Q: I am helping my bishop draft some new liturgical guidelines for the diocese and was hoping you would be able to guide me on a question that came up. It’s my understanding that a lay minister can return the ciborium to the tabernacle after communion… is that correct? The GIRM is not 100% clear on this. At 163 it seems to imply that the priest does this… but at 183, it sounds like the priest goes to sit down and yet it doesn’t say the deacon does it… how do you read it? Is it a case of “ordinary” vs. “extraordinary” minister?
A: You are correct that 163 is the only place that mentions placing hosts in the tabernacle after communion, and it’s in the section about mass without a deacon. When there is a deacon, no direction is given.
I really think that the reposition of hosts is a circumstance that the GIRM does not completely foresee. It leaves us wondering what to do. In my book Let Us Pray, I raise the issue of tabernacles located in separate chapels – surely the priest is not expected to leave the sanctuary to repose the remaining hosts.
Lay ministers may open and close the tabernacle door for worship and communion of the sick outside of mass, so this action does not fall outside their areas of competency.
I believe that if a priest may conveniently repose the hosts, he should. But if it is more amenable for someone else to do it, the rubrics do not forbid it.