Department of Communications
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street NE · Washington, DC 20017
202-541-3200 · 202-541-3173 fax · www.usccb.org/comm
Questions and Answers about Some Liturgical Practices at the Papal Masses
How will the prayer posture at the stadium Masses differ from the posture at Mass in church?
During most Masses in the United States, the people kneel twice during the Mass – from the conclusion of the Sanctus until after the Great Amen and after the Fraction Rite (when the priest breaks the Eucharistic bread after the Sign of Pace). (For descriptions of these parts of the Mass, consult the backgrounder here: http://www.uspapalvisit.org/backgrounders/mass.htm
). This kneeling is a sign of reverence for the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. However, the people are not required to kneel when prevented by some good reason, such as illness.
Given the number of people who will attend the Papal Masses and the limited amount of space available at Nationals Park and Yankee Stadium, the people will be asked to remain standing during these parts of Mass for their safety and the safety of those around them. As a sign of reverence, they will be invited to bow deeply when the Holy Father shows the host and the chalice after the words of institution.
How will the concelebrants (bishops and priests) receive Holy Communion?
At most liturgies celebrated by a group of priests (called concelebrated liturgies), the concelebrating priests receive Holy Communion by taking a host from a sacred vessel and then drinking the consecrated wine from a chalice. Given the large number of bishops and priests who will concelebrate at the Papal Masses, this practice will be altered slightly. After receiving the host, each concelebrant will dip the host into the consecrated wine and then consume it. This practice is called intinction.
Though not commonly used in the parishes of the United States, it is a valid and appropriate way to distribute the Body and Blood of the Lord. It should be noted, however, that only a bishop or priest may dip the host into the consecrated wine and then consume it. When deacons and laypersons receive Holy Communion by intinction, the minister of Holy Communion dips the host into the consecrated wine and then places it on the tongue of the person receiving Holy Communion. At the Papal Masses in April 2008, the people will receive Holy Communion only under the form of consecrated bread. This form of reception constitutes the full reception of Jesus in the Eucharist.
How will the people in attendance receive Holy Communion?
The process for receiving Holy Communion at the Papal Masses will be similar to the process followed in most Catholic parishes. Ushers will direct those who choose to receive Holy Communion to priests stationed around the venue. Each person will approach the priest and bow as a sign of reverence for Jesus, present in the Eucharist. People may receive the Body of Christ either on the tongue or in the hand. That choice rests entirely with the person receiving Holy Communion. The priest offers the Eucharist to each person saying, "The Body of Christ." The person receiving responds by saying, "Amen" and then returns to the seating area at the direction of the ushers.
May everyone who attends a Papal Mass receive Holy Communion?
Catholics fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist by receiving Holy Communion. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. (The Sacrament of Penance will be available prior to the Mass at Nationals Park for those in attendance.)
Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law. Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of communion by Christians of these Churches.
Though persons who are not Christian may not be admitted to Holy Communion, they are invited to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family.
All who are not receiving Holy Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.