|God has greatly blessed the Diocese of Birmingham. Through the
dedication and expertise of many people, the televising of the holy
sacrifice of the Mass and other liturgical celebrations has borne much
fruit not only within the boundaries of this diocese, but practically
"to the ends of the earth." Grateful for the good things God has worked
in our midst and conscious of my responsibility as bishop to safeguard
and refine the work already so well begun, I now seek to promote this
vital apostolate by the publication of norms for the televising of the
Mass in the Diocese of Birmingham. It is my hope that these norms will
help to preserve past accomplishments and, with the grace of God, refine
it for generations to come.
The following norms are based upon
guidelines for televising the liturgy which were approved by the
National Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 1996 and have been
expanded to meet the needs of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama. They
articulate the requirements and the principles for good liturgical
celebration, while recognizing the inherent demands and limitations of
the television medium. The guidelines support and affirm the ministry of
all who are devoted to the production of televised Masses, who provide
an important pastoral service to the sick and homebound of our parishes.
Why Televise the Mass?
The church at worship is God's priestly people called together and
united with Christ in a sacred work through which God is glorified and
we are made holy.1 In the eucharistic assembly, in the
proclamation of the word and in the celebration of the sacraments, God
is present in our midst. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy reminds
us that "all who are made children of God by faith and baptism should
come together to praise God in the midst of his church, to take part in
the sacrifice and to eat the Lord's Supper."2
However, being a part of the worshiping assembly is not always
possible for all members of the community. Those who have been
hospitalized, homebound or imprisoned do not have the opportunity to be
physically present. For this reason, many dioceses telecast the Mass and
other liturgies as a way of reaching out to those who cannot be
physically present for the community's celebration of the Eucharist. The
televised Mass is never a substitute for the church's pastoral care for
the sick in the form of visits by parish priests, deacons or
extraordinary ministers of holy communion, who share the Scriptures and
bring holy communion, nor is it ever a substitute for the Sunday Mass
celebrated within a parish community each week.
Televising the Mass is a ministry by which the church uses modern
technology to bring the Lord's healing and comfort to those who cannot
physically participate in the liturgical life of the local church and as
a result often experience a sense of isolation from the parish and its
regular forms of prayer and worship. In addition, televised liturgies
can be an important means of evangelization, of sharing the good news of
Jesus Christ and promoting the church's worship via modern means of
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy clearly articulated the
primary importance of the faithful's "full, conscious and active
participation," which is called for "by the very nature of the liturgy"
and which is their "right and duty" by reason of their baptism.4
As members of the worshiping assembly, they are called to join the
offering of themselves with the offering of Christ. Thus, participation
in the Eucharist involves both internal and external expression
including, but not limited to, an attitude of prayer and attention,
physical movement, sentiments of praise and adoration, and joining in
the sung and recited responses.
Telecasts, by their very nature, may attempt to connect people and
places that are physically separated. While there may be a tendency for
the medium of television, with its inherent lack of physical
interaction, to lead people to more passive roles as spectators, some
elements of telecasts can engage the viewers as participants. Although
the televised Mass is not a substitute for participation in the actual
celebration of the church's liturgy, it does provide an opportunity for
those unable to be physically present (1) to hear the word of God, (2)
to be moved to pray the saving sacrifice of Christ our Lord, and (3) to
identify with a worshiping community and with the whole church.
A Word of Gratitude
All who work to provide the televising of the liturgy offer an
important service, often under difficult conditions. It takes special
skills and pastoral sensitivity to produce a televised celebration of
the Mass that is liturgically appropriate, given the limits imposed by
the medium itself. Every encouragement should be given to those who have
been called to this apostolate.
Of particular note in the Diocese of Birmingham are those generous
and self-sacrificing people associated with the good work of the Eternal
Word Television Network. Mother Mary Angelica, PCPA, abbess of Our Lady
of the Angels Monastery, and all who collaborate with that community's
many important pastoral initiatives are to be commended for having
provided the Mass to many dioceses where local diocesan celebrations are
Similarly, others are encouraged to engage themselves in this
fruitful apostolate, always keeping in mind the importance of keeping
the bishop informed of developments in this important work and seeking
his counsel and approbation.
The Role of the Bishop
The bishop of a diocese in which a televised Mass is produced has the
responsibility to see that liturgical law is carefully observed,
especially regarding the liturgical feasts and seasons, the use of
approved liturgical texts and translations of Scripture, proper vesture
and the ministers' fulfilling their proper roles in the celebration.5
In the preparation of these norms I consulted with my brother bishops
in whose dioceses the broadcasts of the Mass from Birmingham are
received, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the
Liturgy and its secretariat; and the cardinal-prefect and officials of
the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the
Sacraments. These norms are intended to apply to all broadcast or taped
celebrations of the Mass which are produced in the Diocese of
Birmingham, whether transmitted on an occasional or a regular basis.
