QUAERITUR: During “Sede Vacante” what must priests say in the Eucharistic Prayer now that there is no Pope?


Since the former Pope is alive – wow, that’s strange to write – priests and bishops can mention Benedict XVI’ name during the Memento of the Living in the Roman Canon.

Father might say: “Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum, Benedicti decimi sexti, et N. … omnium circumstantium…”

Remember that the name or names inserted here are in the genitive, because of Memento.


I received notes from priests asking about what they should say in the Roman Canon, now that there is no Pope.  As you know, we mention his name and the name of the local bishop, during the Eucharistic Prayer.

The answer depends on where you are.

I’ll use the Roman Canon as the standard… because that’s what it is!

Most priests around the world, when there is no Pope, must say (the underlined part needs your full attention):

[…] in primis, quæ tibi offérimus pro Ecclésia tua sancta cathólica: quam pacificáre, custodíre, adunáre et régere dignéris toto orbe terrarum: et Antístite nostro N. et ómnibus orthodóxis, atque cathólicæ et apostólicæ fídei cultóribus.

You see, before that “et Antístite nostro N.“, the part about “una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N.” is removed.  (N. is for “Nomen… Name”.)

If you are in Rome, you have to remember that the Pope is the local bishop, and so you cut out the part about the local bishop also, together with omitting the prayer for the Pope.  That means, during “Sede Vacante” you drop even more text:

…in primis, quæ tibi offérimus pro Ecclésia tua sancta cathólica: quam pacificáre, custodíre, adunáre et régere dignéris toto orbe terrarum: et ómnibus orthodóxis, atque cathólicæ et apostólicæ fídei cultóribus.

See the difference?

A priest friend send me a pic of how he has used post-it notes to block out the text to be omitted.  Believe me!  It is very easy to plow right along and, from habit, say the former Pope’s name… even the name of some Pope from years ago.  I ran into an old codger who slipped and said “for Paul, our Pope”.  It happens!


I saw on the site of Romanitas Press a great post about what to do in this period.  It gives also directions for bishops and their recitation of the Roman Canon.

He provided some nicely formatted text which could be printed and trimmed and put in a missal or hand missal.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Legisperitus says:

    Father: In the English, it seems that he has covered up the “et” (and), instead of the “una cum” (together with). Is this the accepted way to do it?

  2. Yorkmum says:

    Fr, would you be so good as to clarify what if anything we should do different when saying the Rosary, morning offering and any other occasions when we include prayers for the Holy Father or the Holy Father’s intentions? Thank you.

  3. Matt R says:

    You can continue to pray for his intentions, which have already been published for 2013 and 2014. These intentions still need to be prayed for and so they continue even during the interregnum, and as Fr Z already said, one can still receive a plenary indulgence during this time.

  4. pinoytraddie says:

    Can the Pope Emeritus be Mentioned in the Commemoration for the Living? [Of course he can be! Good idea!]

  5. For those who want to gain indulgences during this period when there is no Holy Father, be assured that prayers for the intentions that Benedict XVI designated are still in place. By praying for those intentions you fulfill that part of what is asked for gaining the indulgence. See HERE.

  6. wolfeken says:

    It is worth noting that any errors become much less embarrassing when offering the TLM with the silent Canon, one of the billions of extra graces that comes with the traditional books.

  7. reflector says:

    I know: say the black and do the red. However, a Latinist would keep the “una cum” in and cut instead the “et” before “antistite” out. In the original text, the ablative “antistite” is clearly linked with “cum”; if you cut the “cum” out, “antistite” (and “cultoribus”) would refer back to “pro”, which works in Latin (but not so well in English, I guess), but has a slightly different meaning.

  8. The Sicilian Woman says:

    It is very easy to plow right along and, from habit, say the former Pope’s name… even the name of some Pope from years ago. I ran into an old codger who slipped and said “for Paul, our Pope”. It happens!

    For the longest time – even up to the past year – I’ve still expected to hear, “John Paul, our Pope.” And I am a young codger. (Well, at least younger than old codger you referred to.)

  9. jlduskey says:

    The priesthood is an external ministry and the priest is bound by the rules and is supposed get the words right.
    As a lay person, praying the Roman Canon is much easier. Praying in silence means you can pray for the previous Pope, the previous bishop, the current bishop–even if you can’t immediately remember how to say his name in Latin–or whatever. Ideally, you remember the name of the bishop of the diocese where you are attending Mass. But if you regularly attend Mass in several different dioceses, it is not important for the lay person to pause and think everything through. It is better, as the Sicilian Woman said, to “plow right along” because a pause to remember a change of officeholder may distract from the actual meaning of the prayer and cause one to think of political affairs in the Church, rather than on the sacrificial action of the Mass.
    And I remember one old priest, back in the 1980s when the indult was something new, who, in Latin, remembered (in Latin) George our bishop. This was a reference to Chicago Archbishop George Cardinal Mundelein, who had died in 1939! I think the mass was still valid.

  10. Prof. Basto says:

    When saying the Pope emeritus’ name or anybody’s name, during the memento of the living, the Priest joins his hands, right?

    [Yes. The rubric says “Iungit manus”, before he pauses in prayer.]

  11. Michael Garner says:


    The Ritus Servandus states, “2. When he says “una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N.,” he mentions the name of the Pope. If the See is vacant, he omits these words. When he says “et Antistite nostro N.,” he specifies the name of the Patriarch, Archbishop, or Ordinary Bishop in the respective Diocese, and not the name of any other Superior, even if the Celebrant is entirely exempt, or under the jurisdiction of another Bishop. If, however, the Bishop who is Ordinary of that place, in which the Mass is being celebrated, is deceased, these words are omitted, and are omitted even by those who are celebrating at Rome. If the Celebrant is a Bishop, Archbishop, or Patriarch, the aforementioned words are omitted, and in their place he says: et me indigno servo tuo. When the Supreme Pontiff celebrates, omitting the words “una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N.,” he says

    una cum me indigno famulo tuo, quem gregi tuo praeesse voluisti.

    And all continue as follows:

    et omnibus orthodoxis, atque catholicae, et apostolicae fidei cultoribus.”

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  13. weneleh says:

    Yes, the priest this morning said Benedict XVI this morning. Sigh.

  14. James Joseph says:

    I am no Latinist. I can pronounce it well-enough since I know a good deal of Italian and Spanish.

    Antistite. I like that word; so much nicer it is than bishop. Pity it has not been loaned directly to the English. [Hmmm…. there is a word in English “antistate” which is related.]

  15. Random Friar says:


    Not at anyone, just sighing.

  16. John Nolan says:

    On Sunday 10 February 1952 after the principal Mass in many parts of the world “Domine salvam fac reginam nostram Elisabeth” was sung for the first time. The previous week it would have been “Domine salvum fac regem nostrum Georgium”.

    in 1964 the prayer for the sovereign was moved to the ‘Prayer of the Faithful’ and most parishes dropped it decades ago. However, in the EF the “Domine salvam fac” is usual after a Sunday sung Mass, and I know of one priest who adds the “hostes superare” to the prayer.

    Some bishop’s names are difficult to Latinize; when Malcolm McMahon became Bishop of Nottingham it was some weeks before someone came up with Milcolumbanus, and I don’t know what they made of a former Archbishop of Liverpool called Derek.

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  18. VLL says:

    Well, I’m a lay person with no special authority. But… my preference is that, in place of prayers for the intentions of the Pope, I pray for our blessed Pope Emeritus and for the Conclave (a nice word meaning “locked in”), as well as with special intentions for my adopted Cardinal. Everywhere the Pope would be mentioned, I reflexively pray for my adopted Cardinal doing God’s will with joy. It works for me when I feel weird not praying for the Pope. I like to think that my prayers for said Cardinal pay forward to the New Pope, too!

  19. Joan A. says:

    Fr. Z, wanting to respect all involved – and in this case that includes P.E. Benedict, two bishops, two priests, and a helpless small congregation – what do we do now, if anything?

    Our parish priest refuses to say the Eucharistic Prayer correctly. Knowing him to be disrespectful of “nit-picky” matters like rubrics, a few parishioners politely reminded him to make this change even before Benedict left the Papacy, so he would be prepared. The sacristan was also advised and the parish secretary. All in writing, very nicely by those involved.

    We are in transition with our bishop too. The current one resigned and is retiring soon, but still active, and the new one officially appointed but is still in his See and taking over here later in April. Our parish is in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon.

    This is what our priest says for every Mass:

    “….to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, our Archbishop John and our Archbishop-Select, Alexander….”

    When finally corrected again by a “frustrated” parishioner, the priest informed him he was “fussing over minutia” and as the priest he was authorized to say whatever he wanted. (!)

    This is the normal attitude for this priest. However, some people felt altering the Eucharistic Prayer, particularly adding unauthorized names of a bishop of another diocese, was going too far. A few people composed a letter to the Archdiocesan Vicar of Clergy.

    The Archdiocese is apparently not concerned about this peculiar (possibly unique) rendition of the Eucharistic Prayer. The Vicar of Clergy has not replied, and because the priest continues to use his personal version, we can only assume the Vicar of Clergy has not contacted him to request he do otherwise.

    Now what? If we suffer in silence and just wait long enough, we will eventually have a new Pope and also a new Archbishop, whose names the priest will hopefully then read properly. For the sake of keeping the peace with an emotionally volatile priest, should we let him persist in his error? He has basically told us to shut up and allow him to do so.

    Or, this being the Eucharistic Prayer, and out of respect for the high-level Churchmen whose names are misused, should we be more strident in our appeals to the priest AND/OR (?) the Vicar of Clergy to say the Prayer properly?

    Thank you for any advice you can give, even if it’s to do nothing, coming from you we will be consoled we are taking a wise course. Currently everyone is hurt and confused.

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