Newly Ordained as Concelebrant

And More on Civil Weddings

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Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Should the newly ordained priest recite the particular parts of the Eucharistic Prayer? Context: During the ordination Mass one of our priests did not allow the newly ordained priest to recite a part of the Eucharistic Prayer proper for the concelebrant. He argued that the newly ordained is not a concelebrant from the beginning of the Mass, since he did not enter the concelebration as a priest but (of course) as a deacon. — A.P., Tagaytay City, Philippines

A: That priest is in error.

The Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 518, suggests the exact opposite criterion to the one proposed. To wit:

“All the presbyters concelebrate with the bishop in their ordination Mass. It is most fitting that the bishop admit other presbyters to the concelebration; in this case and on this day the newly ordained presbyters take the first place ahead of the others who concelebrate.”

Later, No. 540 specifies that after the ordination is complete:

“In the liturgy of the eucharist the order for the concelebration of Mass is followed, but the preparation of the chalice is omitted [because it has already been prepared for the complementary rites of ordination].”

Therefore the presence of other concelebrants other than the newly ordained, while recommended, is not a necessity. In the case that there were only the newly ordained, it would be clear that they take their proper place as concelebrants and recite their proper parts.

Likewise, the argument that they are precluded from reciting a part of the Eucharistic Prayer seems illogical when they have to pray the central parts of this prayer, especially the consecration. This is, after all, their first Mass as priests.

The practice of a newly ordained priest reciting the canon is also present in the extraordinary form, even though this form does not contemplate concelebration.

In this form, the newly ordained priests, kneeling, read the prayers of the Mass along with the bishop from the prayer “Suscipe sancte Pater” onward. They do not, however, carry out the ceremonies done by the bishop. At the moment of Communion they receive the host immediately after the bishop has consumed from the chalice. In the case of newly ordained priests, the bishop administers Communion, omitting the usual formula.

Some theologians suggest that these particularities of the ordination rite in the extraordinary form are remainders of the ancient practice of concelebration surviving in the Latin Church before the restoration brought about by the Second Vatican Council.

The practice of concelebration has continued uninterruptedly in most Eastern Churches. In the Latin Church it appears to have gradually disappeared. The last mention of it is from around 1140 but only for the third Mass of Christmas in Rome. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) knew of the practice but was of the opinion that it no longer took place at his time. The earliest trace of the common recitation of the canon at ordination was for a newly ordained bishop in a 12th-century Roman Pontifical, and that of the newly ordained priest appears for the first time in the Pontifical of the Roman Curia from the 13th century.

Because of this interruption of several centuries in the documentary evidence, it is hard to prove that the common recitation of the canon by newly ordained priests is a direct continuation of the ancient practice of concelebration. Its inclusion in medieval manuscripts of the Roman Pontifical, however, might have been influenced by sources that are no longer extant.

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Follow-up: Civil Marriage Ceremonies

In the wake of our May 21 comments on civil and religious marriage, a reader commented: “A few years ago, a young American couple wished to be married in Rome. The monsignor in charge in the vicariate [Diocese of Rome] recommended VERY strongly that they have a civil marriage performed in the U.S. before coming to Rome, and then have only the religious ceremony in Rome. The reason: the interminable lines and obfuscatory Italian red tape connected with civil recognition of religious marriage in Italy. They followed his advice and all went smoothly and joyfully, allowing them a genuine Roman holiday for their honeymoon instead of bureaucratic nightmares.”

I worked in a Roman parish for 12 years and had several weddings of non-Italians. The red tape is real but not so dramatic, and most of it falls upon the parish itself rather than the couple. It must be said, though, that it is usually far easier to get married in the United States than in Italy.

As I mentioned before, the use of the instrument of a previous civil wedding depends upon the laws of each country. A very complicated path which could considerably increase time and costs could be considered a legitimate motivation for a civil wedding in the country of origin, and this was clearly the thinking of the monsignor in question.

On the other hand, every year several hundred Irish couples get married in Rome with relatively little hassle. This is a consolidated practice with a long tradition.

Another reader asked: “I read your reply to a question on civil marriage. I was moved when I read the mail. I want to ask, is it permissible and under what condition can a Catholic be allowed to go and wed a woman in another church (Christ Apostolic Church) and the wedding regarded as valid? Can the man be allowed to receive sacrament in the Catholic Church?”

The question of mixed religious marriages is different from that of civil weddings. The bishop may give a dispensation for a couple to be validly wed according to the rites of another Christian community or for the wedding according to Catholic customs.

In some countries where such unions are fairly common, there are even some special rites that allow for the presence of ministers of different traditions as witnesses.

The bishop may even permit a valid (but not sacramental) wedding between a Catholic and a non-Christian.

Such situations are examined on a case-by-case basis so as to ensure that the marriage will be valid insofar as both partners accept the Church’s essential principles regarding marriage, such as openness to life, mutual fidelity and the exclusivity and indissolubility of the bond.

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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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Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

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