1. In General
a. Arrangement of Liturgical Furnishings
The provision of furnishings for the celebration of Mass must be in
complete accord with the requirements of the liturgical books. This is
also true of the requirements for the altar, the ambo and the chair for
the priest celebrant, use of which should neither be omitted nor
duplicated. There is to be only one altar, one ambo and one chair for
the priest celebrant.6
All televised Masses will be celebrated in such a way that when the
priest is standing at the altar he is facing the faithful (versus
populum). This practice, currently observed in all but a relatively
few parishes throughout the dioceses of the United States, has proved
its pastoral effectiveness. Any confusion caused by a television Mass at
variance with the practice of the diocesan bishop will thus be avoided.
c. Live vs. Prerecorded Celebrations
Whenever possible, the liturgy should be telecast live. When, for
serious reasons, this is not possible, consideration may be given to
prerecording the liturgy. A liturgy that is prerecorded for delayed
telecast should be taped as it is celebrated in a local worshiping
community and then be telecast at a later time on the same day. If the
transmission is not simultaneous with the actual celebration, that fact
should be made plain to the viewers.7 Only when neither of
these options is possible should the liturgy be taped in advance in a
setting other than that of a regularly scheduled liturgy celebrated by a
local worshiping community. In order to reflect the integrity of the
liturgical year, a prerecorded liturgy should be taped on a date as
close as possible to the date of the actual telecast. In order to
preserve the sacred character of the liturgical celebration, only one
celebration of the Mass should be recorded on a given day with the same
group of people.
d. Time Constraints
The celebration of the liturgy should not be rushed nor should
elements of the liturgy be omitted. Those responsible for planning,
production and for presiding at the celebration need to be sensitive to
the requirements of the liturgy as well as the time constraints of
television. For the integrity of the liturgy, those who produce a
delayed television broadcast of the celebration should be strongly
discouraged from editing out parts of the Mass (e.g., the Gloria, one of
the readings) or introducing musical or other elements not present at
the original celebration. Planning and the careful choice of options can
help to keep the celebration within a particular time frame.
In human terms, no other single factor affects the liturgy as much as
the attitude, style and bearing of the celebrant.8 Therefore,
the priest who is to preside at a televised liturgy should be carefully
chosen and should take pains to ensure that he is prepared for this
special work. Since the liturgy is the work of Christ and the work of
the church, the televised Mass should always be celebrated within a
living community of God's people whose presence reveals the full,
conscious and active participation of the faithful. Even when the
liturgy to be televised is taped apart from a regularly scheduled
liturgy, there should always be a group of people present who
participate in the liturgy as fully as possible by their prayer, song
and presence. Their participation must be considered as being of prime
importance, a goal which may be achieved by seating the assembly in such
a way as to foster a sense of community and by the choice of liturgical
music which is easily sung and known to the faithful present.
f. Liturgical Music
Music is very important in televising liturgical celebrations. The
televised Mass should normally include the sung acclamations, i.e.,
Alleluia, Holy, Holy, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen. If acclamations
are to be sung in Latin, the text and/or the music should be available
to the faithful so they might have an opportunity for full and active
participation in the liturgy. Ideally, the responsorial psalm should
also be sung. Other appropriate songs may be, sung in accordance with
guidelines found in Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music
Today. Additional musical selections should correspond to their
placement in the liturgy and not simply be used as occasions for
performance. The use of prerecorded music, even to accompany the
congregation's singing, is not appropriate for the liturgy.9
g. Legitimate Diversity
In order that all may be nourished by the rich and beautiful
treasures of the Roman Missal, full use of the various options provided
in the order of Mass should be utilized. This is particularly true of
the penitential rite and the choice of eucharistic prayers, including
the memorial acclamation. The traditional use of incense and of the
blessing and sprinkling of holy water should be encouraged at least on
h. Visual Elements and the Privacy of Persons
As much as possible, the televised image should concentrate on the
action of the rite. When the priest prays, the camera should show him
praying. When the reader reads, the camera should show the reader
reading. Extended shots of sacred images accompanied by the disembodied
voice of the priest or the reader are to be avoided. The photographing
of the faces of communicants as they ask for God's forgiveness in the
penitential rite, receive holy communion or make their thanksgiving
after holy communion is likewise inappropriate since it can infringe on
their privacy at a highly personal moment of spiritual reflection.
2. The Order of Mass
Only the gestures prescribed by the Roman Missal may be used at Mass.
