Changing the Presider

Author: Father Edward McNamara, LC


Changing the Presider

ROME, 21 AUG. 2012 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: When our new priest was installed as parish priest, I saw something I have never seen before — they swapped who was presiding at Mass. Background: In the absence of the bishop we had Monsignor A. in his stead. Monsignor A. started as presider, wearing the chasuble, whereas Father V. did not. After Monsignor A. gave the homily, we had a little installation ceremony.

Monsignor A. asked us to extend our hands in blessing; after he said the prayer, took the chasuble off and Father V. put in on; from that point on Father V. was presiding. If the bishop had been there instead, I would be very surprised if he handed over the role of presider during the Mass.

Something else I wish to ask. The following Sunday he brought back the procession of the lectionary before the readings, after the penitential prayer. We don’t have a Book of the Gospels only, nor a deacon. The reader of the second reading carries it in procession from the back of the church to the front, led by two altar servers, bows to the altar when (s)he gets to the front, turns, holds it aloft to the congregation, then gives it to the reader of the first reading who is waiting at the lectern. We had recently stopped it when our priest said it was supposed to be a Book of the Gospels carried by a deacon. — J.V., Auckland, New Zealand

A: In principle there are no situations when there is a change of principal celebrant in the liturgy. This was emphasized in a private 2007 letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship dealing with a different case of change of principal celebrant. The congregation wrote: "From a liturgical point of view it is inadmissible for there to be a change of president in the course of one and the same liturgical celebration."

To forestall possible objections, the letter also addressed the apparent exceptions to this principle such as those "That occur when the Bishop presides over a celebration in choir dress or when a newly ordained Bishop becomes the president of the Eucharistic celebration from the moment of his Ordination." The first example occurs when a bishop assists at a Mass but does not celebrate, for example, on the occasion of a priestly jubilee. In such cases the bishop may give the homily and the final blessing.

The letter concludes that these are not true exceptions but "arise from the nature of the Bishop's ministry, and do not take the general rule."

An analogous case of a brief change in presider can occur when a newly appointed bishop takes possession of his diocese. If he does this himself, he is received by the ranking priest of the cathedral who offers him a crucifix to be kissed and holy water to sprinkle himself and the people. He briefly visits the Blessed Sacrament, goes to the sacristy, vests and presides over the Mass from the beginning.

At the beginning of Mass he goes to the cathedra, sits and puts on the miter. The apostolic letter of his appointment is then read. After reading the text he is greeted by the ranking priest and some other members of the clergy. After this, omitting the penitential rite (and optionally the Kyrie), he intones the Gloria.

However, on some occasions the new bishop is introduced into the diocese by the local metropolitan archbishop. In this case No. 1145 of the Ceremonial of Bishops says: "If, however, the Metropolitan himself brings the Bishop into his cathedral church, he presents the Bishop at the door of the church to the highest-ranking member of the chapter and presides at the entrance procession; at the cathedra he greets the people and requires that the apostolic Letter be shown and read. When it has been read, and after the acclamation of the people, the Metropolitan invites the Bishop to be seated in the cathedra. Then the Bishop rises and sings Glória in excélsis according to the rubrics."

As we see, these are all exceptional cases and refer only to bishops. Therefore, it was not liturgically correct to substitute the presider at the Mass in which a pastor is introduced into his parish. The different possible rites are described in the Ceremonial of Bishops, Nos. 1185-1198. Although the possibility is foreseen of the new pastor presiding over the Mass because the bishop does not celebrate, at no moment is a change of president foreseen.

A very exceptional case involving a change of a presider would be when a priest is stricken, or even dies, during the course of a Mass. In such a case another priest can continue from the point where the first left off until the end of Mass.

Regarding the procession of the lectionary, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 120, says that in the procession there may be "A lector, who may carry the Book of the Gospels (though not the Lectionary), which should be slightly elevated." If there is a deacon, he will normally carry the Book of the Gospels.

Therefore, no procession of the lectionary is foreseen during Mass.

