QUAERITUR: What do I say in the Eucharistic Prayer when there is no bishop?

From a priest reader:

In the very near future my bishop’s resignation will be accepted by the Holy Father. I was wondering what the correct thing to do will be when praying for the bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer.

I have seen various things done in other dioceses when they are without a bishop: praying for the recently retired bishop, praying for the retired bishop from two bishops ago when the most recent bishop was moved to another diocese. Something about those don’t seem right.

It makes sense to me simply to omit the bishop part when there is no bishop. Is there any official protocol? Any other thoughts?

I suspect that when that day comes around, the chancery will send out to all the priests some sort of directive about what to say during Mass.

In the meantime, this is my understanding.  I am happy to receive correction in this.

Leaving aside what bishops say about themselves during the Eucharistic Prayer, here is my understanding of what priests say.

We are obliged to mention the local, diocesan bishop by name when there is one.  If there is a coadjutor or auxiliaries, we can mention them by name or in a generic way (e.g., “his coadjutor/helper bishops/auxiliaries”), but we are not obliged to.  It is up to us.  If there is some other bishop who isn’t of the diocese present, it is not foreseen that his name be mentioned.  However, I think you have to mention the name of a bishop who is the “apostolic administrator”, because he is effectively the local bishop.  You don’t mention a resident bishop “emeritus”.

When the diocese has no resident ordinary bishop, you leave that cause out.  The same applies with there is no Pope.  You leave that clause out.  If there is no Pope and no local bishop, you leave both clauses out.  I do not believe you mention the name of a “diocesan administrator” in place of the local ordinary bishop.

When you visit Rome, by the way, since the Pope is the local bishop, you mention the Pope’s name and then exclude the other clause.  When the See of Peter is empty, you omit the whole thing.

These rules would apply to the Extraordinary as well as the Ordinary Form.

For myself, I mention the name of the Pope and only the local ordinary bishop without any other additions.   That’s what the black and red indicate.  However, after every Mass, either in private, or quietly to myself in public, I say a Memorare for a list of bishops with whom I have had some contact or who have particularly difficult mandates.  The devil hates bishops with unrelenting malice. Bishops need our special attention in prayers.

And about that “Any other thoughts?”… Why yes!


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They hate priests and they hate bishops even more than they hate priests.  To bring down a bishop is a great blow.

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Not to worry.  It is okay to pray while drinking coffee!  See?

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


    Perhaps this is a reason why it might have not been prudent to translate “Antistite”, a word that isn’t beyond the poor man’s intellect, to simply mean “Bishop” in the common tongue.


  2. Dear Father Z.

    I have found something what I suppose to be the Official Journal of the Diocesis Hildesheim/Germany. The had a sedivacancy in 2004. After the announcement of
    the elected diocesan administrator and his choice of his vicar and some administratic
    rules, there is a liturgical hint, that the name of the emeritus is not to be mentioned in the Canon but after Pope John Paul, all bishops, … the diocesan administrator could be named.

    Link to the Office Journal (in german)

    I believe that the meantioning of the diocesan administrator is a local custom, because at a homepage of a parish of the diocesis Bozen-Brixen emphasized (I suppose quoting an official source) that the name of the administrator is not to be mentioned in the Canon.

    Link to the parish blog (in german) see post of 29th o August 2008 9:50

  3. James: I see your point. Latin antistites stands for either bishops or priests. However, in the vast majority of cases, as it is used in the Eucharistic Prayer, it is going to apply to the local diocesan bishop. In this case, it is better to make sure that priests – whose responsibility it is to know how to say Mass – know what variation to use rather than impose the variation immediately in the text. As it is, in the new English Roman Missal there will be a footnote at this point indicating that the priest may mention the name of the coadjutor, etc.

  4. doodler says:

    In an Ordinariate, when the Ordinary (who has jurisdiction but is not in Bisop’s Orders) is a Priest how should he be referred to in the Eucharistic Prayer? “Ordinary Eric” sounds a bit odd!

  5. I don’t know how this will be handled in, say, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I hope someone involved with that will chime in.

