Pope Francis: Keep your homilies short or ‘people will fall asleep’

Pope Francis: Keep your homilies short or ‘people will fall asleep’



Pope Francis addresses pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jun 12, 2024 / 09:35 am (CNA).


Pope Francis has once again appealed to Catholic priests to keep their homilies short, this time warning that homilies should be no longer than eight minutes or “people will fall asleep.”


Speaking in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday catechesis on June 12, 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,” he said.


It is not the first time that Francis has 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.” 


Pope Francis meets with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope’s words echo the recommendations made by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic in his 2010 book on the 2008 Synod on the Word of God, which advised prelates to keep their homilies to eight minutes or shorter and to avoid “improvisations” from the pulpit.


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.”


Pope Francis meets with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Francis added that “the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Scriptures … also makes them perennially living and active.”


“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.


“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).”


Pope Francis meets with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis urged Catholics to take time every day to read and reflect on a passage from Scripture, recommending that Christians carry “a pocket Gospel” with them to read during spare moments throughout the day. 


“But the quintessential spiritual reading of the Scripture is the community reading in the liturgy in the Mass,” he said. “There, we see how an event or a teaching, given by the Old Testament, finds its full expression in the Gospel of Christ.”


“Among the many words of God that we listen to every day in Mass or in the Liturgy of the Hours, there is always one that is meant specially for us. Something that touches the heart. Welcomed into the heart, it can illuminate our day and inspire our prayer. It is a question of not letting it fall on deaf ears,” Pope Francis said.


Pope Francis meets with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“‘The whole Bible,’ observes St. Augustine, ‘does nothing but tell of God’s love,’” he added.


At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis asked people to continue to pray for peace in Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, Myanmar, and the many countries that are at war today.


The pope extended greetings to pilgrim groups visiting from China, India, Indonesia, France, Poland, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and the United States.


Also in St. Peter’s Square were bagpipers from the the Royal Irish Regiment and 38 Irish Brigade who performed in commemoration of 80th anniversary of the liberation of Rome and Irish brigade’s historic meeting with Pope Pius XII at the Vatican on June 12, 1944.



Pope Francis also encouraged devotion to St. Anthony of Padua ahead of his feast day on June 13.


“Tomorrow we will celebrate the liturgical memory of St. Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church,” he said. “May the example of this distinguished preacher, protector of the poor and the suffering, arouse in everyone the desire to pursue the path of faith and imitate his life, thus becoming credible witnesses of the Gospel.”