations may be granted. These submissions should be made at least 60 days before the wedding.

Bride / Groom

Where Catholic Resides

Who Prepares Papers

Who Grants Disp / Permissions

Both Catholic Both in Archdiocese of Baltimore Either Archdiocese of Baltimore priest or outside priest Archdiocese of Baltimore only (see table in §404.14.1.)
Catholic/Non Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore Archdiocese of Baltimore only
Catholic/Non Catholic Outside Archdiocese of Baltimore Diocese where Catholic resides
Both Catholic 1 in Archdiocese of Baltimore,

1 outside Archdiocese of Baltimore

Either Archdiocese of Baltimore or diocese where other Catholic resides
Both Catholic Neither in Archdiocese of Baltimore Diocese where either Catholic resides

404.18.3 Review of Prenuptial File: The prenuptial file, with the requisite nihil obstat or visum is then forwarded to the Chancery of the diocese where the wedding will take place with instructions to forward the file to the local parish where the wedding is scheduled. The preparing cleric or parish minister should include these addresses when submitting the papers to the Tribunal.

404.18.4 Couple to Receive a Copy of File:  The couple will receive a copy of the prenuptial file from the Tribunal from the Archdiocese of Baltimore to carry with them to the wedding in case the original papers are delayed for any reason.



1.      The Rite of Christian Marriage, nos. 5 & 7.

2.      A Marriage in the Lord: Preparing for Marriage in the Catholic Church. Archdiocese of Baltimore, 1999.

3.      Joseph M. Champlin, Together for Life: A Preparation for Marriage and for the Ceremony. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2007 (Several editions including one for Marriage Outside Mass).

4.      Joseph M. Champlin,  Juntos para Toda la Vida: Una Preparación para el Matrimonio y la Ceremonia. Liguori, MO: Liguori Publications, 2007.

5.      For Your Marriage. USCCB National Pastoral Marriage Initiative website for engaged and married couples and those who minister to them. www.foryourmarriage.org

6.      Por Tu Matrimonio. USCCB Marriage Website in Spanish. www.portumatrimonio .

7.      Marriage and Family Life Office. Preparation program options and schedule. Archdiocese of Baltimore website, http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/marriage-family/marriage-preparation/index.cfm

  1. Paul Covino, Ceremony Optionshttp://foryourmarriage.org/catholic-marriage/planning-a-catholic-wedding/ceremony-options/
  2. Bishops’ Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, National Pastoral Intitiative on Marriage, An Analysis of Diocesan Marriage Preparation Policies.2005http://www.usccb.org/laity/marriage/mpanalysis.shtml
  3. Robert Ruhnke, C.SS.R., For Better and Forever: Resource for Couples Preparing for Christian Marriage(Catholic Edition). San Antonio: Marriage Preparation Resources, 2003. Also in Spanish.

11.  Austin Fleming, Parish Weddings, Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1987.

  1. Guidelines for Celebration of the Sacraments With Persons With Disabilities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 1995.


1.The Rite of Christian Marriage, nos. 6, 8, & 9.

2.The Rite of Marriage, Binder & Ritual Cards (based on Together for Life), Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2002.

3.A Marriage Sourcebook, ed. by J. Robert Baker, Joni Reiff Gibley, Kevin Charles Gibley. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications. 1994

4.The Code of Canon Law, Canons 905, 1108 & 1111.

5.Michael Kwatera, The Liturgical Ministry of Deacons, Second Edition. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005, pp. 63-66.


1.The Code of Canon Law, Canons 905 & 1118.

2.Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, 1988, nos. 8 & 10.


1.The Rite of Christian Marriage, nos. 6-11.

2.Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Concelebration Guidelines, 2003.

  1. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Sing to the LordMusic for Divine Worship, 2007. http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/SingToTheLord.pdf.

4.Paul Covino, Editor, Celebrating Marriage: Preparing the Roman Catholic Wedding Liturgy: A Workbook for Engaged Couples (Third Edition). Oregon Catholic Press, 2006.

5.Austin Fleming, Parish Weddings. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1987.

  1. Paul Turner, The Catholic Wedding Answer Book. Ministry & Liturgy Magazine Answers the 101 Most-Asked Questions. Resource Publications, 2001.
  2. Charles M. Wible. I Do and Beyond: Planning the Catholic Wedding Ceremony. Baltimore, MD: Cathedral Foundation Press, 2010.


Christ strengthens the faithful who are afflicted by illness, providing them with the strongest means of support and comfort. The sick are reminded that Christ and the Church are in communion with their suffering.

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick conferred by the anointing with oil and pronouncing of the words prescribed in the liturgical books, commends the faithful who are dangerously ill and suffering to the Lord Jesus in order that he may relieve and save them (cf. Can 998).

The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, situated within the Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying, continues Christ’s great concern for the bodily and spiritual welfare of sick people. This ministry is shared by all Christians who visit the sick, remember them in prayer and care for them in time of need (PCS 43).

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…” (Col 1:24).

“Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).

Through the sacred Anointing of the Sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord, asking that he may lighten their suffering and save them, she exhorts them to contribute to the welfare of the whole people of God by associating themselves freely with the passion and death of Christ” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11).


501.1 Oil of the Sick:

The sacrament is to be celebrated with the oil of the sick blessed by the bishop at the Chrism Mass or, in cases of necessity, with oil blessed by the priest during the celebration of the sacrament. (Intro. 21-22)


The matter proper for the sacrament is olive oil, or according to circumstances other plant oil. (Intro to the Rite of Anointing and Pastoral Care of the Sick, #20)

501.2 Integral Aspects of the Celebration:

Even in cases of urgency, the minister should make clear the three distinct and integral aspects to the celebration of this sacrament: the prayer of faith, the laying on of hands, and the anointing with oil. (Intro. 104-107)


A) The Prayer of faith: it is the community, represented by the priest, family, and all present, who makes a prayer of faith. If possible, the sick person should join in the prayer.

