Keep the homilies short, or people will nod off, Pope Francis cautions priests

(Screenshot from BBC)Pope Francis delivering his 2017 "urbi et orbi" address on East Sunday, April16, 2017.

Pope Francis has given Catholic priests the same advice on homilies as editors often give to reporters—keep it short, or the faithful might nod off.

Francis again appealed to priests to keep their homilies short, advising that homilies should be no longer than eight minutes or "people will fall asleep," Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported on June 12.

He was speaking in St. Peter's Square for his weekly Wednesday catechesis, a summary or exposition of doctrine used in teaching.

The Pope explained that the goal of a homily is to "help move the Word of God from the book to life."

"But the homily for this must be short: an image, a thought, a feeling. The homily should not go beyond eight minutes because after that time, you lose attention, and people fall asleep," said Francis.

A homily in a Roman Catholic service usually follows a reading from the Bible and is used to reinforce the teaching, Reuters news agency reported.

Francis has spoken in the past of the need for priests not to ramble on during sermons, "but his own use of language is now under scrutiny," Reuters commented.

"Pope Francis often exceeds this time limit in his own homilies. On Holy Thursday this year, the pope's homily for the chrism Mass was more than 20 minutes long."

The Pope made the comments on homily length off the cuff during a reflection on how the Bible is "inspired by God and authoritative."

CNA reported that it was not the first time the pontiff had stressed the importance of short homilies.

In 2018, the Pope urged priests to "be brief" and ensure that their homilies are "no more than 10 minutes."

"It can happen that in a certain passage of the Scripture, that we have read many times without particular emotion, one day we read it in an atmosphere of faith and prayer, and then that text is unexpectedly illuminated, it speaks to us, it sheds light on a problem we are living, it makes God's will for us clear in a certain situation," the Pope said in his June 12 sermon.

"The words of the Scripture, under the action of the Spirit, become luminous; and in those cases, we touch with our own hands how true is the statement in the Letter to the Hebrews: 'The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword' (Heb 4:12)."

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