Papal mass

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Pope Benedict XVI when moving out at the end of a papal mass in St. Peter's Basilica (2006)

The papal mass ( Latin : missa papalis ) is the solemn form of the pontifical office , which the pope presides as celebrant . Before considerable simplifications were made to the papal liturgy in the course of the liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council , it had in principle kept the same form for centuries.

Earlier form

Due to the role of the Pope as sovereign of the Papal States and his universal claim as head of the princes , an extensive court was established at the papal palace over the centuries. The courtly ceremonies also shaped the liturgy of papal masses. Especially this came in the use of silver trumpets, the homage of the Pope by present clergy and rites as the Vorkostung ( praegustatio expression) of the eucharistic gifts. The members of the papal chapel ( cappella pontificia ) and members of the papal court took part in the liturgy according to a strict ceremony .

Expiry until the reform in the 1970s

The collection

The celebration began with the reception of the Pope in the vestibule of St. Peter's Basilica . In the cathedral, a fanfare played by officers of the Nobel Guard on silver trumpets announced the arrival of the Pope. Then they moved into the basilica in a precisely defined processional order: First came one of the papal master of ceremonies, flanked by procurators of the colleges and two Swiss guardsmen . Then followed the apostolic preacher and the confessors of the papal family, who were members of the Servite order . They were followed by the general procurators of the religious orders in habit , followed by the chaplains who wore the pope's miter . Behind them walked the singers of the papal band. After them came the auditors of the Roman Rota . The youngest auditor acted as apostolic subdeacon and carried the processional cross. Seven speakers of the Apostolic Signature surrounded it as a candlestick . Carrying seven candles in front of the bishop goes back to a custom that has already been handed down in the urban Roman liturgy of the early church.

Another auditor as a sub-deacon followed this group along with a sub-deacon and a deacon of the Byzantine Rite . The clergy of the Byzantine rite had the task of delivering the readings in Greek. After them came the confessors of St. Peter, headed by two clerics with long staff decorated with flowers, a symbol of the judicial power of the confessors. Then came the abbots , bishops and archbishops clad in white mitres and choir cloaks who were not assistants to the throne , followed by the bishops and archbishops of the oriental rites. They were joined by the bishops and archbishops who were assistants to the throne, as well as the patriarchs . The cardinals followed , first the cardinal deacons in dalmatic , then the cardinal priests in chasubles, and finally the cardinal bishops in the choir cloak.

One of the cardinal bishops, usually that of Ostia , acted as the presbyter assistant in the mass . Then came the Vice Camerlengo and a Roman prince (usually from the Colonna or Orsini families ) who acted as assistant to the throne. Behind them walked the two assisting cardinal deacons and the cardinal deacon who performed the liturgical service of the deacon at Mass . The Pope followed them on the Sedia gestatoria , the papal armchair. This was worn by twelve Palafrenieri in red damask robes. Eight trainee lawyers with the apostolic signature carried the canopy over the sedia. At that time the Pope was dressed in the falda , amikt , alb , zingulum , stole and choir cloak and wore the tiara on his head. The Pope was followed by soldiers of the Swiss Guard, officers of the Nobel Guard and other people from the papal court. Behind them came two secret chamberlains who wore the Flabelli , then the dean of the Roman Rota with the jeweled miter of the Pope, after him the General Auditor of the Papal Chamber and the Maggiordomo, behind him the Apostolic Protonotaries and finally the Order Generals.

Arrived in the center of the basilica, the Pope left the Sedia and one of the assisting cardinal deacons took the tiara from him and put the miter on him. The Pope then went to the so-called “Throne of the Third”. This was a second, smaller throne that was near the altar on the epistle side . The Pope sat on it while the third was sung. The other participants in the procession also took their places. At the sign of a ceremonial, the cardinals, bishops and abbots rose again to pay homage to the Pope . First came the cardinals kissing the Pope's ring. This was followed by the bishops, who venerated the cross on the Pope's stole in the same way. Finally the abbots kissed the Pope's feet.


After the homage, the Pope opened the third. During the third, the Pope put on the pontifical shoes and said the preparatory prayers for the celebrant of Holy Mass . Then he sang the oration of the third. Then he put on the liturgical vestments for the celebration of mass. The Pope then placed incense for the procession from the throne of the third to the altar .