The introduction of extraneous gestures is to be strongly discouraged,
especially given the importance assumed by televised Masses and public
models for the celebration of the Eucharist. If the tabernacle is
located in the sanctuary, the priest and ministers are to reverence the
reposed sacrament with a genuflection at the beginning and the end of
Mass and when they approach it to remove or reserve the reserved
sacrament at communion. No other reverence of the reserved blessed
sacrament is called for in the course of the Mass.10
b) Entrance Rites
The entrance procession, entrance song and introductory rites are to
be followed precisely as they are described in the order of Mass. The
Book of Gospels may be carried by the deacon or, in his absence, by the
reader in the entrance procession.11 The Lectionary is never
carried in procession.
c) Liturgy of the Word
Readings from sacred Scripture and the chants between the readings
form the main part of the Liturgy of the Word. The homily, profession of
faith and general intercessions or prayer of the faithful expand and
complete this part of the Mass.12
—Only the approved Lectionary for Mass for use in the dioceses of the
United States may be used for the proclamation of the scriptural
readings. Whenever there are several readings, a different reader should
preferably proclaim each reading so as to bring out more clearly the
differences in the text.13
—Since the homily is an integral part of the liturgy and necessary
for the nurturing of the Christian life, there should be a homily during
a televised Mass. The homilist needs to be sensitive to the needs of the
gathered assembly and of those who will be viewing the telecast. The
homily should always be based on the scriptural or liturgical texts of
the Mass and must not be preoccupied with nonliturgical and
nonscriptural sectarian political subjects or other extraneous
considerations.14 The character of the homily should be "a
proclamation of God's wonderful works in the history of salvation, the
mystery of Christ, ever made present and active within us, especially in
the celebration of the liturgy."15
The requirements of the liturgical books regarding the Prayer of the
Faithful are to be carefully followed.16 The priest should
introduce the petitions and pray the closing prayer, while a deacon or a
lay minister should offer the petitions themselves. The petitions should
be short, universal in character and reflective of the broad needs of
the church as laid down in the rubrics.17 The final prayer,
after the petitions, is addressed to the Father. It should not be
substituted with any prayer or petition otherwise directed.
d) Liturgy of the Eucharist
"At the Last Supper Christ instituted the sacrifice and paschal meal
that make the sacrifice of the cross to be continuously present in the
church, when the priest, representing Christ the Lord, carries out what
the Lord did and handed over to his disciples to do in his memory."18
—The use of Latin in a predominantly English-language Mass is
appropriate when the meaning of the Latin text in question is understood
by participants. The Eucharistic Prayer should be in English throughout
in order to assist the faithful in their understanding and to emphasize
the unity of the prayer from the introductory dialogue through the
doxology. If on some special occasion the Eucharistic Prayer is used in
Latin, that language should be used throughout, and in any case the
bishop should be consulted previously.
The faithful are to receive holy communion which has been consecrated
during the same Mass at which they are participants.19
—In accord with liturgical law, the choice of the communicant to
receive "on the tongue" or "in the hand" is to be respected absolutely.20
In the light of the faculties received by the conference of bishops,
communicants are never to be obliged concerning the manner of reception
of holy communion.
The purification of vessels should take place in a timely manner at
the side of the altar or at a side table. Sacred vessels are never
purified at the center of the altar.21
These norms are intended to apply to all Masses produced, televised
or taped for later broadcast in the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama.
Given on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the apostle, in the
jubilee year of the birth of our Lord, Feb. 22, 2000.
1 Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7.
2 Ibid., 10.
3 Cf. Inter Mirifica, 14.
4 Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14.
5 See ibid., 20 and 22 and Inter Mirifica, 20.
6 See Lectionary for Mass, 16, 17, 33 and 34.
7 See Notitiae (1969), p. 406.
8 Music in Catholic Worship, 21.
9 Ibid., 54 and Liturgical Music Today, 60.
10 See General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 233.
11 See ibid., 128 and 82.
12 Ibid., 33.
13 Lectionary, 52.
14 Ibid., 24; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 35.2; General
15 Sacrosanctum Concilium, 35.
16 General Instruction, 45, 46, 47; Documents on the Liturgy,
239 Consilium, "The Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful," January
1965 1st ed.; April, 1966, 2nd ed.; Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy,
"General Intercessions," announced in BCL Newsletter, October 1979, in
Thirty Years of Liturgical Renewal, ed. Frederick McManus, (USCC:
Washington, DC, 1987), pp. 200-210.
17 General Instruction, 46.
18 Ibid., 48.
19 Ibid., 56h.; Eucharisticum Mysterium, 31, 32;
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 55.
20 See Notificazione sulla comunione in mano (Prot. 720/85),
21 General Instruction, 120.