Incensing the cross

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Hello, Fr Paul. Happy Easter to you! And thank you for always being patient and kind in your teaching.

In this post:

you wrote:  “In my view, if the cross is on the back wall, it’s easier to signify he’s incensing that cross if the priest turns to it first rather than when he pauses halfway around his circuit of the altar.”

I agree because GIRM, 177(b), states: “The cross, if situated on the altar or near it, is incensed by the Priest before he incenses the altar…,” and on the back wall if only several feet behind the altar seems to meet “near it.” However, I recently came across the Ceremonial of Bishops, 93, which states: “If there is a cross on or beside the altar, he incenses it before he incenses the altar. If the cross is behind the altar, the bishop incenses it when he passes in front of it.” Now I am trying to reconcile CB, 93, with GIRM, 177(b). Please help.

Thank you very much.

With much admiration,


A: The Ceremonial of Bishops has an over-translation there. The Latin words are virtually the same in CB and the Missal. The Ceremonial even footnotes what was GIRM 236 and is now GIRM 277 (not 177 as in your question).

The Latin word secus just means “Otherwise,” as the revised English translation has it. The Ceremonial interprets it to mean “If the cross is behind the altar,” which is not what it says.

Eventually, we’ll get a revised translation of the Ceremonial, but ICEL has delayed the work until the retranslation of the other liturgical books upon which it depends is completed.

In short, follow what GIRM 277b says to understand CB 93.