ASK FATHER: Name of bishop during Mass on a ship

From a reader…


Which bishop, if any at all, do priests pray for during the Canon of the Mass if a ship is at sea? Would it be the bishop whose diocese is closest? Would it be the bishop whose diocese the ship embarked? I could imagine that military ships pray for the Military Ordinary, but what about us non-military?

Good question.

The priest is to say the name of the bishop of the territory where the Mass is being celebrated.  Even if he is with a group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Black Duck, and they are travelling through the Archdiocese of Metropolis, they say the name of the Archbishop, not of their own Bishop of Black Duck.  An exception is, for example, on military ships which are covered by the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Dioceses are regions of land, not oceans.  They would include bodies of water such as lakes and rivers, but they would not extend out into the, say, Pacific beyond a very short way.

Under the old Code, if I am not mistaken (I’m writing this on the fly), people were covered by the jurisdiction of the port whence they departed.   This is why I believe your planet’s Moon is under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Orlando, since (then) Cape Kennedy was in that diocese.  If that was the case under the older Code, I suppose there would be something similar via the newer Code.

I am not quite sure how the Apostolate of the Sea would fit into all of this.

Another thing comes to mind, if the priest truly doesn’t know the name of the bishop, he can simply leave the proper name out… except in Rome.  In Rome he leaves out the whole phrase about the diocesan bishop, because he has mentioned the Pope and the Pope is the diocesan bishop.

If memory serves, there was once a papal permission given to a priest to have Mass aboard the infamous zepelin Hindenburg…. without candles.  Perhaps someone could dig that document up and learn whose names were to be mentioned.

Another point to consider deals with the calendar, which liturgical day to observe.  Imagine being close to the International Date Line, or on a ship that’s moving really fast, like the International Space Station.

It’s all a blur.

Bottom line: When I don’t know the name, I just leave it out and say “Antistite nostro… our Bishop”, and move on.  I’ve prayed for the local bishop.  God knows the name, even if I had forgotten it when I got to that point.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Nicholas says:

    When I was at WYD, our priest used the name of our diocesan bishop, though according to your post, this was incorrect.

  2. ASPM Sem says:

    If you are ever travelling and would like to know what diocese you are in, point your web browser on your phone/tablet/laptop to and it will figure it out for you.

  3. I serve as a chaplain with the Apostleship of the Sea and we are instructed to name the proper diocesan bishop if we are in port. When at sea, only the Pope is named and no local bishop.

  4. Gerard Plourde says:

    On the web I found an article from the Milwaukee Journal dated May 6, 1936 (what a coincidence, its first transatlantic trip 79 began years ago almost to the day and exactly one year before its crash) which reported that Pope Pius XI had given permission for Fr. Paul Schulte (a missionary who, according to the story, was called the flying padre). Sadly, it didn’t address the issue of an Ordinary’s name in the Canon.

  5. Gerard Plourde says:

    “it” being the Hindenburg.

  6. Elizabeth D says: did not work for me, and I am not even that far away from Minnesota! :-( Good idea though.

  7. Gaz says:

    Which diocese(s) cover Antarctica?

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    “This is why I believe your planet’s Moon is under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Orlando, since (then) Cape Kennedy was in that diocese.”

    Your planet’s moon? Are you hinting, perhaps, that you are from the future, when travel to other planets have become possible and you have traveled back in time to observe and prevent the disasters of Vatican II? You may have blown your cover, but, we won’t tell…

    The Chicken

  9. Giuseppe says:

    Why not have the pope designate 4 curial bishops or archbishops with a titular sea (ocean)?
    Not sure about the Latin, but I think the territory is written in the genitive (diocese of ___)..

    Dioecesis Oceani Arctici
    Dioecesis Oceani Atlantici
    Dioecesis Oceani Indici
    Dioecesis Oceani Pacifici

    The last 3 are big enough to be Archidioeceses.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Dear Giuseppe,

    there’s an actual reason for that.

    A diocese is a local Church, and for a bishop to be designated for it, there must first be an actual Church of its own (in union with the Pope, but of its own) exist he can be bishop of.

    The Pope could erect them as Apostolic Vicariates, as he can always delegate his authority (though I’m not sure about that canon that says Apostolic Vicariates, too, are particular Churches), possibly also as prelatures-nullius, but if not islands with population are included, a diocese seems to me impossible.

  11. Giuseppe says:

    Or is it Atalantici?

  12. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I wonder under whose pastoral care the crew of the Maersk Tigris were, during their recent state-terrorist kidnapping?

    The Hindenberg makes mean think of the interesting arrangements on the volors of the 1970s in R.H. Benson’s futuristic novel, The Dawn of All (1911).

  13. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “mean”>”me” (!)

  14. FranzJosf says:

    Trivia: The “Dry” or “Nautical” Mass

    From: A History of the Mass, the Rev. John O’Brien, Professor of Sacred Liturgy at Mt. St. Mary’s College, Emmittsburg, Maryland, copyright 1880.

    Becuase of the possible lurching of the ship, Mass was celebrated without the sacred elements, without the Offertory and Canon, but the Preface was said or sung, as was the Sanctus. The last recorded Solemn High Dry Mass, with sacred ministers of course, was somewhere near Turin in the 16th century. But, Fr. O’Brien notes that it had fallen into “desuetude” by the time of the writing of the book. He cites sources, but doesn’t note anything about its official suppression.

    Of course, since there was no Canon, no worries about the Ordinary.

  15. Giuseppe says:

    Wouldn’t it be awesome to be a bishop whose territory was an ocean? Although you know there’d be an appeal to the titular bishop to let mermaids be altar servers.

  16. tioedong says:

    More information on the “flying priest” who said mass on the Hindenburg Here scroll down to the Aug 4th 1938 story.

    He was a pilot in WWI and apparently continues to fly: The story is about how he air-evaced a sick priest above the arctic circle in the story.

    oh yes: the diocese that serves the Antarctic are from Christchurch, in New Zealand. link

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