  6. ray from mn says:

    I volunteer and occasionally serve Mass at my local Veterans Hospital. Occasionally if a local diocesan priest is helping us out by saying Mass, I have heard him mention both Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese, our ordinary, and our local archbishop.

    Just as a comment, with all the questions you get, Father, there seems to be a lot of scrupulosity rampant in the Catholic world.

    It seems to me that there would be a market for a good book(let) on the words (black) and rubrics (red) of the Mass where the local bishop may modify something, or where the celebrant does indeed have the ability to use his own discretion.

    Occasionally I hear things, often at the introduction to the Our Father that theologically are “fine” but I don’t know if they are “kosher.” Lots of free swinging at the Agnus Dei, too.

    When, if ever, is the Confiteor required? Some priests never say it. Are there options to the Kyrie Eleison?

    Nowhere have I read as to why we have four Eucharistic Prayers and four Memorial Acclamations (three under the new Roman Missal) and if there is any purpose to them, or just a matter of saving time and the celebrant’s option.

  7. Ray: I know. It is all very confusing. The plethora of options gives rise to what I call “optionitis”. I think that some people get the idea that, because there are some licit options, they are entitled to create their own options. The variety of options leaves the impression that nothing is fixed down.

  8. M. K. says:

    You don’t mention a resident bishop “emeritus”.

    That makes good sense to me, though I once lived in a place where the sitting bishop always prayed for “_______ our Pope; me, your unworthy servant; my brother _______ [naming here the retired, though still resident, bishop emeritus] and all bishops…” Somehow this made sense when the bishop did it, but I would find it odd if a regular priest mentioned the bishop emeritus.

    An incidental side question: is there a standard way in which bishops are supposed to refer to themselves when celebrating Mass? Is the “unworthy servant” line customary, or is it just an added expression of humility?

  9. Phil_NL says:

    We’re currently in this situation, as our Bishop reached 75 earlier this year. However, he was named apostolic administrator of his own diocese, so the only thing that has changed is an extra prayer for those involved in the selection of a new bishop along the other prayers around the offertory.

    I can imagine this happening quite often (the coadjutor construction isn’t used much in the Netherlands, and new bishops tend to come only very slowly). Actually, I’d be surprised if there would not be an apostolic administrator should it seem likely the see itself would be vacant for some time.

  10. Random Friar says:

    Does Fr. Georg Ratzinger say “We pray for my little brother, Pope Benedict” ? Inquiring minds want to know!

  11. Phil_NL says:

    And somewhat on a tangent (inspired by Ray above): we also have a student pastor (technically a priest from a nearby monastery, though I wonder how much time he actually spends there) who always mentions in the EP, by name, the founder of his order (a saint, obviously). So far, so good. But what irks me somewhat is that in 9 out of 10 cases he does not mention the patron saint of the parish (despite his masses being a regular feature; the parish is the closest to the university). I suppose he’s entitled to do it, and his ad libbing at other occasions is far worse, but isn’t there some habit of including the patron saint of the parish in the EP, if you are naming any?

  12. Random Friar says:

    The missal says that one may name the patron saint(s) of the place or saint(s) of the day. My opinion is that one may insert another saint for pastoral purposes (e.g., St. Peregrine if you are offering Mass with anointing for cancer patients, say). But to keep inserting your own patron is rather tacky.

  13. Ellen says:

    When that happened in our diocese, our pastor said, For Benedict our pope and for our bishop to be appointed.

  14. We have been through this twice since I have been ordained. We were told to pray for the apostolic administrator, as long as we had him, and then just drop the bishop clause until one is appointed. With regards to auxiliaries and coadjutors, there are footnotes in the current Sacramentary to the effect that they are to be mentioned generically and not by name.

  15. MK, the unworthy servant line is dictated in the rubrics for bishops. (The rest is being added on the bishop’s own initiative.)

  16. Parochus says:

    This matter was already addressed by the Congregation for Divine Worship in its 1972 decree Cum de nomine (AAS 64 [1972]: 692-94).