Mass celebration

The procession to the altar was preceded by an auditor from the Rota with the papal cross. As in the procession, it was flanked by seven candlesticks. They were followed by the apostolic sub-deacon with the gospel book , on the right the Greek sub-deacon, on the left the Greek deacon. Behind them came the assistant cardinal bishop and the cardinal deacon who carried out the liturgical service of the deacon. Then the Pope came, flanked by the assisting cardinal deacons and other ministries who were wearing the long robes of the Pope. The conclusion was formed by the dean of the Roman Rota and the archbishops, who were assistants to the throne. On the way to the altar, the three youngest cardinal deacons met the Pope and kissed him for peace .

Arrived at the altar, the choir sang the introit , while the Pope prayed step prayer and confiteor . The assistant cardinal bishop stood on his right and the cardinal deacon on his left. Then the apostolic sub-deacon put the pope on the maniples . At the coronation mass of the Pope, the coronation prayers of the three oldest cardinal bishops followed. The assisting cardinal bishop handed the opened gospel book to the pope, who adored it with a kiss. The Pope then incensated the altar, was incensated himself and exchanged the kiss of peace with the assistant.

The Pope now went to the throne in the apse. The apostolic sub-deacon and the cardinal deacon who acted as deacon remained at the altar. At the throne the Pope read the introit and alternately spoke the Kyrie with the assistant . The fair now followed the procedure in its extraordinary form . The Kyrie was followed by the Gloria , which was intoned by the Pope and sung by the choir. It was followed by the oration, which the Pope also sang. At the coronation mass, the cardinal protodeacon went to St. Peter's tomb with auditors from the Rota and sang a short litany there .

The epistle was sung by the sub-deacon. In the papal mass he stood in the presbytery at the end of the bench in which the cardinal priests sat. When he finished, the Greek subdeacon stepped by his side and repeated the reading in Greek. The epistle was followed by the gradual and the alleluia or the tract , during which the pope at the throne read the epistle, interludes and gospel for himself. The gospel was then solemnly proclaimed. In addition, the cardinal deacon, acting as a deacon, came to the Pope and kissed his hand. Then he went to the altar on which the gospel was lying. He knelt on the top step and prayed the prayers in preparation for the gospel. The candlesticks stood in front of the altar while a thuriferar went to the throne. There the Pope put incense. The chimney carrier now went to the Ceroferaren at the altar. Together with the apostolic sub-deacon and the cardinal deacon with the gospel book, everyone moves to the throne. There the cardinal deacon asks for the blessing. Then everyone goes to the bench of the cardinal deacons, where the cardinal deacon and the gospel book put it on a desk and sang the gospel. When he had finished the lecture, he went away with five lamp holders. The other two stayed to preach the gospel in Greek.

When the Greek deacon had finished the lecture, the Greek and Latin sub-deacons took the gospels and went with them to the Pope, who adored them with a kiss. At this point, the homily followed, if provided . Otherwise, the Pope immediately agreed to the Creed . After the passage et incarnatus est (“and has accepted flesh”) the apostolic subdeacon and deacon spread a large, gold-rimmed cloth, the so-called incarnatus , over the altar . The subdeacon then went to the sideboard of the papal sacristan and there took the corporal , two purificatories and a host vessel and handed them over to the deacon. He put everything on the altar and spread the corporal. The sacristan carried a goblet, paten , two purificatories and a small silver spoon to the Pope's sideboard, while he covered his hands with a velum. On this walk he was accompanied by an acolyte who carried empty measuring jugs and a small goblet. The papal cupbearer appeared at the Pope's sideboard , who cleaned the liturgical utensils with the sacrista. The cupbearer then tasted wine and water and poured both into the measuring jugs. The acolyte brought them to the altar, followed by the sacrista with a goblet, paten and spoon. The deacon then took three hosts from the vessel and placed them on the paten.

The offertory now followed . The Pope took the pontifical gloves off to the washbasin . A canonization was followed by the great sacrifice, in which gifts of bread and wine, but also lovebirds, based on the biblical model, were brought to the altar. If several blessed were canonized in one mass, each one had a separate sacrifice.

After the courtly ceremony, the gifts were tasted in advance, the so-called praegustatio . In addition, the deacon gave the Sacrista two of the three prepared hosts, which the latter consumed when he turned to the Pope. The Sacrista then tasted the wine.

The Pope then went to the altar and worshiped it with a kiss and with incense. Then he himself was incensated, after him all the other clerics and the people present. The process now followed the usual process of celebrating mass in the Roman rite . In contrast to this, the elevation was performed three times (to the front, to the right and to the left).

