Benediction by a Bishop

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Benediction by a Bishop

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

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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 Sacrament?"

The practice of the bishop imparting a blessing with the Book of the Gospels on certain solemn occasions is a relative novelty in the liturgy.

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.

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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