Pope Francis said Mass “ad orientem”

His Holiness of our Lord, Pope Francis, recently celebrated Holy Mass ad orientem versus at the tomb of Bl. John Paul II which is in the Vatican Basilica.

I wouldn’t get too worked up about this.  Let’s not forget the appalling rearrangement of the Sistina after his election.

First, it would have been impossible to set up an ironing-board altar within the bounds of the Communion rail at the altar where John Paul is situated.  Believe me, those side altars in St. Peter’s don’t leave much room between the altar’s step and the rail.

He could have had an altar set up outside the Communion rail, but then we wouldn’t have been celebrating Mass on the tomb of the Blessed.

The only alternative was to put on the polyester vestment and celebrate as the architecture required.  He could have at least used a white vestment and used the Mass formulary for Bl. John Paul.

So, don’t get too excited about this.

At the same time, if someone flings in your face that you can’t have Masses ad orientem, send them this picture.   The fact remains: Francis said Mass ad orientem versus.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Our bishop, who as far as I can tell is no traditionalist, said the Novus Ordo mass ad orientem (how our priest does it) at our parish during a recent visit. Even though it didn’t mean that he’s going to mandate it for everybody, it was still nice to see. And who knows, maybe it did leave a little impression on him. The people who are waiting with bated breath for Pope Francis to reveal who they just know he really is, a radical modernist who wants to ban the TLM and mandate clown masses for everybody, will be disappointed.

    I doubt the rearrangement of the Sistina right after the election had anything to do with Pope Francis’ preferences.

  2. APX says:

    Wait a minute… Is that a priest concelebrating in an alb sans stole and chasuable?

  3. Geoffrey says:

    I prefer to be very excited about this!

  4. av8er says:

    I’ll take it.
    To follow mamajen’s reply, we have a new priest (Navy Chaplain) at the chapel where I drill. The last Chaplain is a good man and gave good homilies. This new chaplain not only said the homily at the ambo, but had us use the communion rails because “they were already there.” I made sure to thank him for the communion rail.
    God is great!

  5. ppb says:

    I’m really glad to see this. Even if it is an isolated case, this shows that the Holy Father isn’t ideologically opposed to celebrating Mass ad orientem – if he were, he would have insisted on an arrangement facing the people.

    Also, there was a video of one of Pope Benedict’s private Masses a few years ago, and the vestments were very similar, if not identical.

  6. amymev says:

    Whoever thought it would be JPII who would turn Pope Francis ad orientem? Not me!

  7. jhayes says:

    av8er wrote This new chaplain not only said the homily at the ambo, but had us use the communion rails

    If this is in the USA, a priest can recommend receiving communion while kneeling but can’t require it.

    “The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.” (GIRM 160)

  8. Sonshine135 says:

    Q: What do you call Pope Francis saying Mass “ad orientem”?
    A: A good start.

    I agree that I will not get too excited about this, but it should be used as proof that it can be done. I think Catholics should take comfort in knowing that Pope Francis is not opposed to doing it.

  9. Priam1184 says:

    I will take what I can get Father. And, as ppb stated: if he were a committed ideologue opposed to ad orientem then he just would not have celebrated Mass in that setting.

  10. pvmkmyer says:

    And, there is the “Benedictine arrangement” of 6 candles and central crucifix on the altar. Again, it may be that way all the time, but as others have said, I’ll take it.

  11. Fr AJ says:

    Since it’s Pope Francis, I am sure we won’t be reading any headlines such as “Pope Francis Turns His Back on the People” or “Pope’s Mass Shows He Wants to Roll Back Vatican II” and the like.

  12. aaronmaynard says:

    Fr. I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now. I believe you have some very good points about the Mass. I do not believe you will bring others to the fullness of truth by trashing our Holy Father. I will not be reading your blog anymore. May our Lord continue to Bless you.

  13. MAJ Tony says:

    @ aaronmaynard: your loss. Did not St. Paul call out St. Peter, the very Prince of the Apostles?

  14. Sissy says:

    aaronmaynard, if you had really been reading this blog for a few weeks, you would know that, far from “trashing” our Holy Father, Fr. Zuhlsdorf is consistently loyal and respectful in his comments.

  15. Joshua Mincher says:

    Well, I am going to be really excited and happy about this. This is very happy and surprising news, and I think it’s a big deal.

  16. av8er says:

    @aaronmaynard, hold on there. At no point has Fr. Z been disrespectful to the holy father. I sincerely suggest you keep reading this blog and the comments by these people who I have learned a great deal from. You will see a the great love for our Catholic faith.

  17. Jim of Bowie says:

    APX Said:
    Wait a minute… Is that a priest concelebrating in an alb sans stole and chasuable?

    No. Sad to say I think the priest on the left is actually newly consecrated Bishop Konrad Krajewski , the Papal Almoner.

  18. majuscule says:

    Jim of Bowie–

    You are mistaken. Although Archbishop Krajewski was there, it’s not him in that picture. Another angle shows that priest wearing glasses.

    Archbishop Krajewski is shown in several other pictures wearing a white stole.

    I can’t link to the exact picture because I need Flash to see the album on the Vatican website and my iPad doesn’t do Flash. I can’t even give the URL any closer than the top level. Look for 31 Oct 2013 under events…


  19. I don’t see why we shouldn’t make a big deal out of this. Saturation-bombing the public with images and ideas, over and over again, until people think differently about them, is a standard liberal tactic. Why shouldn’t traditionalists put it to good use?

  20. majuscule says:

    Need to follow up on my previous post…

    I was able to see the pictures of the event because someone shared them on Facebook.

    And the priest who isn’t Archbishop Krajewski and look as if he isn’t wearing a stole is likely wearing a white on that doesn’t show up.

    They may have been prepared for a Mass with white vestments as Fr. Z mentioned in his post.

  21. Robbie says:

    “I feel badly for those who attended this Mass. Since the Pope’s back was to the congregation, they probably had no idea what was going on. Even worse, the communion rail must have felt like an invisible wall separating them from God,” says a hippie Catholic from the 1970’s.

  22. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Hey, don’t complain about the polyester! For all you know, it’s a relic of JPII! He wore some real stinkers in his day!

  23. Jim of Bowie says:

    I stand corrected. Examining other pictures I agree that was not Bishop Krajewski at the altar. He was concelebrating though and as with others concelebrating was wearing only a stole. Not a good example for a mass a St. Peter’s.

  24. frjim4321 says:

    Appreciate the nice, balanced post.

    We are on a roll, two agreements, two days in a row.

    Are the stars lining up?

  25. Elizabeth M says:

    I seem to remember that late in his ponificate, Bl. John Paul II also said Mass ad orientem and people trying to “prove” he was saying the Extraordinary Form. It is what it is. Keep calm.

    Thank you Fr. Z for putting this in perspective.

  26. GKH says:

    The Pope Without Borders….again. He IS a delight.

  27. Stephen Matthew says:

    Since Pope Francis has chosen to place greater emphasis on the local aspect of his ministry as Bishop of Rome, I wonder if even ordinary parishes in the city may reasonably expect to see him make an appearance, eventually. If so, is there not a parish set aside for the extraordinary form? Would it not be a very pastoral thing to visit that parish for either a mass or part of the office? Would it not also be quite fitting with Francis’ style to perhaps be slightly less concerned about the details of pontifical and papal ceremony and thus be more likely to go ahead with such a thing even if the rubrics couldn’t quite be sorted out in the ideal way? Likewise, I think Francis could get something of a pass on this as a matter of simple pastoral care, where if Benedict did so it would have been taken as some great sign or symbol. Plus, Benedict would have insisted on having every aspect of such a ceremony just right, which would have been a great expenditure of effort for the ceremonies and liturgy folk, and for him as well.

    So strange as this may sound, Pope Francis may be the best hope for a pope to be directly involved in a public extraordinary form celebration, it just likely wouldn’t be with Papal (and maybe not even pontifical) ceremony.

    If I were one of the lay people involved in the extraordinary form in Rome, I would organize a campaign to constantly invite the Pope in his capacity as Bishop to visit the parish, with as many of the other lay faithful as possible joining that effort. If he does come, make a special effort to invite as many of the ordinary lay folk as possible from Rome and its locality, and go out and bring in as many of the poor and the young as possible, too, since the pope has both in his heart. In fact, go out and bring in the poor, the young, and the elderly at all times, it may just attract the pope all on its own.

  28. kneeling catholic says:

    Elizabeth>>>.I seem to remember that late in his ponificate, Bl. John Paul II also said Mass ad orientem <<<<

    Dear Elizabeth,

    I have heard this as well….but I have three facts I'd like you to consider:

    1. I can't find any pictures of BL Pope JPII celebrating AD Orientem
    2. I can't find any pictures of Pope BXVI celebrating Ad Orientem prior to Jan 2008, 27 months into his pontificate. (In ample sanctuaries or skinny ones)
    3. We now have picture/s of Francis celebrating Ad Orientem 7 months into his pontificate.

    I also know that MSGR Marini plastered his Facebook page with these photos. I don't think he sees this as 'no big deal'.

    I also know (4.)that it is a fact that the Eucharistic ministers at papal Masses are instructed not give out Hand Communion [http://kneelingcatholic.blogspot.com/2013/10/eye-witness-confirms-holy-fathers.html].

    Given Francis' background would have predicted facts 3 and 4. Anyone here?

    If these facts were not anticipated, then I would have to say that they are 'big deals'!

    You may say I am over-reacting and spinning, but I do know that traditionalists have been praying hard for His Holiness…(perhaps sometimes like the fiddler-on-the-roof prayed for the Czar: May God keep the Czar! …..far away from us!) And I know that prayer works.

  29. CGPearson says:

    Pope Francis is trying to set an example to the Church of humility with his papacy. What more humble act could there be than to take our highest form of prayer and adoration, and to orient the attention away from the priest and back towards God?

    Like others have pointed out, I don’t see this particular instance as Pope Francis trying to set this example. I’ll reserve my excitement for when Pope Francis decides to celebrate “ad orientem” out of choice rather than out of necessity.

  30. suedusek says:

    @MAJ Tony: Likening Sts. Peter and Paul to the Pope and Fr. Z is a poor analogy. Fr. Z. is no St. Paul. I agree with aaronmaynard. Fr. Z has been a little snarky at times. It’s disappointing.

  31. majuscule says:

    kneeling catholic–

    Not to contradict you (I like what you are saying)–

    (3) If its the same Facebook page that I watch, it is a “fan” page. I am pretty certain Msgr Marini doesn’t run it. But the person who does may be closely associated with him, I do not know.

    (4) Perhaps there’s been instruction not to give communion in the hand but many of the priests do. The recent Mass for the Family in St. Peter’s Square showed many people receiving in the hand.

    I do think Pope Francis is a holy man. Just think of all the babble about replacing Msgr Marini when Pope Francis was first elected. He’s still there with the same calm smile on his face. Look at Archbishop Krajewski, the new Papal Almoner and a former Papal Master of Ceremonies. It appeared that Pope Francis noticed his care for the poor and gave him a job that he thought he was suited for. He looks pretty happy these days, too.

  32. mamajen says:

    @Stephen Matthew

    That is a really excellent idea. Sometimes all it takes is someone to simply ask. That’s how our bishop ended up at our parish–our priest invited him to help celebrate the 100th anniversary, and out of gratitude for enabling him (our priest) to return to the diocese and have a weekly TLM (he had lost his job under the previous bishop). The bishop was very respectful of the way things are done in our parish, and it was a beautiful mass.

    I could see Pope Francis doing something like that, as long as people ensured that they didn’t pester too much.

  33. Father G says:

    @kneeling catholic,

    Yes, there is at least one photograph and video of Blessed John Paul II celebrating Mass ad orientem in the papal chapel. The picture is from the documentary, A Holy Treasure Rediscovered, on the icon of Our Lady of Kazan which had been kept at the papal chapel.
    See for yourself: http://www.soufanieh.com/2007.A.HOLY.TREASURE.REDISCOVERED/images/icon.with.pope2.jpg

  34. Elizabeth D says:

    St Paul, please pray for Fr Z to be more like you :-)

  35. kneeling catholic says:

    Hello Majascule andFather G!

    I stand corrected.

    While we’re correcting me, please do correct me of any other wrong assertions!

    Father, nice research!…Do you have any other photos? Were there people present at the Mass? And when did it occur? Perhaps someone can find a pre-2008 photo of BXVI ad orientem?

  36. Pastor Bonus says:

    A couple of clarifications are in order:

    @ Father Z
    It is worth bearing in mind that the day after Pope Benedict XVI was elected, at his Mass with the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, it was also said at a hastily erected free standing altar; the High Altar was not used at that Mass. I would say what will be very interesting to see is whether Pope Francis continues the practice established by Pope Benedict XVI of using the High Altar in the Sistine Chapel for the Mass on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

    @ Kneeling Catholic
    Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI said Mass, Novus Ordo, practically every day Ad Orientem in their private chapel, that altar is built against the wall and is not free standing.

  37. priests wife says:

    My husband is Byzantine rite with bi-ritual faculties for the Roman-rite in a major US archdiocese. He is the semi-permanent ‘supply’ priest for a major parish in town and celebrates 4 masses for them per week in addition to 3 hospital Masses and our regular Byzantine schedule at our two missions.

    Anyway- I really felt this morning at the All Saints’ Mass that it would be amazing to be ad orietem for his Roman-rite Masses like he is for our normal Byzantine ones. As a supply priest, he cannot do anything radically different than the Latin priests in the parish (Thank God it is a solid NO)

  38. Father G says:

    @kneeling catholic

    Here is a documentary which shows Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass ad orientem in the papal chapel. Begins at minute 32:45. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgYO97zxEFw

    I also noticed his chasuble is not that much different from the one Pope Francis used when he celebrated Mass ad orientem yesterday.

  39. Rachel K says:

    Robbie says:
    “I feel badly for those who attended this Mass. Since the Pope’s back was to the congregation, they probably had no idea what was going on. Even worse, the communion rail must have felt like an invisible wall separating them from God,” says a hippie Catholic from the 1970?s.
    Robbie; hilarious quote! Where did you find it? How can a visible communion rail “feel” like an invisible wall??!!

  40. kneeling catholic says:

    There is a quote on ‘Marini’s’ Facebook page a lot like Robbie’s.

    getting back to Father G schooling me. Nice work, Father! Are you holding any more aces out?
    I do wish the 2011 documentary had give a date for BXVI’s private ad orientem Mass…I have a feeling it was post Jan2008, but I could be wrong. NTL….I feebly argue
    1. there is a difference between private chapel Masses and Masses offered in public with a large congregation–such as attended Francis Mass yesterday. i.e. there are a lot more people ‘to turn your back on’! not to mention Iphone cameras. Hence, you glass-half-full-people, this had to be a deliberate act, not just a spontaneous, I-forgot-my-ironing-board! moment. A salute, if you will, to his loyal traditionalist friends– or perhaps a flag of truce to belligerents.
    2. He is the Pope. i.e. he may carry much wrong headed baggage around, and yet there is a powerful charism that goes with the office. Progressives may blame Guido Marini for Francis acting out of character, but we know differently. ….Benedict’s liturgical reforms were of God. They cannot be withstood!

  41. Chrissin says:

    uuhhh…Turquoise? Really?
    Was this your standard green that didn’t reproduce well? Sure looks like turquoise.

  42. Nan says:

    @Rachel K, Hippies are touchy feely sorts to it makes sense that the altar rail would feel oppressive to them.

  43. av8er says:

    To clear up a post above, the chaplain did say that those who couldn’t kneel or wished to receive standing, could. @ 10% did.

  44. Father G says:

    @kneeling catholic,

    More aces? Hmm.
    Well, I was able to find this photo of Blessed John Paul II facing the people for the Ecce Agnus Dei, but it’s clear that he is celebrating Mass facing the altar.

    Then, there is video of Blessed John Paul II celebrating the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom at Saint Peter’s basilica in 1996. He is celebrating the Divine Liturgy facing “liturgical east”.

  45. Boniface says:

    KneelingCatholic, et al:

    I once personally witnessed Bl. John Paul II celebrate mass ad orientam (in Latin)in his private chapel at the Vatican. It was clear to me that this was his regular habit whenever he said mass at home with his household and guests like myself.

  46. Scott W. says:

    Now it’s the progressive anti-liturgist’s turn to hand-wring over the Holy Father’s every move.

  47. robtbrown says:

    Last night I was channel surfing. Happened to see Letterman for a few minutes and heard him say, “The pope said he has no problem with the Gay Lifestyle.” Of course, he didn’t say that, but lots of people think he did.

    How will he get that toothpaste back in the tube?

  48. Robbie says:

    Rachel K

    I made up the quote, but it’s clearly not hard to imagine a liberal Catholic from the 1970’s saying such a thing.

  49. BLB Oregon says:

    When there are two valid choices and there is “straight-forward” way to do it and “more complicated” to do it, I’m putting my money on Pope Francis choosing whatever he perceives to be the straight-forward way. Well, except from the perspective of the security guards, but it has probably been that way since at least John XXIII, and who knows, maybe forever before that. His perception of the guards may be why he looks happy to get to touch little children, as if it might be the last time he gets to touch one of them!

    I would not read too much into this choice other than that. He was so free in Buenos Aires, the attention to his choice of details must be taking some getting used to. The idea that a more complicated way could also be edifying seems foreign to the way he thinks. I think that is what he is, more than an “image” he’s decided to “send”. I always thought the same of Pope Benedict’s choice to use vestments that had fallen into disuse. I don’t think he thought in terms of being imitated, but thought those beautiful things ought to be seen. It’s just a difference of outlook.

  50. Legisperitus says:

    I suspect things won’t definitively “turn around,” literally and figuratively, for the Church’s liturgy until we have a Pope who is too young to remember “Thuh Council.” (That is, if the world endures that long.) Naturally, I’d be elated to be proven wrong.

  51. Pingback: Pope Francis Celebrated Mass Ad Orientem - BigPulpit.com

  52. HighMass says:

    Dear Father AJ….I like your post….I myself thought that if it had been Pope Benedict XVI that said the N.O. Mass Ad Orientem, the LIBERAL POLICE and “SPIRIT OF V II Brigad” would have pitched a fit……..

    I do remember Watching EWTN during Benedict XVI Pontificate when he baptized the infants on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord…in the Sistine Chapel…..likely that the liberal papers had something to say….but then again who knows since I don’t read the Liberal papers.!

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