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Liturgy Q&A: Mentioning a Bishop-Elect or Apostolic Administrator

Norms Regarding Eucharistic Prayers

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Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Recently we have had a new bishop appointed to our diocese who has not yet taken possession. Some priests of the diocese were discussing whether or not he could be named in the Eucharistic Prayer as «Bishop-elect N.» In 2009 you wrote an article on mentioning bishops in the Eucharistic Prayers and cited the footnote to the Eucharistic Prayers and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (No. 149) which indicates that only the bishop or one who is equivalent to the diocesan bishop in law, coadjutor bishops, and auxiliary bishops may be mentioned. In the follow-up article, you indicate that an apostolic administrator may be mentioned and referred to the U.S. bishops’ conference website. Is it true that an apostolic administrator is equivalent to a diocesan bishop in law, and is there any other source for suggesting that an apostolic administrator must be named other than the website given? The Ceremonial of Bishops, paragraph 1147, says that «From the day the bishop takes possession of his diocese, his name is mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer.» Would it be correct to say that this precludes mentioning his name before that date, or is it just that he must be mentioned from that date and may be mentioned previously? — J.D., Wagga Wagga, Australia

A: May I first say that it is a pleasure to see priests who have such love for ecclesial communion as to desire to mention the bishop at Mass even before he takes possession.

It is also satisfying that some readers actually take the pains of looking up back issues. Such acts of penance will probably shorten their purgatory.

However, we will spare our other readers this trial by presenting the principal arguments of the 2009 articles. These were based on a study in Italian published in Notitiae, the official organ of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The title of the article, by Ivan Grigis, is translated as «Regarding the Mention of the Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer» (Notitiae 45 (2009) 308-320). Although it is 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 Instruction of 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.

GIRM No. 149 also says:

“The diocesan Bishop or anyone equivalent to him in law must be mentioned by means of this formula: ‘una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Episcopo (or Vicario, Prelato, Praefecto, Abbate)’ (together with your servant N., our Pope, and N., our Bishop [or Vicar, Prelate, Prefect, Abbot]).

«It is permitted to mention Coadjutor and Auxiliary Bishops in the Eucharistic Prayer, but not other Bishops who happen to be present. When several are to be named, this is done with the collective formula ‘et Episcopo nostro N. eiusque Episcopis adiutoribus’ (N., our Bishop and his assistant Bishops).”

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 or local ordinaries 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.

In naming the pope it is customary to only mention the pope’s name, leaving out the numeral and in naming bishops to omit honorific titles such as cardinal.

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.

With respect to the apostolic administrator, the U.S. bishops’ conference website says: «An apostolic administrator — whether the see is vacant or not — with either a temporary or permanent appointment, who is a Bishop and actually is fully exercising his office, especially in spiritual matters» is named in the Eucharistic Prayer.

There are two possible meanings of apostolic administrator.

According to Canon 371.2, apostolic administration is a portion of the people of God erected on a stable basis but not as a diocese due to special and grave reasons. The apostolic administrator is legally equivalent to the diocesan bishop. There are about 10 such apostolic administrations in the world.

Second, present practice uses the term apostolic administrator for a prelate whom the pope appoints for grave and special reasons to a vacant or filled see, either for a period or perpetually. He would be appointed sede plena if, for example, the diocesan bishop were incapacitated by illness or advanced age. In this case, the jurisdiction of the resident bishop would be suspended. (Canon 312 of the 1917 Code referred to apostolic administrators; the current code does not.)

Since it is easier nowadays for bishops to retire if incapacitated, this use of the apostolic administrator is less common. The figure is used, however, on some occasions. For example: If a bishop is transferred, and the Holy See foresees that it might take some time to find a suitable successor, then either the former bishop himself or another prelate is sometimes named to administer the diocese in the meantime.

A diocesan administrator, on the other hand, is not named in the Eucharistic Prayer. He is usually a priest who is elected by the diocesan council of consultors to administer a vacant see until a new bishop is appointed and takes possession. The priest has most of the powers and obligations of the bishop but with some restrictions; and he cannot introduce any important innovations.

Returning to the original question, I think we can affirm that the apostolic administrator since he has full pastoral jurisdiction in the diocese and it is through him that ecclesial communion is established, should be named in the Eucharistic Prayer. Except in the case of an “Apostolic Administration” according to canon 371.2, the formula used would be N. our bishop as for all effects the apostolic administrator is the bishop of the diocese. Although it is theoretically possible for the pope to name a priest as apostolic administrator of a diocese, in practice he is always a bishop.

The essential point to be remembered is that the mention of pope and bishop is not a social nicety but establishes a theological act of ecclesial communion. This is very well expressed in the Roman Canon when we pray “together with (una cum)” pope and bishop and not just “for” the pope and the bishop. Thus the Ceremonial of Bishops, paragraph 1147, mentioned by our reader is theologically grounded and is not just a question of protocol.

For this reason, since the bishop-elect, whether he is already a bishop or not, does not yet enjoy pastoral jurisdiction in the diocese, and therefore cannot yet establish ecclesial communion through the Eucharistic celebration, should not be named. Likewise, and for the same reasons, the bishop emeritus is not mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer.

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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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