Pope Benedict XVI and the Eucharistic Prayer


This only struck me today for some reason. I’m a new convert (as of this Easter vigil!) and I’m lucky enough to attend Mass almost daily as I work a couple of minutes’ walk from the cathedral which is the seat of our archdiocese.

Anyway, a few weeks back, during the EP II the priest accidentally said “together with Benedict, our Pope…” (force of habit, I’m guessing), and it only just resurfaced in my mind with a thought.

When the Eucharistic Prayers were finalised, the idea of a Pope Emeritus would have been very remote - but does Pope Emeritus Benedict no longer warrant a mention in the liturgy, considering the local bishop is name checked? Especially in the context of what we’re actually praying for at that point, should EP2 not currently read “together with Francis our Pope, Benedict our Pope Emeritus and N. our bishop…”? Obviously no, it shouldn’t, but I would really appreciate someone explaining why not?


This formula is an ancient one, going back to the earliest days of the Church (before even the Council of Nicaea). Local priests would mention the bishop, and the bishop would mention other local bishops. Patriarchs would mention each other. etc. etc. It was a sign of communion. It was sometimes called the “diptychs” (2 pages) because the names would be written on tablets hinged in the center (imagine a book with just the covers and no pages). A sign of being no-longer-in-communion or of excommunicating another bishop was to remove his name from the diptychs.

In more modern times, although the custom remains of mentioning the Pope and the local bishop. It’s limited to the local bishop (and optionally the auxiliary or coadjutor). Retired bishops, though, are not mentioned.

There’s no actual hard reason why a Pope Emeritus could not be mentioned. For that matter, there’s no actual reason why other bishops could not be mentioned—such as the archbishop or the bishops of the other diocese in the province. There’s no theological or historical reason why it cannot be done…

The reason why we don’t do it, is simply a matter of following the rubrics as they are written–nothing more. The Church could choose to change the rubrics to mention a retired bishop, or even a retired pope. That’s entirely possible.

When Pope Benedict announced his retirement, there was some kind of communication from the Holy See clarifying that he would no longer be mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayers (effective on the date of his retirement, not the election of the new pope), because there is no place to mention a retired pope.

It’s really just that simple. Nothing is meant by this. No meaning is intended or implied. Any pope (Pope Francis or any future one) might decide to change it, or not.


Makes plenty of sense. Thank you for taking the time to respond so helpfully to such a trifling question, it’s very much appreciated!


It’s hardly a trifling question, my friend!

The question had canonists, liturgists, bishops, pastors, and everyone else scratching their heads for weeks questioning and debating it from the very moment Pope Benedict announced that he would be retiring.

It’s also a very important issue. While any priest can make a mistake and mention the wrong pope (I’ve mentioned Benedict more times than I can count in the last year, and I still catch myself almost saying “John Paul…” once in while, the issue itself is very very important.

A priest might intentionally mention Benedict and not-mention Francis as a way of making a “statement.” Believe me, that issue was also discussed quite a bit. It turned out not to be an issue (at least so far) but there was much speculation that there might be some priests who would refuse to acknowledge that Benedict had indeed vacated the See, and might continue to mention him on purpose. I never heard of that happening, but when the announcement was first made, it seemed like a very real possibility at the time.


A similar issue came up when our bishop’s retirement was accepted and an Apostolic Administrator was appointed (a bishop). All priests were immediately instructed to make reference to the apostolic administrator and not the retired bishop. It was explained that the prayers were for those who had jurisdiction not just for those who have received ordination as bishops. On the other hand, Msgr. Peter Elliot in Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite states that auxiliary bishops may be mentioned in the appropriate place in the Eucharistic Prayer.


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