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Liturgy Q&A: Pro Populo Masses

Pastor Can Delegate the Intention

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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: In the Ordo, it states that Masses pro populo are said on Sundays and holy days by the pastor. Can another priest or visiting priest say the Mass pro populo and not the pastor? — M.P., St. Petersburg, Florida

 A: The pastor’s obligation to offer Mass and other prayers for the souls entrusted to him derives from the mission itself as shepherd of souls. Moreover, this obligation is enshrined in canon law. To wit:

 “Can. 534 §1. After a pastor has taken possession of his parish, he is obliged to apply a Mass for the people entrusted to him on each Sunday and holy day of obligation in his diocese. If he is legitimately impeded from this celebration, however, he is to apply it on the same days through another or on other days himself.

 “§2. A pastor who has the care of several parishes is bound to apply only one Mass for the entire people entrusted to him on the days mentioned in §1.

 “§3. A pastor who has not satisfied the obligation mentioned in §§1 and 2 is to apply as soon as possible as many Masses for the people as he has omitted.”

 Therefore, every parish priest is required to offer the Mass pro populo. This also applies to parochial administrators and priest moderators in accordance with canons 540 §1 and 517 §2.

 In most cases the Mass pro populo should be programmed from the beginning of the year and listed in the bulletin as either “pro populo,” or “for the People of the Parish[es].” This helps avoid assuming other intentions for the Eucharistic celebrations set aside for the pro populo Mass.

 In many places, the Mass reserved for the pro populo intention is the principal parish Mass and is celebrated with some elements of greater solemnity. This is not a strict requirement, however, and a pastor who is scheduled to be away from his parish for a good reason could fulfill his obligation by offering Mass at another location.

 The obligation to celebrate the Mass falls primarily on the pastor himself. As such, it is not something that he should habitually delegate to another priest. However, Canon 534 §1 recognizes that if a legitimate reason prevents the pastor from this obligation, he may apply it on the same day through another or on another day himself.

 For example, a pastor with more than one church might have to cover for another priest who has fallen ill and be unable to return in time for the pro popolo Mass. In such a situation he can ask another priest to celebrate the pro popolo Mass along with its intention.

 On other occasions, he may retain the intention but not preside at the Mass. For example, should a newly ordained priest return to celebrate his first solemn Mass at his home parish at the celebration foreseen as pro populo, the pastor can concelebrate with the pro populo intention even though he does not preside at the Mass.

 * * *

 Follow up: Old Testament Saints

 In the wake of our December 1 column on Old Testament saints, a priest shared information from the Ordo for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

 This Ordo lists the following Old Testament saints for celebrations: February 3, Saints Simeon and Anna; May 9, Isaiah; June 14, Elisha; July 20, Elijah; July 21, Jeremiah; August 3, the Maccabee brothers; September 4, Moses; October 9, Abraham; December 16, David and all the Holy Ancestors of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 I am grateful for this new information which confirms the points made in our earlier article.

 * * *

 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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