Mentioning Bishops in the Eucharistic Prayers

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Mentioning Bishops in the Eucharistic Prayers

ROME, 24 NOV. 2009 (ZENIT)

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

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 subject.

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 the assembly.

In order to summarize the various rules, we can say the following:

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 the same.

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 Prayers [12-8-2009]

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 ( "An apostolic administrator — 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 Eucharistic Prayer.

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