Joined hands

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 107, second sentence, says that concelebrants and ministers have their hands joined when walking and standing, unless they are holding something. It is in the chapter with the title “General Norms”. 

The 2010 translation of the Roman Missal has in the General Instruction, n. 112 that when Mass is celebrated by the bishop the norms found in Ceremonial of Bishops should be observed.

But my understanding is that it does not repeat the instruction about concelebrants and ministers having their hands joined when standing. In General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 175, it says the deacon greets the people with hands joined, then does the gesture of using his thumb to make crosses on the book, his forehead, mouth and breast. But then has no instruction on the position of his hands while proclaiming the Gospel.

How do you interpret this? Should a Deacon, proclaiming the Gospel, have hands joined in these situations:

a. In Mass with a bishop?

b. In Mass without a bishop?

c. In a Rite of Distributing Holy Communion Outside Mass?

What about if a Deacon is giving a homily in situations b and c?


A: It’s hard to make a definitive judgment on this from the evidence you have correctly collected. I think it’s safe to presume that joined hands are a default position for ministers. However, while proclaiming the gospel, a deacon or priest may want to steady himself at the ambo or rest a hand on the book to keep his place while he reads. He may also find that resting hands on the ambo presents a more engaging posture to communicate the words to the people. These would all be practical measures in line with the exception to be made when “holding something.”

There are even fewer rubrics in Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass. The proclamation of a gospel may be included in services held outside a church, such as in a hospital room, where the deacon may be holding the book with the reading.

Homilists generally need their hands free to make occasional gestures.

Absent anything more explicit in the rubrics, I think that the deacon has a choice of folding hands at the ambo for the gospel. He would best consult others in his community who may have preferences leading to uniformity or justifiable diversity in local practice.