What’s Going On At the Pope’s Daily Mass?

A Pray Tell reader sent in this photo of a recent daily Mass in St. Martha’s Guesthouse with Pope Francis:

Pope Francis Feb 28

The reader writes:

The priest at Francis’ right hand is holding up a chalice, and he seems to be from a different rite, based on his vestments. Or is he a deacon? I can’t quite see what the priest on Francis’ left is doing. Is he holding the host? Is this during the “Ecce Agnus Dei” or “Per ipsum” or during the prayers at the Preparation of the Gifts? Unless the rules for concelebration have changed without my knowledge, this seems like Francis is doing something innovative.

What do you make of this?



  1. The priest on the right of the photo is holding a ciborium, it appears. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is at the concluding doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer, although I can’t tell from the image whether anyone is speaking. (Perhaps it’s during the “Amen” from the congregation?)

    I’d hope it’s not the Ecce Agnus Dei, because there is important value in seeing the broken Host at those words. I’d also hope it’s not the Preparation of the Gifts, because they’re holding those gifts far too high up, almost as if they’re OFFERING them! 😉

  2. From other pictures I’ve seen of the papal daily Mass (see photovat.com), it seems to be the custom of Pope Francis to hand the chalice and paten to two concelebrants at the altar during the doxology. The person on the pope’s right seems to be a Byzantine bishop.

  3. I’ve seen similar photos. It looks like Pope Francis is simply being informal with the rubrics. I believe “the red” directs that the priest, at the concluding doxology, elevates either bread and cup, or bread only, with deacon (or concelebrant?) elevating the cup. If this is the case, I think it is a refreshing lesson on excessive rubricism, popular in some quarters.

    1. @Jan Larson – comment #4:

      I once saw a priest elevating either bread or cup, while a young altar boy, 10 years old or so, elevated the other item (cup or bread, I forget).

    2. @Jan Larson – comment #4:
      It might be excessive rubricism – but on the other hand, I think the rubrics often enshrine some valuable lessons on the meaning of the rites and promote clarity of ritual roles. Some have already pointed out the effects when that isn’t followed w.r.t. the fraction, and I think the same applies elsewhere. I keep thinking of Hovda’s castigation of presiders who don’t preside, and I wonder what he would have thought. It’s like the new custom of the Pope not giving Holy Communion to the people – yes, he has valid reasons, but that whole powerful symbol has gone and made him and his/the clergy Communion even more (ritually) distinct and aloof.

  4. #1 What’s so important about holding up a fractured host? To do that would require one of those small ones that can be patched back together. The GIRM calls for a host large enough to be broken into pieces! some of which can be distributed to the people.

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #5:
      A portion of that large host, broken into pieces, can be held up for the Ecce Agnus Dei. Problem (?) solved. I can’t recall any Mass I’ve ever been to where the priest held up a whole host (large or small) at the Ecce Agnus Dei. It’s always been a portion of a fractured host.

      Rubric #26 says the priest “takes a particle” While the modern rubrics might not require this, this rite immediately follows the fraction rite. Showing the “broken” host better communicates the meaning of Christ being the Lamb of God.

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #7:
        Sadly, just last night I saw a large host broken in half during the fraction,
        then put back together for the Agnus Dei, then the priest received, and then had a second fraction of the halved-host. And he wasn’t even a Jesuit.

    2. @Jack Feehily – comment #5:
      Thanks, Fr. Jack – nothing like missing the more important symbol and rite and replacing it with a little plastic shard. And, of course, how many parishes really do what SC and GIRM call for – real bread that can be broken and distributed.

  5. Or possibly they were short of the right vestments? None of the green vestments seem to match each other.

    This is one small photo without any real context. There isn’t enough information to begin to speculate.

  6. Two thoughts responding to some of the earlier comments:
    1. Two concelebrants holding the chalice and paten is certainly not explicitly envisioned by the rubrics. On the other hand, neither is a concelebrant singing the preface, which is what happened at John Paul II’s anniversary celebration (where then-Cardinal Ratzinger was at the Pope’s right and sung the preface).
    2. I, too, find it odd that a number of priests “piece” a host together to hold at the Ecce, Agnus Dei. That rubric is in the 1962 Missal, where the assumption was that no one else would be going to communion — the priest held both parts of the host together, said the “Lord, I am not worthy” three times, and then consumed both parts of the host. The Ecce, Agnus Dei was not even in the Order of Mass, but only in the Ritus Servandus, where the priest (after finishing his communion) turned to the people with a ciborium and held one of the small hosts and then said, Ecce, Agnus Dei, after the people said the confiteor a second time and he said the “May Almighty God have mercy…” (basically the rite of communion outside of Mass). How things have changed as far as the Order of Mass is concerned, but some rubrical elements still hang on because no one realizes the rubrics have really changed (for the better!) and younger priests imitate the practices of older priests.

    1. @Dennis Smolarski, SJ – comment #13:
      I think it might be the effect of old rubrics, but it also might just be unconscious symmetry and the idea of showing a full circle, prompted by popular iconography and representations of the host and chalice, etc. I suspect the same reason is behind priests showing the chalice at the “Ecce Agnus Dei” (as permitted in the more recent versions of the IGMR) that any ideas about fuller symbols, communion under both kinds, etc. It’s an odd personal quirk, but I have never quite reconciled to the showing of a semicircle – I prefer the showing of a circular sector, or triangular piece, etc.

      It seems that the practice of the last years of the JP2 papacy has reappeared and concelebrants at Papal Masses sing various parts that the Pope cannot/does not. I sometimes wonder though, whether there is actually some sort of separate Papal missal they use (probably not, but…). Every Easter for example, there is a proper insertion in the Eucharistic Prayer [II or III] in Latin, yet this is nowhere in the Missale Romanum, only in various vernacular translations.

  7. The concelebrant on Pope Francis’ right is Eastern rite. I’ve seen similar, clearer photos on other websites. Colors used for the liturgical seasons vary across the rites, so the fact that he is wearing white doesn’t surprise me. Even at Eucharists outside of Santa Martha, at the doxology, which I would presume this is, Pope Francis has handed the paten and chalice to the concelebrants. It’s a practice I find hard to justify from the rubrics, but if BXVI could bend the rubrics, which he did, then…..

  8. I hold a ciborium and the cup aloft while saying “Behold the Lamb of God”. It harmonizes better, I think, with “take and eat, take and drink”.

  9. Anybody notice the candles?
    They are larger and placed on one side, flowers on the other side (a no no?) while the crucifix is shrinking….
    Hmm, change may be slow in coming but as they say, slow and steady wins the race.

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