Diaconate ordinations at St. John Lateran: traditional eye-candy

My friend John Sonnen, former St. Agnes of St. Paul parishoner, now omnipresent resident in Rome, has photos of the ordination of deacons for the Good Shepherd Institute.  The great Archbp. Luigi De Magistris was the ordaining bishop in no less a place than the apse of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, mother church of the City and the world.

Be sure to go over to Sonnen’s place for the great photos.

Here I are couple.   Note the altar set up in front of the Bishop of Rome’s own cathedra in the Pope’s cathedral church!

Here is a shot from a balcony above the sanctuary.


Great dalmatics!



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  1. prof. basto says:

    Eye-candy indeed!

    Brick by brick.

  2. WOW!

    Fr. Z., (or someone else who has been there),

    Is the altar that is shown just for this ordination? Where would Mass normally be offered given that only the Holy Father or his delegate may use the high altar?

    Just curious as to how that works in the major basilicas.

  3. Vox says:

    It just doesn’t look right with the Chair.

    Oh, maybe some day that is where the Altar will be.

  4. Transitional Deacon says:


    St. John Lateran has a beautiful altar under a baldacchino. The Holy Father’s cathedra has always been on the platform in the back. A high altar would never be put there.

    This photo shows the interior of the Basilica. You can see the magnificent high altar topped by a reliquary-baldacchino. The Holy Father’s cathedra is way in the back, behind all of that.


  5. james says:

    I too am wondering how ordinations traditionally worked at major basilicas without the Holy Father present. Would a temporary altar always be set up in the apse? Or would they use an altar in a side chapel, or the very glorious altar in the (liturgical) north transept of that church?

  6. Jonathan Bennett says:

    I do not know if the rule still exists whereby only the Pope can celebrate Mass at the High Altars of the Patriarchal Basilicas, but even in the old days it was quite common for permission to be given to other priests and bishops to use the Altars. I read someone that the Papal Bull granting the dispensation would be hing over the Altar during the Mass.

    Considering the circumstances of this Mass (diaconal ordinations) I am surprised the High Altar was not used.

  7. Ben says:

    Father Z,

    Could you or some other learned person enlighten me about the significance of the step that you pointed out?


  8. Vox: It just doesn’t look right with the Chair. Oh, maybe some day that is where the Altar will be.


  9. Having spoken to a number of clergy ordained in Rome during the 1950s and 1960s, it seems that ordinations traditionally happened in the apse of the basilica. Back in the days, dozens of men would receive the major and minor orders on the ember days. Unfortunately, according to those present, this sometimes gave the whole affair the feel of an ‘assembly line’ rather than a liturgy.

  10. Gregorius Minor says:

    In response to Mr. Bennett’s remarks, the High Altar of the Lateran would be very inconvenient for an ordination in the traditional rite, since there is a large “confessio” (a big space much lower than the level of the floor of the nave) right in front of it. In order for the ordinands to go up to the bishop for the imposition of hands etc., they would have to walk around the confessio, or do the prostration off to the side of the altar, as they do when they do ordinations in the new rite there. You can see a picture of the confessio here.

    Before the most recent ecumenical council, Masses were always celebrated by the Canons at that portable altar when they used the main choir chapel.

  11. Vox says:

    Father and Transitional Deacon,

    I know that there is the main Altar for the Holy Father. My observation or question would be, is this free-standing Altar historically where it would have been? Would not the Chair have been off to the side with the secondary altar being against the wall?

    Or perhaps there must be another altar for Mass facing the people in front of the main Papal Altar?

    Just wondering…

  12. Graham says:

    Very nice photos of His Grace.

    It’s a shame he is wearing his pectoral cross cord over his chasuable and not under it!

  13. Graham says:

    As a prelate celebrating why is there only six candles and not seven – the seventh being behind the cross on the altar?

  14. Graham, the seventh candle is used only by the ordinary in his own territory.

  15. Graham says:

    Fr Scott,

    Thank you for clarrifying that for me.

    I suppose in this case that would be the Bishop of Rome?

  16. prof. basto says:

    Correct, Graham.

    With the addition that the Bishop of Rome,
    because of his universal jurisdiction, that is also immediate and ordinary
    over all the clergy and all the faithful, can use the seventh candle anywhere.

    So, only an ordinary has use of the seventh candle, and only in his territory,
    but the pope, because of his universal power, can use the seventh candle even
    outside the Diocese of Rome, unlike other bishops.

  17. Daniel says:

    In one of the pictures, a priest appears to be wearing the tufted fascia. Weren’t those abolished?

  18. Daniel says:

    In one of the pictures, a priest appears to be wearing the tufted fascia. Weren\’t those abolished?

  19. Daniel: Yes, that was abolished by Paul VI.

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