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Holy See

Coadjutors in the Eucharistic Prayer

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

Q: We just welcomed a coadjutor bishop, and I am wondering if there is a correct way to mention him in the Eucharistic Prayer. I have heard many formulations including: “Patrick, our Bishop,” with no mention of the coadjutor; “Patrick and Oscar, our Bishops”; “Patrick our Bishop and Oscar his Coadjutor”; “Patrick our Bishop and Oscar our Coadjutor.” We also have a bishop emeritus — should he be mentioned and how? — J.R., Gilroy, California

A: To address this question, we repeat in part to an answer to a similar question in 2009.

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 Instruction of 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.

Thus, the purpose of mentioning the local ordinary in the Eucharistic Prayer is not a question of honor or respect but of communion. As the Roman Canon says, we pray “una cum,” “together with,” the pope and the local bishop. In a way, this mention renders each local assembly a true manifestation of the universal Church.

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 a coadjutor or one auxiliary, he may be mentioned by name if the celebrant wishes: “N., our bishop, and P., our Coadjutor (or auxiliary).”

If there is more than one auxiliary (including the coadjutor), they may be mentioned collectively, that is, “N., our bishop, and his assistant bishops.” They are not named separately.

Apart from the aforementioned article, we could mention a couple of special cases. Priests celebrating in Rome can say simply, “N., our Pope,” and leave it at that. 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.

However, 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 was 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 easier 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.

There are also some special cases in which territorial jurisdictions do not coincide with diocesan borders. For example, a military ordinary usually exercises his territorial jurisdiction over military bases around the country, and occasionally overseas, and it is his name which is mentioned when Mass is celebrated in those bases or on naval ships.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, informally known as the “Anglican Ordinariate,” is based in Houston, Texas. The ordinary exercises his jurisdiction over the churches and other institutions that pertain to the ordinariate in the United States and Canada, and his name is mentioned when Mass is celebrated in those churches.

When priests are traveling, they only mention the bishop of the place where they happen to be celebrating Mass, and never their own ordinary, even if they are celebrating for groups from their own diocese.

In conclusion, 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, including bishops emeritus or bishops who 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 usually be included in the prayer of the faithful.

* * *

Readers may send questions to [email protected]. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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