ROME, 24 NOV. 2009 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ
Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina
Q: During Mass, at the moment of mentioning the local bishop,
our parish priest has a habit of mentioning: "Our bishops N.N.,
N.N., N.N." —
and mentions the local archbishop and another two bishops. Thus,
he does not make any distinction between the local bishop and
other bishops. I wish to know whether there is a directive about
this matter. —
P.G., Qormi, Malta
A: An article on precisely this theme was published in Notitiae,
the official organ of the Congregation for Divine Worship and
the Sacraments. The title of the Italian-language article,
written by Ivan Grigis, is translated as "Regarding the Mention
of the Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer" (Notitiae 45 (2009)
308-320). Although it is a study and not an official decree,
the work gathers all the relevant official documentation on the
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 Introduction
to 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
In order to summarize the various rules, we can say the
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 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
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.
* * *
Follow-up: Mentioning Bishops in the Eucharistic
Pursuant to our article on naming bishops (Nov. 24) a canonist
reader observed: "With regard to naming an administrator in the
Eucharistic Prayer: While a diocesan administrator and an
apostolic administrator are different things, perhaps that
distinction is not one which all your readers grasp."
Our reader has a valid point. As mentioned in the U.S. bishops'
conference Web site on this theme
(www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/603.shtml): "An apostolic
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 pastoral
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 easer 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.
Finally, although it was implied in our previous article, it is
worth noting that the bishop emeritus is not mentioned in the