* * *

Follow-up: Changing the Presider [9-4-2012]

In the wake of our comments on a change of presider at a Mass (see Aug. 21), a reader from Asia wrote: "Our parish has seen the installation of two parish priests lately: the first one three years ago, and the second one just last Sunday. Three years ago, the previous archbishop installed the parish priest in this manner: Vested in chasuble and miter, he began the Mass with the usual greeting, asked for the priest's Credo, received his priestly vows, gave him the tabernacle key and seated him on the chair. After all of this, however, the new parish priest 'took over the Mass,' although the archbishop preached the sermon and gave the final blessing. We also set up two presidential chairs — one for the archbishop and one for the parish priest. The parish priest was not a 'principal concelebrant' alongside the bishop, but really 'took over the Mass.' In fact, during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the archbishop did not approach the altar but concelebrated from the presidential chair. Last Sunday, the new archbishop installed our new parish priest, and while I had hoped he would preside at Mass, I was disappointed when he followed exactly the same procedure described above. This created some confusion when, for example, the altar servers had to ask who to approach when incense had to be put in the censer. The answer was obviously the new parish priest, not the archbishop. Is this how installations of parish priests should be done? What does the Ceremonial of Bishops and other liturgical documents have to say about this? Thanks!"

Our reader describes one possible mode of installation although with one or two technical slips. For example, if the archbishop is not going to preside at Mass, he is not vested in chasuble but in miter and cope. If he concelebrates at all, then he must preside at the Mass.

I am presuming that, given the exceptional nature of this ceremony, our reader was mistaken in thinking that the archbishop "concelebrated" from the chair.

The Ceremonial of Bishops describes the rite of installation of a new parish priest in Nos. 1185-1198, although making generous allowance for local custom.

No. 1187 recommends that the bishop should preside over the Mass with the new parish priest and other priests concelebrating. No. 1188, however, allows for the bishop to be present without concelebrating as described in the ceremonial Nos. 175-185. This can be done for any good reason, for example, if the bishop has other celebrations programmed for the same day.

Therefore, if the bishop is going to introduce the new priest, without concelebrating, the general order of the rites at Mass would be as follows with the omission of some technical details:
The bishop enters wearing alb, stole and cope of the color of the feast, and miter and pastoral staff. In the entrance procession he walks behind the celebrant and concelebrants preferably escorted by deacons and ministers. He kisses the altar after the concelebrants.

If incense is used at this point, the bishop incenses the altar and proceeds to the presidential chair and greets the people.

In the case of the introduction of a new parish priest the following rites may be used in whole or in part after the greeting. Some of them may be carried out before Mass begins if circumstances warrant it:

At the door of the Church, or at the chair if done at the beginning of Mass, the bishop introduces the new parish priest and hands him the keys of the church.

The priest's letter of appointment is read and he makes the profession of faith.

On this occasion it is fitting that the new pastor read the Gospel, receiving the book and blessing from the bishop.

Following the bishop's homily it is recommended that the priest renew the promises made at ordination.

As circumstances suggest either at this moment, or before Mass, there may be a procession with thurible, cross and candles so that the bishop may lead the new parish priest and entrust him with the various sacred places of his ministry (baptistery, chair, Blessed Sacrament chapel and confessional). He may invite the new pastor to incense the baptistery and also open the tabernacle to incense the Blessed Sacrament. Finally he may also invite him to ring the church bells.

After the general intercessions the bishop goes to the chair and is seated. The deacon and ministers prepare the altar as usual. The gifts may be received by the celebrant of the Mass or by the bishop. After a deep bow to the bishop the new pastor goes to the altar and begins the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the usual manner.

If incense is used, the priest celebrant is incensed first and then the bishop.

During the Eucharistic Prayer the bishop remains, with head uncovered, at a kneeler prepared for him facing the altar either in front of the chair or in some other convenient place. Since he is not concelebrating, he kneels during the consecration.

If the bishop receives communion, he takes the Body and Blood of Christ after the priest celebrant after which he may remain seated at the chair.

The bishop recites the prayer after communion at the chair and blesses the people in the usual manner.

Before the blessing he may invite the new parish priest to address the faithful.

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