Sunday, February 24, 2013

Liturgical Questions when there is no Pope

If you're a liturgy geek like me, you might be wondering what do we do in the liturgy later this week when we enter the sede vacante, (litterally "vacant seat") - this time when we will have no Pope between Pope Benedict's resignation which is effective at 2 p.m. (Eastern time) on Thursday, February 28, and remains effective until the Conclave successfully elects a new Holy Father.

The USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship has put together some helpful information on this as well as a variety of prayers, intercessions, etc. that can be used.  You can find those all here: LITURGICAL NOTES AND RESOURCE MATERIALS FOR USE UPON THE RESIGNATION OF THE POPE

But, they can really be summed up by saying this.  When we have no Pope, you make no mention of the Pope in the Eucharistic Prayer and simply dropped the section that makes reference to the Holy Father.  So for example, using the second Eucharistic Prayer:

Eucharistic Prayer II

Remember, Lord, your Church,
spread throughout the world,
and bring her to the fullness of charity,
together with N. our Bishop
and all the clergy.

We simply omit "N. our Pope" that would normally go before "N. our Bishop" until such a time as we have a new Pontiff.  The same holds true for the other Eucharistic Prayers.

Before Thursday, you might want to take the option of celebrating one final votive Mass for Pope Benedict before his resignation is effective. There are Mass formularies provided in the Roman Missal under "Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occassions" #2 "For the Pope."

Once the resignation becomes effective, there are also another variety of beautiful votive Masses at your disposal that are wonderful ways to connect liturgically with the historic events that will be unfolding in Rome.  In the same section of the Roman Missal there is a Mass "For the Election of a Pope" #4.  There is also a Mass "For the Church."  And certainly as the Cardinals gather in Conclave the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit would be another appropriate option.

These are rarely used Mass formularies, so take the time int he weeks ahead to use these beautiful prayers and to connect locally with what is taking place in the Church globally.

May God bless and guide the Church!


  1. As I read the diocesan Ordo, during Lent these votive Masses may only be celebrated if the ordinary has permitted them. Is the Franciscan Ordo different, or are you aware of a permission having been extended?

  2. The Franciscan Ordo is not different. You require the permission of your Ordinary.