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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 01 Dec 2001

kneeling for the consecration QUESTION from Mrs. Judith Brown June 21, 1999
Does a National Conference of Bishops have the authority to abolish Rubric #21 of the GIRM. I know the NCCB extended kneeling, but I am concerned about the CCCB (Canada). The CCCB played dicey politics by ruling in the 80's or 70's that individual dioceses could rule regarding actions and postures. I know that Sacrosanctum Concilium gives some lee-way to local dioceses in the area of gesture. Does an individual Canadian bishop have the authority to order his flock to stand for the entire eucharistic prayer? ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on June 21, 1999
No. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) is the document, with the force of law, which governs worship for the entire Church throughout the world. It is found at the beginning of every copy of the Sacramentary, also known as The Roman Missal. It's the book used by the priest at every Mass. Regarding posture, we find the following instruction; 21. . . . They [the people] should kneel at the consecration unless prevented by the lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good reason. Changes regarding posture can be made by National bishops' Conferences with approval from the Holy See. Such changes are uniform and affect all the dioceses in that Conference. An example of this is the U.S. adaptation which extends kneeling from the Sanctus through to the Great Amen. This adaptation affects all the dioceses in the U.S., not just those who choose to implement it. It's not optional. On the local level, the bishop of a diocese has the authority to mandate a specific act of reverence such as a deep bow or making the sign of the Cross, to replace the genuflection before receiving Communion. This could be different from one diocese to another. Experimentation with other postures and liturgical actions can be done from one diocese to another but again, not without prior written approval from Rome. When liturgical experimentation is seen to be necessary or useful, permission will be granted in writing by this Sacred Congregation alone, with clearly defined norms and under the responsibility of the competent local authority. [Liturgicae Instaurationes, 5 September 1970] Another indication of Rome's mind concerning kneeling is found in Notitiae from the Sacred Congregation for Liturgy. Query: In some places kneelers have been taken out of the churches. Thus, the people can only stand or sit and this detracts from the reverence and adoration due to the eucharist. Reply: The appointments of a place of worship have some relationship to the customs of the particular locale. For example, in the East there are carpets; in the Roman basilicas, only since modern times, there are usually chairs without kneelers, so as to accommodate large crowds. There is nothing to prevent the faithful from kneeling on the floor to show their adoration, no matter how uncomfortable this may be. In cases where kneeling is not possible (see GIRM no. 21), a deep bow and a respectful bearing are signs of the reverence and adoration to be shown at the time of the consecration and communion: Not 14 (1978) 302-303, no. 4. I hope this helps. Yours in Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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