After the peace prayer and the peace kiss , the Pope returned to the throne. Only there did he receive communion . The deacon at the altar took the paten on which the broken host lay and lifted it slightly to show it to the people. Then he gave them to the subdeacon, who wrapped them with the velum. So that the velum did not touch Holy Communion, a twelve-rayed so-called asterisk was placed on the paten . The sub-deacon and deacon now went to the throne where the Pope was kneeling. The Pope summed up part of the host and then the wine, using a fistula , a drinking tube. The Pope broke the second part of the host and gave half to the deacon and the sub-deacon. The people and the other clerics usually did not communicate in the papal mass, exceptions were Easter and Christmas. Subdeacon and deacon now went back to the altar, there sumed up the rest of the Eucharistic wine and purified the devices and then the hands ( ablution ). The Pope also cleaned his hands. The assistant to the throne, who also put the miter on him, helped him.

To Postcommunio the Pope returned to the altar. He sang the closing prayer there , then the deacon dismissed the believers with the cry Ite, missa est . If the blessing Urbi et orbi was not given, the Pope now gave the final blessing . The assisting Cardinal Bishop asked the Pope to grant a perfect indulgence for all believers present.

The final gospel , the prologue of John, followed. At Easter, relics were exposed on the loggia of one of the pillars of the dome . After the final gospel, the Pope took off the pallium and the maniples and offered thanksgiving at the altar. The deacon then put the miter on him and gave him gloves and a fishing ring. The Pope then went back to the Sedia gestatoria, where he received a symbolic alms for the celebrated mass. Then the move-out followed in the same way as the move-in.

Today's form

Pope Benedict XVI at the Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, May 15, 2005

In the liturgical reform, the liturgy of the papal mass, like that of the episcopal masses in general, was also considerably simplified. The court ceremony was canceled, the papal chapel and the court ( papal family ) rearranged, whereby many services, such as those of the clerical assistant to the throne, were omitted. The tiara has been used since Paul VI. no longer worn, the sedia gestatoria less and less and not used at all since John Paul II . The Nobel Guard was also disbanded. Instead, Pope Paul VI. In analogy to the crook of the bishops, the innovation is that the Pope carries a cross-staff in his left hand in the offices he celebrates , whereas in the centuries before the ferula was carried in front of the Pope.

The solemn papal mass is therefore essentially the same today as the solemn episcopal mass. The tradition of the Greek deacon was introduced by Pope Benedict XVI. revived on the occasion of its introductory mass to the papacy. Benedict XVI. also reintroduced the tradition of assistant cardinal deacons flanking the papal throne to the right and left. While such assistance services after the Caeremoniale Episcoporum ( ceremonials for the bishops) are to be carried out by deacons or, alternatively, by priests who wear chasuble, the cardinal deacons have generally received the episcopal ordination and wear the miter, but not a chasuble according to old tradition the dalmatic of the deacons.

Major events

The major events that have been celebrated especially since the pontificate of John Paul II are shaping the public image of papal masses today. Even at the time of Pope Paul VI. he was criticized for the fact that his coronation ceremony took place outdoors in front of St. Peter's Basilica (the interior was then converted into a council hall). The papal mass in the open air, often in front of several hundred thousand believers, nevertheless developed into the form of the papal mass that is typical today (although they can be clearly separated from the liturgical term).

In addition, the way in which communion is received at major papal events has been criticized on various occasions in the past . At the closing mass of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Pope Benedict XVI. It is about the fact that everyone to whom he himself gives communion should receive it kneeling and in the form of communion on the mouth, since receiving it while standing and as communion in hand can lead to a lack of awe. On December 24, 2010, Benedict XVI. the indult for communion in hand at all masses with the Holy Father inoperative. This regulation is no longer required under Pope Francis even with Saint Peter in the Vatican.


  • Johannes Brinktrine: The solemn papal mass and the beatifications and canonizations ceremonies . Imprimatur October 14, 1949, Paderborn. 3rd revised edition, Orbis Catholicus, Rome 1950

Individual evidence

  1. World Youth Day: Pope Benedict wishes communion in the mouth , Catholic news service of July 19, 2008.
  2. A “New Liturgical Movement”? Catholic news service from December 28, 2010.
  3. ↑ The exception became the rule - in St. Peter the indult of Paul VI. overridden ; Kathnews Catholic News Service of December 30, 2010.

Web links

Wiktionary: Papal Mass  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations