ROME, 29 MAY 2007 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: When a bishop gives Benediction with the monstrance, does he use one
great sign of the cross like a priest, or does he use the triple sign of
the cross like at Mass without the monstrance? I've seen it done both
ways by bishops.
D.Z., Marquette, Michigan
A: The norms in force before the present rite did foresee the triple
sign of the cross when a bishop gave Benediction.
The present norms found in the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 1114, simply
describe the bishop who, after taking the monstrance, "then turns
towards the people and makes the sign of the cross over them with the
monstrance in silence."
The accompanying footnote refers to No. 99 of the ritual of Worship of
the Eucharist Outside Mass. As this ritual makes no distinction between
Benedictions imparted by a bishop or a priest, it may thus be presumed
that a particular form of Eucharistic Benediction is no longer foreseen
for a bishop even though some prelates may have continued the earlier
practice out of force of habit.
On the other hand the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 169, does specify the
triple sign of the cross at the end of Mass. ZE07052920
* * *
Follow-up: Benediction by a Bishop [6-12-2007]
After our piece on a bishop giving Benediction (May 29), a reader from
Malmö, Sweden, asked: "I've noticed that a bishop may also give a
blessing with the Book of the Gospels. Does he do this on more solemn
occasions? Is there any difference when giving the blessing with the
Book of the Gospels and when giving it with the monstrance and Blessed
The practice of the bishop imparting a blessing with the Book of the
Gospels on certain solemn occasions is a relative novelty in the
It may have been introduced by Pope John Paul II. For some time it was
considered as a prerogative exclusive to the Holy Father, even though
some bishops also began to impart this blessing, probably influenced by
televised papal Masses.
Although the norm legitimizing the custom is not mentioned in the
Ceremonial of Bishops, it has been incorporated into some recent
publications such as the introduction to the Book of the Gospels.
The norm does not specify how this blessing is to be carried out. The
general practice seems to be that, after proclaiming the Gospel, the
priest or deacon brings the open book to the bishop to be kissed. The
priest or deacon then closes the Book of the Gospels and gives it to the
bishop who makes a simple sign of the cross with the volume in a manner
similar to that of Benediction with the monstrance. In other cases the
book is brought, already closed, to the bishop, who takes it, kisses it
and then imparts the blessing.
The rubric does not indicate on what solemn occasions this blessing is
imparted and apparently leaves the decision to the bishop himself.
The rubric does indicate, however, that only the bishop imparts this
blessing and this rite is never carried out by a priest.