The Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar

There are several events that occur rarely in the life of a church musician or pastor. One of those rites is the Rite of a Dedication of a Church and an Altar.  If you are preparing for a new (or extensively remodeled) Roman Catholic church,  visit Catholic Sensibility, where Pray Tell reader Todd Flowerday is walking through the rite. Todd highlights important passages in the rite and provides suggestions and commentary.



  1. This is my absolutely favorite rite in the reformed liturgy! Indeed it is a rare celebration, but it is so rich in its symbolism and theology. The revised rite truly exemplified the ecclesiology of Vatican II, especially the Church as the Body of Christ. I have had the privilege of attending the Order of the Dedication of a Church and the Order of the Dedication of an Altar. One thing I have noticed, and I am not sure how to characterize it is, but it seems that communities are unsure of how to celebrate such an historical event with true solemnity. It seems that it usually treat as a Sunday Mass with the bishop present and a few other special elements. Also, it seems communities want to move into the new church before the celebration of the Dedication, and in the process some of the richness of the rite is lost.

    The rite also has a fascinating history. It was ready to be published in 1975 just as the CDW was merged with the Congregation on the Sacraments. In 1977 when it was finally published only a few of the chapters are included and Archbishop Bugnini indicated the introduction was mutilated in clumsy ways. The remainder (except 1) found their way into the Book of Blessings. However, the Ceremonial of Bishops follows what was in the Rite of Dedication of the rites that were delayed, and thus the rubrics between the CB and the BB are different. To this day the Rite of Public Prayer after the Desecration of a Church has not been published. One change that I am grateful for between the original addition and what was finally published is the inclusion of an actual Prayer of Dedication, which are truly works or art.

    Interestingly enough, in 2003 ICEL prepared a draft translation of the Rite to replace the one from 1978. I find the quality to be in the line of the 1998 Sacramentary.

      1. It is a bit hard to find, I got a hard copy from a friend of mine for study purposes.

  2. I agree it is a magnificent rite, perhaps the most beautiful the Roman rite has. However, I prefer the older rite. It is much more detailed and terribly long, but it would be wonderful translated into the vernacular. I especially miss the mixing and blessing of the “Gregorian water” and the multiple incensations of the altar by the deacon after the bishop has anointed and lit the incense crosses on the altar’s surface. It is a wonderfully mind-blowing ceremony and the four or five hours it takes to perform the whole rite seems to just fly by.

  3. I’m so glad I found this. I’m in the choir of St. Mark Catholic Church in Denton, TX, and we’ll be dedicating the church in two weeks (Dec. 7). In fact, our first Mass in the new building will be the dedication Mass. Learning the music for the ceremony has been pleasant, but having all the details about the significance of each step of the ceremony makes it all the more meaningful. I’m sharing this with my choir members.

  4. We are having a dedication Mass this April. And I am tasked to research on how the rite goes and how it is going to happen can anyone give me pointers, a run thru, or share a website that can help me with this. Thank you.

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