Legality of saying Mass in non-Catholic buildings?


I was wondering what the Church says about Mass being said in non-Catholic buildings? A priest says Mass in the Student Union Building on Campus every Wednesday, and I was just wondering the overall Canonical legality of this.

Pax et bonum,

I don’t think there is any problem. I just watched on TV, the conference of the Knights of Columbus. A huge Mass with a lot, I mean a lot, of Bishops celebrating…was held in the HOTEL CONFERENCE ROOM. Does that answer your question? You can look up canon law if you want, its online at the holy see…I don’t recall seeing anything about Mass having to be in a building owned by the church.

Mass is celebrated in military chapels all the time, which are not Catholic buildings by any stretch of the imagination.

A few years back, Catholic Answers had a seminar at a hotel conference room/ball room. Part of the conference included a Latin Mass, which was said in the ball room. The “funny thing” was that even though the several hundred attendees were average age in their thirties, everyone knew the Latin responses.

We sometimes use the local Pentecostal church for funerals Masses and one such was celebrated by our bishop. There are no problems with it.

One priest even celebrated Mass for us in our barn when that was the setting for our family reunion. Everything had been decorated and set up for the occasion.

One should assume that if a priest is offering Mass outside of a church or in a public building he has obtained the proper permission of the bishop, and is observing whatever rules pertain to that circumstance. A new parish here is meeting at the local country club while they build their church. Another used a protestant church who graciously invited them when the parish sustained hurricane damage. Also common is Mass outdoors before the parish picnic. Don’t forget the Pope’s recent Mass at Yankee Stadium. By definition almost the Catholic group on a public college campus will be most unlikely to celebrate Mass other than in a campus building, and will not have its own church or chapel.

In some countries Mass can ONLY be said in non-Catholic buildings. For example, in China (where the church is still illegal) there are only Masses in the Canadian embassy.

When he was still a parish priest, JPII also used to say riverside Mass while on canoeing trips with local youth (cf. George Weigel, Witness to Hope).

Can. 932~1 The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in a sacred place, unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise; in which case the celebration must be in a fitting place.

One assumes that necessity requires the celebration of Mass and that there is no better or fitting place available.

It is up to the local bishop to determine what is an appropriate place for Mass. In general, Masses should be said in a Catholic Church or other sacred space (shrine, chapel, oratory, etc). If the Masses happen on a regular basis, the bishop must approve it, or he can delegate this decision to the priests. Most bishops give all priests the faculty to celebrate Mass in any dignified place.

When it comes to college campuses, the bishop has either appointed a chaplain for the campus, or it is part of the territory of the local pastor (often that will be the same priest anyway). While it isn’t possible for posters here to give a definite answer as to whether or not the local bishop allows this, it’s extremely unlikely given the fact that this is happening weekly, that it’s happening without the bishop’s permission, one way or another.

In other words, the canonical legality of the Mass is probably not something to be concerned about, unless there’s something very unusual happening–like a rogue priest saying Mass on campus to stay “under the radar” or some other unlikely scenario.

Most likely, the priest is celebrating Mass there for the good of the students on campus, and one way or another, has permission to do this.

I worked for some years at an Air Force Station that had no chapel. A local priest used to come in on Holy Days and say mass for us. The only available space was the bar at the Officers Club; so we had it there. You use what is available.

One image that sticks in my mind is a priest saying Mass on an altar stone placed on the hood of a jeep, obviously in the field, for several Army members during WWII.


Wow…that is a lot of responses to such a simple question.

I was honestly just wondering the Canonical legality. I came across an article on Whispers in the Loggia (which took the article from CatholicNews []](])) about Mass in a mall in Colorado. My curiousity just got the best of me. Maybe I should just pick up a copy of the CIC!

Pax et bonum,

One more response - the Pope has celebrated Masses in all kinds of venues. I was at Yankee Stadium last year when he celebrated it there. Weddings have to be performed in a Catholic Church, but I don’t think any other sacraments or the Mass are invalid if not done in a Catholic church.


There is a group of Catholics who live in my town who are twenty minutes away from the only parish in our town. They complain that this is too far away for them to travel to for Mass so they have Mass once a month in either a public school (on a Sunday) or out in a park which also takes twenty minutes to get to from where they live. I thought that they had to celebrate the Mass in an actual Catholic church and not any building or outside. Which is the same reason why we can’t have outdoor weddings right? Can anyone tell me what the exceptions for where one can have a Mass outside of a Catholic church building and/or how far is too far according to the Church to travel to the actual church building, making it OK to have the Mass in a public school? Thanks ahead of time and God Bless.

Welcome to the forums.

This is what Redemptionis Sacramentum has to say:

  1. The Place for the Celebration of Holy Mass
    [108.] “The celebration of the Eucharist is to be carried out in a sacred place, unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise. In this case the celebration must be in a decent place”.197 The diocesan Bishop shall be the judge for his diocese concerning this necessity, on a case-by-case basis.

[109.] It is never lawful for a Priest to celebrate in a temple or sacred place of any non-Christian religion.

The only thing that I can assume is that perhaps these folks have petitioned for a parish of their own. However, they need to be in a stable location and not necessarily be nomadic about it. Now, if this is not the case, then the bishop needs to know about it, provided that he did not grant them permission to do this. People cannot take it upon themselves to do with the Mass as they please. They need to submit to the authority of the Church.

The argument about the 20-minute distance makes no sense, if they are already traveling that distance anyway for Mass at these other locations. They need to have a compelling reason as to why they cannot go to the one church in your area.

Out of curiosity, and slightly off topic, why would you hold funerals and masses in a pentecostal church?

If that’s the best you can do, canon law says that you can.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

They have the largest church in this town with seating capacity for at least 400 more people that any other congregation. For certain funerals we just simply need the space.

For that reason, their church is also the venue for the local High School & Community College graduations, concerts, etc.

when our former parish church suffered tornado damage the neighboring Protestant church graciously offered use of their buildings not only for Mass but for CCD while repairs were made.

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