In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Thanks for the presentation you made for the presbyterate of our diocese.  I had two follow-ups.

I had asked you about concelebration and the need for a concelebrant to proclaim the gospel as this is a ministerial function, not a presidential one.  You indicated that he ought also do all of the spoken deacon roles: invitation to the sign of peace, dismissal, and to raise the chalice at the doxology.

1.  Is he also supposed to set the altar and prepare the chalice?

2.  Can you point me towards the document(s) that indicate all of this?

Thanks very much for your important work.


A: I remember that conversation. I treated this in chapter 9 of my book Ars Celebrandi. Look at GIRM 208, which says laconically, “If a Deacon is not present, the functions proper to him are to be carried out by some of the concelebrants.” Notice, it’s not “may be carried out” but “are to be carried out.” The functions are not delineated, but all of them would apply, including the gospel, prayer of the faithful, preparing the altar, adding water to the wine, raising the chalice at the end of the eucharistic prayer, inviting the sign of peace, administering the chalice when communion is under both kinds, and giving the dismissal. 

The Ceremonial of Bishops says something similar at #122: “If deacons properly so called are not available, their ministries should be carried out by presbyters, who, vested as priests, concelebrate with the bishop, even if they must also celebrate another Mass for the pastoral benefit of the faithful.”

I don’t know any diocese or religious community where this is put into force, but if the question is, “Does the missal expect it?”, my answer is yes.

I think this is important because it purifies the role of the presider. Ideally, the presider is not also carrying out diaconal duties. Someone else should relieve him of those—if no deacon, then a priest. This helps the presider focus on his role and the elements of the Mass that directly pertain to it.