QUAERITUR: Papal blessing at 1st Masses of newly ordained


From a seminarian:

I understand that in a rescript issued from the Holy See, on November 5, 1964, Paul VI granted the newly-ordained priest the privilege of offering a papal blessing on the occasion of his first Masses.

Is this still in force?

Can such a blessing still be granted at first Masses?


Good question. 

I am not sure.

My first impulse is to say that this probably shouldn’t be done because of the changes made to indulgences found in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum.  The new norms replace the old norms and privileges.  In the new Enchiridion people who participate in a first Mass of a new priest can receive a plenary indulgence… which was the point of the old papal blessing.  

Yes, this is a lot more vague and far less interesting, but it is on the books now.

Perhaps someone else has found a clarification on this and can share it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. viennaguy says:

    That photo is from Oxford Blackfriars, and the priest blessing is Father Anton, from the Oxford Oratory.

  2. I don’t know the actual documentation on this; I’ll have to look it up.
    When I celebrated my Mass of Thanksgiving in 2003 after Ordination to the priesthood, I was given the text and authority to give the Papal Blessing and I did.

  3. Trevor says:

    I don’t know for sure, but I believe our new priests did use an Apostolic Blessing during their first masses (our newly ordained transitional deacons also gave apostolic blessings on the day of their ordination).

  4. DavidJ says:

    The ordination/first Masses celebrated I’ve attended here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta have included the Papal Blessing as part of the occasion. It was quite touching, immediately after the ordination, to see the priests who had just been ordained (with that fresh Chrism smell!) giving their first blessings to their parents.

  5. Nazareth priest: I was given the text and authority to give the Papal Blessing and I did.

    Who gave you that authority?

  6. Looking in the Handbook of Indulgences: Norms and Grants under Papal Blessing I found “A plenary indulgence is granted the Christian faithful who devoutly receive the blessing imparted either by the Roman Pontiff to the City and to the World or by the bishop to the faithful entrusted to his care in accord with norm number 10, paragraph 2, of this Handbook. This grant extends also to such blessings when given by means of radio or television.” Next on page 20, paragraph 10 – “From the onset of their pastorial office, diocesan bishops and those equilvent to them in law have the right to: 1. grant partial indulgences to the Christian fiathful commited to their care; 2. impart the papal blessing with a plenary indulgence, in accord with its prescribed formulary, three times a year in their own dioceses at the end of a Mass which has been celebrated with special liturgical beauty on solemnities or feasts that they will designate, even if they only assist at the Mass.”

    Regarding Newly Ordained Priests: “A plenary indulgence is granted a priest celebrating his first Mass with a congregation on a schedualed day. The same indulgence is also granted the faithful who devoutly participate in that Mass.” (page 77 of Handbook)

  7. jimsantafe says:

    One of the deacons at the North American College submitted a dubium on this three or four years ago (not sure to which Congregation); the reply was “negative.”

  8. jimsantafe: “Negative” doesn’t help us unless we know the question.

  9. jimsantafe says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf: I don’t remember the exact wording, (it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen the letter) but the question was whether it is still permitted for a newly ordained priest to give the Papal Blessing at his first Mass.

  10. Precentrix says:

    Does it matter if we still get the indulgences?

    But, that said, all the new Frat. priests give the first blessings, though the formula is specific.

  11. Fr. Z: I’ve searched everywhere and cannot find the proper documentation. I guess I was mistaken at the time. I think this understanding of the “Apostolic Blessing” was under the former grant (pre-1986) of indulgences. Even Fr. P. Stravinskas in “The Catholic Encyclopedia” printed in 1991 says that at the first solemn Mass of a newly ordained priest he may impart the apostolic blessing as well as at the moment of death.
    I stand corrected.
    At least a plenary indulgence was provided for those who were properly disposed!

  12. When I was a seminarian in the mid 90s, I knew a priest of the Diocese of Trenton who worked at the Segnatura in Rome. He had helped me with my thesis, and so I e-mailed him and asked him if he could get me a copy of this decree by Pope Paul, so when I was ordained I could put the exact wording into my 1st Mass program. He e-mailed back and pretty well explained to me what Fr. Z. has said. In fact, I remember he wrote that he wasn’t sure, so he “ran downstairs to the penitentiary” to ask someone (which I found amusing) before writing back to me.

    The Enchiridion Indulgentium published in the 80s included the plenary indulgence for those who attend the Mass of a newly ordained priest. Msgr P. (my priest friend) explained that this replaced the need to recite the Apostolic Blessing (which was not granted so the Priest could feel “like a bishop or the pope” for a moment, but to confer the indulgence).

    Yes, I was “bummed out”, but I was also shocked when I explained this to some of my classmates who were also planning first Masses, who told me they didn’t care and would recite the apostolic blessing anyway. One even told me it was a “tradition of the X Diocese” for newly ordained to do this.

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