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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. When the priest or laypersons are doing the readings at the front of the Church during the Holy Mass, are those readings done at the pulpit, the ambo or the lectern?

A. 1. In Roman Catholic Churches, the stand used for readings and homilies is formally called the ambo. Despite its name, this structure usually more closely resembles a lectern than the ambo of the Eastern Rites. The readings are typically read from an ambo in the chancel, and depending on the arrangement of the Church, the homily may be delivered from a raised pulpit where there is one.

According to the March 17, 2003, General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the Ambo is:

309. The dignity of the Word of God requires that in the church there be a suitable place from which it may be proclaimed and toward which the attention of the faithful naturally turns during the Liturgy of the Word. It is appropriate that generally this place be a stationary ambo and not simply a movable lectern. The ambo must be located in keeping with the design of each church in such a way that the ordained ministers and readers may be clearly seen and heard by the faithful. From the ambo only the readings, the Responsorial Psalm, and the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet) are to be proclaimed; likewise it may be used for giving the Homily and for announcing the intentions of the Universal Prayer. The dignity of the ambo requires that only a minister of the word should stand at it." [Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulpit]

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) also specifies:

260. The readings should whenever possible be proclaimed from the ambo or a lectern.

From the above, it is concluded:

• The ambo is stationary and was designed for the minister of the word only. This is where the priest reads the Gospel and does the preaching.

• The lectern is movable and intended for the readings other than the Gospel.

• The pulpit is not a Catholic word.

The ambo is still the official Catholic term for the place where the Gospel is read. The word ambo comes from a Greek word meaning ‘both.’ This is to symbolize the readings from both, the ambo and the lectern. In common speach, ambos are incorrectly called pulpits, a Protestant word. There are no pulpits in the Catholic Church.

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