B) The laying on of hands has several meanings: it signifies that the sick person is the object of Christ’s prayer of faith, it is a sign of blessing, and it is also an invocation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

501.3 Communal Celebration of the Sacrament:

Parishes and health care institutions are encouraged to offer a communal celebra­tion of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick at appropriate times during the year. The communal anointing of the sick can be celebrated for large numbers of sick people who have been suitably prepared and are properly disposed, according to the guidelines given in the Introduction to the Ritual of the Anointing of the Sick (hereafter Intro 108-110) and the prescripts of the Archbishop. (c. 1002, Intro 108-110)


A) Communal celebrations of Anointing held in church are a good witness to the whole community. These liturgical celebrations also offer an opportunity for the sick to experience support from the parish at large, in addition to their caregivers. They should be scheduled well in advance and include special attention to hospitality. Your parish may also want to offer transportation for those who need it.

B) Certain days in the liturgical calendar commend themselves as occasions to further the healing ministry of the Church. The World Day of Prayer for the Sick, February 11 (optional memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes), the patronal feast of the parish or diocese, or saints known to have healed the sick (for example, Saint Peregrine, patron saint of cancer patients), may be good occasions to celebrate the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick during Mass.

C) When the communal celebration of the Anointing of the Sick takes place within Mass, it is important that the priest ensures that the Sacrament of Penance is available before Mass, for those to be anointed, who also wish to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

D) Additionally, when the communal celebration takes place during Mass, it is essential to offer a brief catechesis concerning the Sacrament of the Anointing, which includes an explanation of who receives the Sacrament.

501.4 Opportunities for Catechesis:

Opportunities for catechesis, private and communal, need to be available in order to form the faithful, so that when the time comes, they can receive the sacrament of anointing with right disposition and devotion. (Pastoral Care for the Sick no. 13)


The catechesis should include: the mystery of suffering, union of the suffering with the suffering of Christ, the celebration, minister, recipient, and effects of the sacrament.

(CCC 1514-1525



The priest is the only proper minister of the anointing of the sick. This office is ordinarily exercised by bishops, pastors, associate pastors, priest chaplains of health-care facilities, and superiors of clerical religious institutes. These ministers have the pastoral responsibility both of preparing and helping the sick and others who are present, with the assistance of reli­gious and laity, and of celebrating the sacrament. (Intro 16, 17)


Only priests (Bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Neither deacons nor laypeople can exercise this ministry. In this sacrament, it is Jesus Christ who works; the priest is the living and visible instrument. He both represents Christ and makes Christ present in a special way, so that this sacrament has a particular dignity and efficacy.[1]

[1] http://www.usccb.org/deacon/cdfsacrament.shtml


503.1 Who May Receive the Sacrament:

As soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age it is fitting time to receive this sacrament. (CCC. 1514)

503.2 Receiving the Sacrament Multiple Times:

A sick person who has received this anointing but recovered can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced. (CCC.1515)

503.3 When to Administer the Sacrament:

This sacrament is to be administered in a case of doubt whether the sick person has the use of reason, is dangerously ill, or is dead. (see c. 1005, Intro 53 [mental illness])

503.4 Persons with Disabilities:

Since disability does not necessarily indicate an illness, Catholics with disabilities should receive the sacrament of anointing on the same basis and under the same circumstances as any other member of the Christian faithful. Persons with disabilities may at times be served best through inclusion in communal celebration of the sacrament of anointing.


504.1 Minister of the Viaticum:

The ordinary minister of viaticum is the priest. In case of necessity a deacon or any member of the faithful who has been duly appointed may administer viaticum. (Pastoral Care for the Sick no. 29)


A deacon or other ministers follow the Rite provided for “Viaticum outside of Mass”. (Pastoral Care for the Sick, nos. 197-211)

504.2 Receiving the Viaticum:

When possible, the viaticum should be received within Mass, when the dying person is able to participate and respond. Since the celebration of the viaticum general takes place under circumstances which limit the celebration of Mass, a simplified Rite for Mass may be appropriate. (Pastoral Care for the Sick nos. 177-178, 189-196)


505.1 Responsibility to the Sick:

The pastoral care of the sick and aged is the responsibility the entire faith community. Remembering the sick in prayer, by celebrating the sacraments with the sick, and in visiting the infirm, the entire faithful share in the pastoral care of the sick. (Pastoral Care for the Sick, no. 43)

505.2 Visits to the Sick:

The faithful who visit the sick help them to pray, sharing with them God’s word proclaimed in the assembly from which their sickness has separated them. (Pastoral Care for the Sick, nos. 46, 54-70)

505.3 Communion to the Sick:

To provide frequent communion to the faithful who are ill and deprived of their rightful place in the Eucharistic community, it is important to remember that receiving Holy Communion is an important element of visiting the sick. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who visit the sick should receive additional formation, and mentoring, in addition to that necessary to serve in the parish community. (Pastoral Care for the Sick, nos. 51, 71-96)


1.Catechism of the Catholic Church

Part Two, Section Two, Chapter Two, Article 5: The Anointing Of The Sick


Code of Canon Law

Book IV, Part I, Title V: The Sacrament Of The Anointing Of The Sick (Canons 998 – 1007)


Pastoral Care of the Sick:
Rites of Anointing and Viaticum
Documents of The Second Vatican Council
Sacrosanctum Concilium (especially #73-75)


Lumen Gentium (especially #11)


Gaudium et Spes


Other Pertinent Documents

Instruction on Prayers for Healing – Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


Guidelines for Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities