Pope Francis “ad orientem”

Today the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass in the Sistine Chapel, now customary on the Novus Ordo’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

He celebrated ad orientem versus, as did Pope Benedict.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. You must be mistaken, Fr Z. Pope Francis is a liberal. He would never have celebrated Mass ad orientem. That’s the kind of thing an unreconstructed ossified liturgy nut would do.

  2. incredulous says:

    There is nothing more beautiful to the heart as seeing these men on a platform to heaven holding up to God in the heavens the bloodless sacrifice in honor of Jesus’ sacrifice as humble, supplicant servants of God. In that one moment, the entire purpose of life, the alpha and the omega are on demonstration for us all to know immediately and fully.

  3. Legisperitus says:

    Would it be correct to say that the newly-elected Pope’s Mass in the Sistine last year would have been a Sodano-organized affair?

  4. CGPearson says:

    Very interesting, given that Pope Francis celebrated his first Mass as Pope in the Sistine Chapel versus populum. Do you think that this was a decision primarily driven by Pope Francis himself?

  5. Why is the Paschal Candle lit?

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  7. Fr Kurt Barragan says:

    Why is the Paschal Candle lit?

    Because Baptisms took place during the Mass and the Baptismal candle is lit from the Paschal candle.

  8. CatherineTherese says:

    Hooray for no folding tables!

  9. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    One thing is for sure. Pope Francis keeps everyone on their toes. Keeps surprising everyone.

  10. Father Barragan:

    Oh of course! (Head slap.) I so seldom do baptisms during Mass that I didn’t think of that!

  11. Cosmos says:


    Concluding that the Pope is conservative/liberal based on this mass is like making a judgment about global warming based on a hot or cold day.

  12. Vincent says:

    So that explains why the liberal catholic media love him, because we traditionalists only want to see the back of the Pope ;)

    I’m no expert on this, but maybe they wanted the paschal candle because it’s basically a traditional looking calendar? It’s got the year on it and everything… oh, wait.

    Mah, I see all sorts of odd uses of the Paschal Candle, recently (just before Christmas) at a funeral Mass. I have no understanding of how it’s meant to be used, other than in the Tridentine Rite…

  13. Fr Kurt Barragan says:


    The main times for lighting the Paschal Candle are mentioned in the Ceremonial of Bishops:

    “372. The Easter Candle is lighted for Mass and morning prayer and evening prayer of all the more solemn liturgical celebrations of this [Easter] season. After the feast of Pentecost, the Easter Candle should be kept in the baptistery with due honour; during the celebration of baptism, the candles given to the newly baptized are lighted from it.”

    “822. For the celebration of a funeral the following are to be made ready […] (d) Near the place where the coffin rests, Easter candle”

    “824. […] The Easter candle should be placed near the coffin”

    There are similar rubrics in the respective ritual books for baptisms and funerals.

  14. Gratias says:

    Gaudium magnum. Great joy.

  15. majuscule says:

    And Msgr. Guido Marini is still Papal MC…

  16. vandalia says:

    I feel fairly confident in saying that Pope Francis’ liturgical choicese are driven far more from a desire for practicality than grand liturgical theology. [“Francis” and “grand liturgical theology”… in the same sentence.]

  17. kpoterack says:

    “Would it be correct to say that the newly-elected Pope’s Mass in the Sistine last year would have been a Sodano-organized affair?”

    I think that the versus populum altar was a matter of prudence on the part of Msgr. Marini. He didn’t know Cardinal Bergoglio very well and didn’t want to push ad orientem at his first Mass. (Also, he probably didn’t want to push ad orientem in front of the other cardinals – a number of whom might have objected.) Now he knows Pope Francis well enough – and certainly has had plenty of time to speak to him on the matter – obviously, Pope Francis had no objection in this instance. He had plenty of time to say “no.”

    Definitely, a minor victory for the hermeneutic of continuity.

  18. TNCath says:

    Perhaps the Holy Father is now listening to his M.C., Msgr. Marini. Perhaps the Holy Father is starting to “get it.” I hope so! Oremus pro Pontifice nostro.

  19. John Nolan says:

    Wasn’t the moveable altar in the Sistine Chapel used during the Conclave for the placing of the ballots and simply left in situ? Also, Pope Benedict celebrated at the high altar there for the first time in 2008, nearly three years into his papacy, and it gave rise to much comment. Pope Francis today also used the B XVI ferula, another sign of continuity. Few people seem to have noticed that the papal pallium with its red crosses was invented by Benedict and G. Marini, and replaced the (admittedly medieval but rather unwieldy) pallium which P. Marini designed for Benedict’s installation. Benedict wanted something distinctly papal, and suggested the fanon, but Piero demurred and Benedict with his customary courtesy acceded to the wishes of his MC.

  20. mamajen says:

    I’ve said all along that the table altar used in his first mass there was due to the temporary floor being in place for the conclave, not any request on the part of Pope Francis.

    This is in line with his usual desire to keep things simple, and it’s nice to see. I also notice that he’s sitting on a pretty hefty throne.

  21. Geoffrey says:

    I was waiting months to see what would happen at this Mass. When His Holiness celebrated Mass ‘ad orientem’ at the altar / tomb of Blessed John Paul II, I recall Fr Z saying not to get too excited. Do we have permission to get excited now? :-)

  22. wolfeken says:

    Great — now the liturgical score over the last ten months is 4,782 to 1.

  23. VexillaRegis says:

    A note for new comers reading this blog:

    Ad orientem is good

    Ad hominem is bad. ;-)

  24. LadyMarchmain says:

    Wolfeken, hah!

  25. robtbrown says:

    VexillaRegis says:
    A note for new comers reading this blog:

    Ad orientem is good

    Ad hominem is bad. ;-)

    And versus populum is boring.

  26. Mariana2 says:

    “Ad orientem is good

    Ad hominem is bad. ;-)”

    : ) !

  27. VexillaRegis says:

    exactly what I meant! ;-)

  28. jacobi says:

    There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the Holy Father saying Mass “ad orientem”. He is a Jesuit after all, and has his mind on other equally important matters. As such, and unlike the Pope Emeritus, he does not appear to place any great significance on the Liturgy – one way or another!

    But for those of us who believe, as did Benedict XVI, that the liturgy, the “Lex Orandi”, must be restored to its earlier significance, if the Church is to recover from its present crisis, this is actually an opportunity.

    It really is up to all, laity and particularly you priests out there, to get on with it and either re-sacralise the Pauline Mass, or better still, make the Vetus Ordo readily available to the laity, in all parishes.

    You have full authority to do this. If in any doubt, I would refer you to the recent paper by Fr Cassian Folsom OSB, on “Summorum Pontificum and Liturgical Law”

  29. KosmoKarlos says:

    Pope Francis also used Pope Benedict’s ferula too!

  30. frjim4321 says:

    For Father Fox: I can’t remember the last time I did a baptism that was NOT at mass. Folks here have the choice of any mass for the baptism of their child of pre-catechetical age. At the previous assignment I got tired of people showing up for a baptism who did not even attend mass that weekend. So at least we get some lapsed Catholics into church for a mass.

    But more than that, it involves the entire community in the sacrament of initiation and I have hard time seeing how that works in a quaisi occult (as if in secret or hidden) fashion.

    With regard to the pope saying mass with his back to the people I think it’s a mistake to read to much into it. The so-called “ad orientum” is just not a blip on his screen. He’ll do what’s expedient, and having been in there I’ve seen that there is frankly no room for a card table altar.

    While in the seminary during the late ’70’s the convent mass for some reason was unreformed and I served a number of masses that way. If I was on vacation or something and we were going to do mass at a place that did not have a walk-around altar I would do a/o without blinking.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a problem with “t”radition, I just have a problem with throwback for throwback’s sake.

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  32. Nicholas Shaler says:

    Father Jim,

    What is so bad about being baptised outside of Mass? I know I was, and if the parents want that then it should be allowed them.

    Also, it is ad orientem, accusative form of oriens, not ad ad orientum.


  33. yatzer says:

    Yes, I know, baptism involving the entire community, but it still seems like we are having to stand around while some family stuff is going on for somebody else. Maybe I’m just impatient, but that’s how it seems to me.

  34. frjim4321 says:

    Thank, Nick … as you may have read I taught myself all the latin I ever knew in the middle of sophomore year high school. Undoubtedly I have forgotten amost all of that.

  35. Imrahil says:

    Rev’d dear @Fr Jim,

    that seems to be a question of regional usage… I can count on one hand how many Baptisms there were in the Sunday Masses of my parish ever since my own First Communion, excepting Easter Sunday. Otherwise, Baptism in Germany is usually 15 minutes after Mass, or Sunday afternoon. The community is somewhat represented by the two altarboys, and of course the families and, if there should be ones, people who happen to be in the Church. Not to mention the angels.

    (I don’t mind if the celebrant straightforwardly asks the questions, maybe including a renewal of the baptism vows for the whole community, does the anointings and of course baptism itself, alights the candle, prays a Hail Mary – the usual Our Father is said later after all – and the family reads two prayers for the General Prayers. What however I do dislike if after the sermon, the Mass suddenly turns into a nearly full-length baptism service and is resumed afterwards, especially that these services tend to have some, to use the friendly word, child-suitable music.)

