Dies Domini 53: Sunday Assemblies Without A Priest

We consider with Pope John Paul II the situation of Sunday gatherings without a priest. This section

  • recognizes there is a problem for both mission lands as well as in Christian nations with a shortage of clergy
  • affirms the Sunday assembling of people, even when Mass is not possible
  • affirms SCAP (Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest) and the adaptations of conferences of bishops to make this work around the world
  • reminds us that the celebration of Mass is the ideal, and that people should work to make this happen either through the travels of clergy as they are available, or with regional gatherings for Mass

53. There remains the problem of parishes which do not have the ministry of a priest for the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. This is often the case in young Churches, where one priest has pastoral responsibility for faithful scattered over a vast area. However, emergency situations can also arise in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, where diminishing numbers of clergy make it impossible to guarantee the presence of a priest in every parish community. In situations where the Eucharist cannot be celebrated, the Church recommends that the Sunday assembly come together even without a priest,(Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 1248, 2) in keeping with the indications and directives of the Holy See which have been entrusted to the Episcopal Conferences for implementation.(Cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest Christi Ecclesia (2 June 1988): Enchiridion Vaticanum 11, 442-468; Interdicasterial Instruction on Certain Questions concerning the Collaboration of Lay Faithful in the Ministry of Priests Ecclesiae de Mysterio (15 August 1997): AAS 89 (1997), 852-877) Yet the objective must always remain the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, the one way in which the Passover of the Lord becomes truly present, the only full realization of the Eucharistic assembly over which the priest presides in persona Christi, breaking the bread of the word and the Eucharist. At the pastoral level, therefore, everything has to be done to ensure that the Sacrifice of the Mass is made available as often as possible to the faithful who are regularly deprived of it, either by arranging the presence of a priest from time to time, or by taking every opportunity to organize a gathering in a central location accessible to scattered groups.

Around the time this document was penned, bishops here and there were making inquiries to advance the notion of viri probati. But the idea of ordaining proven married men was strongly rejected. Today there is a different tone. And the importance of the Eucharist for various communities is being recognized as perhaps a greater need than administrative policies on ordination. Which is as it should be.

Other comments?

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Dies Domini, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Dies Domini 53: Sunday Assemblies Without A Priest

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