Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Delegation for qualified lay persons to assist at marriages of the faithful, 2012, Private.

A diocesan bishop, with the previous favorable vote of the episcopal conference of his territory, requested permission from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to delegate two non-ordained persons the faculty to assist at the marriages of the faithful of the diocese.


Prot. N. ____

Most Holy Father,

His Most Excellent Lordship ____

Bishop of ____

In light of the scarcity of priests and deacons in his diocese, asks for the permission spoken of in CIC c. 1112 so that he can delegate two religious sisters, of whom mention is made in the episcopal petition, as qualified witnesses of the Church in the territory of his ecclesiastical authority for properly carrying out the liturgical celebrations of marriage in the name of the Church.


By force of the faculties given to it by the Supreme Pontiff Pope John Paul II, in light of the information set forth by the Ordinary and with the previous favorable vote of the Conference of ____ Bishops, kindly assents to the requests set forth and concedes the desired permission, until otherwise provided by this Dicastery, but without prejudice to the prescripts of the Code and in accord with the following explanations and prescriptions, regarding which the Bishop-Petitioner is bound to make each lay person to be delegated aware, namely:

1. This permission is to be held as an entirely extraordinary concession and granted in light of the particular circumstances. Lay persons to be deputed for the duty of assistance at the marriages of faithful must never be considered as “ordinary,” since it is of its very nature a supplement, that is, this duty must not be exercised if there are present priests or deacons who are able and willing to assist in celebrating marriage. Pastors and other priests and deacons are earnestly asked that, imbued with pastoral zeal, they be prepared willingly to exercise their proper liturgical duty in the celebration of each marriage and not absent themselves from it unless legitimately impeded. The presence of lay persons delegated for this duty does not constitute a circumstance exempting priests and deacons from their proper duty.

2. The bishop, either personally or through another priest – through the pastor competent by reason of place if it can be done – is to be made certain that the qualified witness is entirely competent and prepared for giving instruction to those to be married, if this duty is entrusted to the witness, and for worthily carrying out the celebration.

3. General delegation, which is the focus of this rescript, must be conceded in writing (cf. c. 1111 §2) by only the diocesan bishop and those equivalent to him in law, to the exclusion of the vicars general and episcopal vicars unless these are invested with a special mandate.

4. In the document of delegation is to be written the name of the delegated lay person, to whom a determined time of concession is to be assigned. Also to be indicated is the place or places in which the person can exercise the delegation, under penalty of the invalidity of the marriage. The place is to be limited and a circumscription of a parish or several parishes. The delegation is never to be conceded for the whole territory of the diocese.

5. The qualified witness cannot validly subdelegate the delegation so received to others.

6. The delegation expires after the term established in the letters of delegation has elapsed. The delegate is to inform the bishop about this, and the delegate is to return the mandate to him or ask for its renewal.

7. If a priest or deacon lacking the faculty of assisting is present, the delegated lay person is bound to ask him whether he wishes to assist at the marriage. This request causes the effect of delegation conceded by law in this case.

8. The faculty of dispensing from matrimonial impediments, spoken of in cc. 1079-1080, does not pertain to the delegated lay person.

9. The delegated lay person cannot in any way wear the vestments proper to priests or deacons in carrying out the marriage rite. It is necessary that he or she wears appropriate clothing approved by the Ordinary or only an alb.

10. The delegated lay person is bound to use the rite in the vernacular language that is recognized by the Holy See and prescribed for marriage in that diocese.

11. The qualified witness is to take care that he or she attest to the celebration in marriage in a document, in which are put the signatures of the spouses, witnesses and the qualified witness him/herself, and a document is to be sent as quickly as possible to the pastor of the parish competent for the territory so that he can properly make mention of it in the register of marriages of the parish as is the custom (cc. 1121 §1; 1122).

12. The qualified witness is to warn the contracting parties that they are equally to fulfill the solemnities and prescriptions of civil law.

