ROME, 26 JUNE 2007 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary Father Edward
McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Are there special norms for the celebration of Mass when priests of
different rites concelebrate?
A.E., New York
A: The 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin rite is silent regarding
this subject, but it was specifically addressed in the Code of Canons of
the Eastern Churches promulgated in 19—
Canon 701 of this code states: "For a just cause and with the permission
of the eparchial bishop, bishops and presbyters of different churches
'sui iuris' can concelebrate, especially to foster love and to manifest
the unity of the Churches. All follow the prescripts of the liturgical
books of the principal celebrant, avoiding any liturgical syncretism
whatever, and preferably with all wearing the liturgical vestments and
insignia of their own Church 'sui iuris.'"
Unlike most canons, this one lists no sources for its indications in
earlier documents, thus confirming that it was specifically composed to
address a relatively new situation. As it is the only norm available,
its indications are also applicable to Roman-rite priests.
To this may be added the injunction of the instruction "Redemptionis
Sacramentum," No. 113: "Where it happens that some of the Priests who
are present do not know the language of the celebration and therefore
are not capable of pronouncing the parts of the Eucharistic Prayer
proper to them, they should not concelebrate, but instead should attend
the celebration in choral dress in accordance with the norms."
Therefore a priest, with sufficient dominion of the language, may
receive permission to concelebrate in a Mass of a rite different from
his own. This permission may be for a specific situation or habitual, as
may be the case of some Eastern priests studying or residing in
Latin-rite institutes or priestly residences.
The priest should normally participate in the vestments of his own rite,
as was clearly visible in Pope John Paul II's funeral and Benedict XVI's
installation Mass where each of the Eastern cardinals who concelebrated
wore his own proper vestments.
of the Eastern code, however, allows for exceptions to be made to this
rule if proper vestments are unavailable. This could easily happen to an
Eastern priest traveling in Europe or America or, less likely, a
Latin-rite priest in an Eastern country. In such cases he may
concelebrate using Latin or Eastern vestments.
As the canon says, there should be no attempt to syncretize or mix
elements of different rites. Only one rite may be followed.
The texts and rubrics of some Eastern rites have been translated into
several languages. In some cases these translations are for study
purposes only, and priests may never concelebrate using a translation
that has not been formally approved for liturgical use by the proper
* * *
Follow-up: Concelebrants From
Different Rites [7-10-2007]
Along with the recent question on priests of different rites
concelebrating (June 26), other queries have asked about the
One priest asked for a clarification as to the concept "principal
celebrant." He wrote: "To me it seems that one is either a celebrant or
not. This is particularly annoying in vesture. To distinguish between
the celebrants seems to confuse the idea of a hierarchical liturgy. I
understand the practicality of the distinction, but it seems that with
the frequency of concelebration, concelebrants seem like 'secondary'
ministers not equal in dignity to the celebrant
the bishop being a different matter altogether is understood."
Of course, except in the case of a bishop, all priest concelebrants have
the same dignity and all equally celebrate. This is emphasized by such
details as the priest who reads the Gospel not asking for a blessing
from another priest as he would from a bishop.
However, when the Church restored the practice of concelebration it
decided that the model for all concelebrations would be the Mass
presided over by the bishop.
This principle, as well as the need to preserve the unity and dignity of
the celebration, resulted in the decision not to divide the principal
rites and prayers among several priests. Rather, only one of them would
carry them out, except for some parts of the Eucharistic Prayer.
This priest, who is called the principal celebrant, also establishes the
basic rhythm of the celebration to which the other priests adjust.
Since it is he who presides over the assembly, it is congruous, but not
strictly necessary, that he wear a different chasuble if all celebrants
are fully vested. If the other concelebrants are wearing just an alb and
stole, then he must wear a chasuble over the alb and stole.
This brings us to another related question from the Philippines: "Does
the rule of wearing a proper vestment (alb, chasuble and stole) during
concelebration apply to a Mass celebrated at a private chapel of the
residence of priests? Will it be proper for a priest just to participate
in the Mass without concelebrating?"
The Mass, even if celebrated in a private chapel, is always a public
action of the Church and therefore the same rules apply everywhere.
The Church highly recommends daily Mass to all priests even if no
congregation can be present, but it does not oblige the priest to
celebrate. In this way a priest may simply attend a Mass.
Nevertheless, unless the priest has another Eucharistic celebration the
same day, it is much better that he concelebrate rather than merely
assist. In this way he can obtain more graces for souls in need, and
thus more fully exercise his pastoral charity.