  36. Lepidus says:

    @yatzer – I’m with you on that one. How many of these parents that want baptism on Sunday Mass had a special Mass for their wedding a few years before. For that matter, maybe I’ll put in for my funeral at the Mass I would be attending when that time comes….

  37. HighMass says:

    Let’s Pray this is a GOOD SIGN of the Continuity of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI….What most faithful don’t see or understand is even in the “Novus Ordo” saying Mass Ad Orientem adds so much more of the Sacred to the Mass, especially if the Mass is in Latin…..

    Nothing takes the Place of the Mass in the E.F. Celebrating “Ad Or” is a wonderful start!

  38. Manalive says:

    Fr. Jim,

    There would have to be enough room for an adversus populum altar in the Sistine, because masses have been said that way there before. So, it couldn’t be just expediency. I agree with jacobi that Pope Francis does not appear to place any great significance on the liturgy. However, I think this is noteworthy because it could represent a gesture of goodwill towards tradition-minded Catholics. I hope so.

  39. Supertradmum says:

    Nice, perhaps we were all just a bit too impatient with this Pope.

  40. Pastor Bonus says:

    There seems to be a little bit of confusion here regarding the practice of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis and when they celebrated ad orientem. To clarify; yes Pope Francis celebrated versus populum the day after his election, but so did Pope Benedict, this seems to have been forgotten. In 2005 I suspect Monsignor Piero Marini set things up with the free standing altar, and as we should know Pope Benedict was very moderate and gradual in his changes to Papal liturgical practice and style which is why he wouldn’t have made demands right away, ad orientem in the Sistine chapel only came in a number of years into his pontificate, not immediately. In any event I’m pleased this practice was maintained by Pope Francis, and it should be noted that the so-called ‘Benedictine arrangement’ at Papal celebrations has continued under Pope Francis so far and of course he has maintained Monsignor Guido Marini; for a Pope who appears to have no qualms about removing those he chooses to, his retention is notable!

  41. Father Jim:

    If a family wants the baptism during Mass, I don’t refuse. However, I think it is impractical, which most families seem to see as well.

  42. Vocatus says:

    I’ve been wondering why Papa lays his hand on the chalice at the time of the quam oblationem (around 4:45 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwBqrwqNRpY ). Anyone?

  43. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    I think it might have been better in some ways for the Roman liturgy in the days when papal Masses were not broadcast instantly to the world, and when popes celebrated Masses in public comparatively rarely.

    If “ad orientem” posture is best (which of course it is)…then it’s best whether this or that pope does it, once, twice, or (quod Deus avertat) never.

    I understand that it gives encouragement to devotees of this or that glory of the Roman liturgical tradition to see the pope do what they like and/or think is best…but the liturgical tradition is what it is, regardless of whether the pope follows those “best practices.”

  44. Bea says:

    I caught the last part of this ceremony on Spanish EWTN

    Imagine my surprise when I heard them chanting the LITANY OF THE SAINTS with LATIN RESPONSES: “Ora Pro Nobis”

    I guess Francis keeps us guessing.

  45. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I don’t remember ever seeing a rubric about how many people have to be present for a Mass not to be “semi-occult.” (I’ve got no problem with Baptism at Mass, but I’ve got no problem the other way, either. It worked for me.)

    If you have a priest or deacon, a baby or candidate, parents, godparents, and any family members whatsoever, you’ve already got more people present than at the average daily Mass. Seems like plenty of community for the purpose, no?

  46. Dcn D says:

    Regarding baptism during Mass, the Rite of Baptism for Children states in the Introduction, n. 9 states, “To bring out the paschal character of baptism, it is recommended that the sacrament be celebrated during the Easter Vigil or on Sunday, when the Church commemorates the Lord’s resurrection. On Sunday, baptism may be celebrated EVEN DURING Mass, so that the entire community may be present and the relationship between baptism and eucharist may be clearly seen; but this SHOULD NOT BE DONE TOO OFTEN.” This would seem to suggest that some prudence be exercised and that baptism during Mass should not be treated simply as a given or as a policy. This would tend to rub against Fr. Jim’s comment, “it involves the entire community in the sacrament of initiation and I have hard time seeing how that works in a quaisi occult (as if in secret or hidden) fashion” – above. Just because another priest may seldom have baptisms during Mass does not mean he acting in a “occult” or “hidden fashion” or doing something wrong or “throwback”. Indeed, the language of the Rite tends otherwise.

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