    1. In the Eucharistic Prayer these persons must be named:
    a. the Bishop of the diocese;
    b. a Bishop still retaining administration of one diocese after being transferred to another see;
    c. an apostolic administrator — whether the see is vacant or not — with either a temporary or permanent appointment, who is a Bishop and actually is fully exercising his office, especially in spiritual matters;
    d. a Vicar and Prefect Apostolic;
    e. a Prelate and Abbot nullius having jurisdiction over a territory not attached to any diocese.

    2. In addition it is permitted to name in the Eucharistic Prayer Coadjutor and Auxiliary Bishops who assist the Diocesan Bishop in ruling it and others, as long as they have recevied the episcopal character. If there are many such, they are remembered collectively, without mention of their names, after the name of the proper Ordinary as indicated in no. 1.

    N.B. An Apostolic Adminstrator (appointed by the Pope) is not the same as a Diocesan Administrator (elected by the College of Consultors.)

  17. Philangelus says:

    I always wondered why, in the Diocese of Manchester, NH, we prayed for “John, Frances and Odore, our Bishops.” The bishop was John McCormack. I’m not sure who the other two were.

  18. Phil_NL says:

    The other two are living bishop emeriti from this diocese.

    See http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/diocese/dmanc.html

  19. Phil_NL says:

    That should have been “are the auxilliary and a living bishop emeritus”, oops.

  20. mila48 says:

    I have also heard visiting priests say “for my bishop XX, and for XX bishop of this diocese” or “for my bishop XX and for your bishop XX”. Is that allowed? If not, and I’m assuming it’s not, does the visiting priest pray of the local ordinary as if he were his own bishop? Just wondering.

  21. Prof. Basto says:

    When there is no Diocesan Bishop and no APOSTOLIC Administrator (either Sede Plena or Sede Vacante), the clause relating to the Bishop is to be left out of the Canon.

    A DIOCESAN Administrator (i.e., the temporary caretaker elected by the local clergy – either by the chapter of canons or, in those places where there are no canons, by another diocesan body), is not the same as an Apostolic Administrator (who is appointed by the Pope and governs the diocese in the name of the Holy See temporarily). So, while an Apostolic Administrator is named, a simple Diocesan Administrator is not. The Apostolic Administrator has the powers and duties of the Bishop, the Diocesan Administrator is merely a sede vacante caretaker, and is not mentioned in the canon.

    In similar fashion, when the Holy See is vacant, the clause where the name of the Pope is mentioned is merely left out; in that situation, one would mention only the Diocesan Bishop.

    If, during the vacancy of the Holy See, the local diocese is also vacant and with no Apostolic Administrator sede vacante, both clauses are left out.

    From the death of the Pope, however, until the end of the novemdiales, his name should be included in the memento of the dead. So, while the deceased Pope will not be mentioned in the paragraph of the canon that prays for the Church hierarchy, he will be mentioned in the paragraph of the canon that prays for the deceased. If the local See is vacant due to the death of the diocesan bishop, Masses celebrated in that diocese will also mention him by name in the memento of the death during the mourning period.

  22. In the diocese of Brooklyn, I have noticed a consistent practice of saying, “for Nicholas, our bishop, his assistant bishops, Thomas, our retired bishop, and all the clergy.” (I have attended Mass at many different parishes in the Brooklyn diocese.) I suspect that this was directed from above.

    Of course, I’ll never forget the visiting priest at one parish who either forgot or just did not know the local bishop’s name, so he improvised and said, “for John Paul, our Pope, our bishop here…”

  23. jesusthroughmary says:

    My friend was on a trip to Rome several years ago with a priest from our diocese, who while offering a Mass in Rome prayed thusly:

    “…make us grow in love, together with John Paul our Pope, the bishop of this diocese, and all the clergy.”

    Another priest on the trip asked him after Mass why he added the line “the bishop of this diocese” when they are in Rome. He said, “I couldn’t remember the name of the local bishop.” I think he was trying to think of the Cardinal Vicar, but when reminded that John Paul was the bishop of Rome, he said, “Yeah, but that’s just symbolic. I was trying to think of the real guy.” Oy.

