When a Pope Dies

ROME, APRIL 7, 2005 (Zenit.org).- ZENIT’s liturgical columnist, Father Edward McNamara, fielded a few questions that arrived this week in relation to the passing of the Pope.

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Priests from several parts of the globe have asked versions of the following question: «During the interregnum, what should be said in the Eucharistic Prayer at the prayer for the Pope?»

Most of the recent manuals don’t go into such detail but thankfully old manuals from before the Second Vatican Council can still be found touching on the more arcane aspects of liturgy.

In this case the Pope’s name, and the entire phrase referring to the Pope, is omitted from the Eucharistic Prayer during the period of the «Sede Vacante.» Mention is made only of the local bishop and the clergy according to the literary form of each prayer.

For example, in Eucharistic Prayer II it would be: «Together with … N. our bishop, and all the clergy,» and in the Diocese of Rome: «Together with …. all the clergy.»

An analogous procedure is followed in each diocese following the death or retirement of the local ordinary.

An Australian reader queried: «I was intrigued to see the Holy Father lying in state wearing red liturgical vestments. What is the deeper significance and meaning of this gesture?»

There was a tradition of the papal liturgy, now practically discontinued, that, instead of black, the pope celebrated funeral liturgies wearing red vestments — «Papa luget in rubro,» the pope weeps in red.

Although the pope generally now uses violet vestments for funerals, a vestige of the earlier practice remains in vesting the deceased Holy Father in red, the color of the apostles.

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Readers may send questions to news@zenit.org. Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country.

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