Westerners Using Eastern Blessing

Someone once told me that in the Latin Church, only the Pope was allowed to bless using the traditional Eastern ICXC hand blessing:


Supposedly there was a canon about this and even punishments (excommunication?). I have yet to find any corroborating evidence for this – but I pose the question, is there or was there ever such a canon?

The liturgical laws of the Church do say that a priest is always to use the prayers and gestures proper to his own liturgical rite–this is articulated in a number of different places.

Something like this would depend very much on the context. A Western priest would certainly not be within the norms to use this gesture in the Mass or any other formal liturgy of the Church. On the other hand, if it is a casual situation–such as a person simply asking a priest to bless a medal or cross in a private setting, it would not realy be a problem.

You’ll certainly find a liturgical norm which says “a priest is to use the gestures, vestments, etc. of his own church…” or something very similar. I know that these are out there (but I’ll hold off on looking for references for the moment—see the rest of the post). But a norm/law which says the specific words “A priest of the Latin rite may not use the hand-gestures proper to the Eastern Churches when imparting a blessing” seems like it would be a little too specific (in other words, the part is already contained within the whole).

If you give your question a little more context, posters here might be able to provide some better answers. Are you looking for an example which specifically prohibits the gesture, or are you looking for Church laws which say that the various rites cannot be mixed? Are you looking for a reason why the pope would be an exception?

As for the pope, because he is the pastor of the universal Church, he may function as a priest (sacerdos) of any of the rites since he is a member of all of them. But even the pope does not “mix” the different traditions (I recall that John Paul II once did so, in a visit to the Middle East, mixing the various traditions in one service, but that was an exceptional situation).

I don’t think even the pope has used this. I don’t want to say a pope has NEVER used it, but speaking of the more current ones of which we have pictures…

they don’t look like they’re using the “traditional” as you say and show in the picture.
I may be wrong… but… it just looks like they have the 3 fingers up meaning the trinity or at least thats how i understand it…

(tried putting picture… but failed… can someone else put it up thanks!)

Is there anywhere that lays out what the gestures and vestments, etc. of the Latin Church are – for example, where would a Priest read about how he is to bless an item or person (beyond reciting the words)? Other than observing other Priests, is there some type of how-to manual?

The person who made the original claim seemed to indicate that there was a specific citation or canon of some sort that explicitly prohibited this form of hand blessing gesture within the Latin Church.

The Pope is omni-ritual. Or the tried and true answer: “he’s the Pope!” :stuck_out_tongue:

The hand gesture is formed this way:

index finger straight up to form the I
middle finger curved in to form the C
thumb crossed with ring finger to form the X
pinky finger curved in to form the C

The fingers of the and then create ICXC the traditional abbreviation in Greek of Iesous Christos – Jesus Christ.

Umm… i don’t know why you replied to me…

All i said is that when a pope blessed people in the “traditional” way it was just with three fingers up the thumb index and middle finger with the two last one down…

It doesn’t look like the eastern gesture for blessing

There might be an exact canon out there, but my guess is that its based on the liturgical books. Both the Ritus Servandus of the previous missal, and the Ceremoniale Episcoporum were highly detailed on the gestures of priests and bishops. To make the sign of the cross

  • all fingers had to be extended
  • fingers had to be joined
  • the little finger had to be facing the person or object to be blessed

However, the Ceremoniale Romanum directs differently for the Pope. Since the prescriptions of the liturgical books were held to be postivie liturgical law, my guess is it is that which stopped priests and bishops from blessing in an Eastern manner.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.