Given in Rome, at the Halls of the Congregation, ____, 2012


+Antionius Card. Cañizares Llovera


Prot. n. 271/12

Beatissime Pater,

Exc. Mus Domine ____

Episcopus ____

Attenta penuria sacerdotum et diaconorum in sua dioecesi, postulat licentiam de qua in can. 1112 Codicis iuris canonici ut dua sorores religiosas de quibus fit mentio in episcopali petitione qua testes qualificati Ecclesiae in territorio sua ecclesiasticae dicionis liturgicis celebrationibus nutpiarium nomine Ecclesiae rite peragendis delegare valeat.


Vigore facultatum a Summo Pontifice Ioane Paulo PP. II sibi tributarum, attentis ab Ordinario expositis et praehabito voto favorabili Conferentiae Episcoporum ____, precibus expositis benigne annuens petitam licentiam concedit, donec aliter ab ipso Dicasterio praevideatur, firmis tamen praescriptis Codicis et firmis sequentibus rationibus praescriptionisbusque de quibus Episcopus Orator unumquemque laicum delegandum certiorem facere tenetur, scilicet:

1. Licentia haec concessionem prorsus extraordinariam habenda esse et attentis peculiaribus circumstantiis elargita. Laici ad munus nuptiarum fidelium adsistentiae deputandi numquam tamquam «ordinarium» haberi debet, quia suae naturae suppletorium, id est haud exercendum si praesto sint sacerdotes vel diaconi qui possint et velint matrimonio celebrando adsistere. Enixe rogantur parochi celterique sacerdotes et diaconi ut, pastorali zelo imbuti, libenter suum proprium munus liturgicum exercendum in celebratione uniuscuiusque matrimonii parati sint neque ab eo se abstineant nisi legitime impediti. Praesentia laicorum ad hoc munus delegati non constituit circumstantiam eximentem sacerdotum et diaconorum a suo proprio munere.

2. Episcopus sive per se sive per alium sacerdotem – per parochum ratione loci competentem si fieri potest – certior sit testem qualificatum ad institutionem nupturientibus tradendam, si hoc munus ipsi concreditur, et ad celebrationem digne peragendam prorsus idoneum et instructum esse.

3. delegatio generalis, de qua in hoc rescripto agitur, scripto est concedenda (cfr. can. 1111, § 2) ab uno Episcopo dioecesano illique in iure aequiparatis, exclusis Vicariis generalibus et episcopalibus, nisi speciali mandato instruantur.

4. In documento delegationis nomen laici delegati inscribatur, cui tempus determinatum concessionis assignetur. Indicetur quoque locus vel loci in quibus delegationem exercendam potest, sub pena invaliditatis nuptiarum. Locus sit determinatum et paroeciae vel plurium paroeciarum circumscriptum. Delegatio numquam concedatur pro toto territorio dioecesis.

5. Testis qualificatus delegationem receptam valide aliis subdelegare nequit.

6. Delegatio spirat elapso termino in litteris statuto. De hoc delegatus certorem faciat Episcopum cui mandatum remittat vel renovationem eiusdem petat.

7. Si adsit sacerdos vel diaconus facultate assistendi carens, laicus delegatus tenetur illo petendi an velit ipse matrimonio assistere. Quae petitio idem effectum parit delegationis in casu a iure concessae.

8. Laico delegato non competit facultas dispensandi ab impedimentis matrimonialibus, de quibus in cann. 1097-1080.

9. Laicus delegatus nullo modo potest in rito nuptiali peragendo indumenta propria sacerdotum vel diacono rum induere. Vestem dignam ab Ordinario approbatam induat oportet vel solam albam.

10. Laicus delegatus ritum in lingua vernacula a Sancta Sede recognitum et pro matrimonio in illa dioecesi praescriptum uti tenetur.

11. Testis qualificatus curet ut fidem de matrimonio celebrato in documento adsit in quo subsignationes sponsorum, testium ipsuisque testis qualificati apponentur, et documentum quam primum parocho paroeciae competenti pro territorio transmittatur ut in regesto matrimoniorum paroeciae uti de more rite mentionem fiat (cann. 1121 §1; 1122).

12. Testis qualificatus contrahentes admoneat ut pariter sollemnitates praescitionesque legis civilis adimpeant.

Datum Romae, Ex Aedibus Congregationis, ____, 2012


+ Antonius Cardinial Cañizares Llovera


Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Delegation for qualified lay persons to assist at marriages of the faithful, 2012, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2013, 34-38.