Mentioning Bishops in the Eucharistic Prayers

And More on Baptism and on Swine Flu

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ROME, NOV. 24, 2009 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: During Mass, at the moment of mentioning the local bishop, our parish priest has a habit of mentioning: «Our bishops N.N., N.N., N.N.» — and mentions the local archbishop and another two bishops. Thus, he does not make any distinction between the local bishop and other bishops. I wish to know whether there is a directive about this matter. — P.G., Qormi, Malta

A: An article on precisely this theme was published in Notitiae, the official organ of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The title of the Italian-language article, written by Ivan Grigis, is translated as «Regarding the Mention of the Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer» (Notitiae 45 (2009) 308-320).  Although it is a study and not an official decree, the work gathers all the relevant official documentation on the subject.

The article begins from an observation of a subtle change in the rubrics in the 2008 reprinting of the official 2002 Latin Missal. In the new version, No. 149 of the General Introduction to the Roman Missal (GIRM) is modified so that a bishop celebrating outside of his own diocese should first mention the diocesan bishop and then refer to himself as «your unworthy servant.» Formerly, he had first referred to himself and then the local bishop.

The author adduces that this apparently minor change is actually based on an ecclesiological principle insofar as, after the pope, ecclesial communion is established through the diocesan bishop who as shepherd of that portion of God’s people convokes them to the Eucharist. Therefore, whosoever legitimately presides at the Eucharist always does so in the name of the local shepherd and in communion with him.

Another change in the reprinted missal is the footnote at the corresponding part of each Eucharistic Prayer explaining the optional mention of other bishops. The 2002 footnote says that the coadjutor auxiliary or another bishop can be mentioned as described in GIRM No. 149. The 2008 version eliminates the clause «or another bishop.» This is consistent with GIRM No. 149, which only foresees the mention of the coadjutor or auxiliary and excludes that of other bishops, even if present at the assembly.

In order to summarize the various rules, we can say the following:

The diocesan bishop or his equivalent must always be mentioned by name in every celebration.

If there is just one coadjutor or auxiliary, he may be mentioned by name if the celebrant wishes.

If there is more than one auxiliary, they may be mentioned collectively, that is, «N., our bishop and his assistant bishops.» They are not named separately.

Since only those bishops who actually possess pastoral authority in the diocese are named, it follows that no other bishops are mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer even if they happen to be present and are presiding at the celebration. In this latter case, the presiding bishop refers to himself in the first Eucharistic Prayer and the other prayers if celebrating alone. Concelebrating priests however, do not mention this bishop’s name in the corresponding part of the other Eucharistic Prayers.

In such cases, a petition for the presiding bishop should be included in the prayer of the faithful.

Apart from the aforementioned article, we could mention a couple of special cases. Priests celebrating in Rome can say simply, «N., our Pope,» and omit any reference to the diocesan bishop. Some say «N., our Pope and Bishop,» but this is not strictly necessary, since being Pope and being Bishop of Rome are one and the same.

During a time of vacancy of the episcopal see, the clause «N., our Bishop» is simply omitted. The same criterion is observed for the mention of the pope during a sede vacante. The name of a temporary diocesan administrator is not mentioned.

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Follow-up: Questionable Baptism

There were several reactions to our Nov. 10 piece regarding an invalid procedure in carrying out a baptism. Readers desired to know how far a minister can deviate from the approved rite without invalidating the sacrament.

First of all, there should be no deviations from the approved rite. The present rite of baptism was developed from a pre-eminently pastoral standpoint. Likewise, national bishops’ conferences have been granted wide leeway to make further adaptations in the light of each country’s particular traditions. Thus, there should be no need for further personal embellishments by ministers in the name of pastoral efficacy but rather an intelligent use of the rich pastoral instrument they have at their disposal.

However, when such abuses do occur it is, thankfully, quite difficult to invalidate the sacrament of baptism as its minimum requirements are very basic.

These minimum requirements consist in the minister pouring water over the person to be baptized while saying the Trinitarian formula: «N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.»

Deviations in the form which do not change the essential meaning, such as: «I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,» or additions such as «Amen» or «Alleluia» are illicit but would not be sufficient to invalidate the sacrament.

Changes that modify the essential meaning of the Trinitarian formula, such as those mentioned in our previous answer, do invalidate the sacrament.

Deviations or errors in the matter such as failing to pour water three times or failing to immerse at least part of the head during a baptism by immersion would once again be illicit ritual failures, but they would not in themselves make the sacrament invalid.

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Follow-up: Guarding Against Swine Flu

After our comments on precautions against swine flu (see Oct. 27 and follow-up on Nov. 10), a reader asked: «At the monastery infirmary, because of their weakened health and the risk of getting the H1N1 infection, priest monks who are concelebrating the Mass do not receive the Precious Blood. I was wondering if that is permitted.»

There are two questions involved. One is if it is possible for a concelebrating priest not to receive both species. The answer to this is positive, even though only in grave conditions. The only situation where this permission has been specifically granted is for those priests unable to take any alcohol. This is allowed only for a non-presiding concelebrant and never for a lone celebrant.

The second question is if the desire to prevent infection is a sufficient reason for concelebrating priests not to receive the Precious Blood. I would say that this is not a sufficient reason, even though it is possible that some of these infirm priests might fall into the category of those unable to take alcohol.

It should be a fairly easy task to develop a method for distributing both species that can practically exclude any danger of contagion while maintaining due reverence for the sacred species. For example, the priests could receive by intinction or even, if necessary, using suitable separate spoons.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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