  24. Place this whole issue in the context of the need for every Catholic to pray for the bishop.

  25. Frank H says:

    Perhaps an opportune moment to encourage readers to utilize this fine site to show prayerful support for their Bishops!


  26. pelerin says:

    ‘jesusthroughmary’ mentions the Priest who was unable to remember the name of the Bishop of Rome. I attended Mass a few weeks back where the Priest prayed for ‘Notre Pape Jean-Paul’. Several sniggers ran round the congregation before another Priest informed him that it should now be ‘Notre Pape Benoit.’ One can understand the mistake shortly after the Pope’s death but five years after?

  27. Sometimes when you open your mouth, strange things come out. Old things are more likely to show up than new things.

    This is your brain. Like every other part of your body, sometimes it falters.

  28. PaterAugustinus says:

    Does the Roman Catholic Church still retain some sense of the Arch-Pastoral offices between the diocesan level and the Pope – i.e., the Archbishops and Metropolitan Archbishops? I.e., in England of yore you had the local bishop (say, of Lincoln), the Archbishop of York over him, and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Canterbury as Primate over all England – and then, above him, of course, was the Pope, Patriarch of the West and “Universalis Papa.” In the Orthodox Church, the Anaphora mentions the Patriarch/Metropolitan/Archbishop and the local bishop. Would Catholicism not name the Pope, and then put in the name of the Metropolitan/Archbishop, if a diocese were vacant?

    As a point of interest, during the persecutions in the Soviet Republic, when the bishops were constantly being driven into hiding, or arrested or martyred, the priests would commemorate “Our Orthodox bishop, wherever he may be, who is known to You, O Lord.” For us, the idea of a Eucharist without a bishop is unthinkable. *Somebody* has to be mentioned there, and we wouldn’t know how to say Mass without mentioning either the Pope or the Diocesan Bishop (if both sees were vacant); we would definitely put in the name of a neighbouring bishop, or the Metropolitan/Archbishop. Even if that bishop isn’t able to take on all the administrative tasks of running the diocese, we like to think that he lends his “spiritual jurisdiction” to the vacant see for a time, and that the Eucharist happens there with his blessing, and in union with him.

  29. aquisgranum says:

    As far as I know, the diocesan administrator is only to be mentioned if he is a bishop (no matter if he is from the diocese or not). A diocesan administrator who has not received episcopal ordination is left out.

  30. Prof. Basto says:

    1) Aquisgranum,

    That’s not what the 1972 decree “Cum de nomine” clarifies. The Apostolic (not Diocesan) Administrator is the one that needs to be a Bishop in order to be included in the Canon. This is valid for an Apostolic Administrator only; there is no question of a diocesan administrator being included in the canon.

    2) jesusthroughmary,

    As you know, in Rome, the Cardinal Vicar of His Holiness is not to be mentioned in the canon. He is not the bishop of the Diocese, but merely a Vicar General with great powers. Since the Pope is already mentioned in the Pope clause, in Rome the bishop clause is to be left out.

    3) PaterAugustinus,

    Yes, although the Metropolitan Archbishop does have a place in the hierarchical constitution of the Church and a mild jurisdiction with very limited powers over the suffragan sees, yet the Roman Rite envisions only the local Church and the universal Church being mentioned in the canon; so one prays for the pope and the local bishop and that’s it.

    4) In some countries in the past, by special privilege granted by the Apostolic See, the local Catholic monarch could be mentioned in the canon. I have a hand missal printed in Braga in the 19th century that foresees the name of the king of Portugal being added to the canon, with a clause “pro Rege nostro N.”.

    5) Up until the Holy Week reforms adopted by Ven. Pope Pius XII in 1955, the Easter Proclamation “Exsultet” still had in its rubrics provision for the Holy Roman Emperor, or Holy Roman Emperor elect, to be mentioned; the clause was rendered moot in 1804 when the Empire was abolished, but was not excluded from the rubrics until 1955. In the mean time, it was simply left out as in a vacancy.

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