Kyrie after the Confiteor

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: It seems that this question keeps coming up over and over:

Can the deacon speak or chant the Kyrie after the Confiteor? Here is how I have parsed it out… what do you think? 

Short answer (based on GIRM 52 and STL 146):

-it is not a specifically diaconal task; the deacon is only specifically mentioned if Form III is used

-if sung, the cantor/choir should lead (specifically stated in the rubrics)

-if spoken, the presider should continue

-but can the presider have the deacon do this, especially if spoken? Perhaps. But I really see no reason to do so.

(Bill Ditewig, if I read his The Deacon at Mass, 2nd ed, correctly would say no – arguing that what is not expressly allowed is not permitted.) 

Long answer: I can find no absolute requirement concerning who leads the Kyrie after the Confiteor in the liturgical books or the commentaries.

It is not specifically mentioned as a role for the deacon at Mass – and given that other specific tasks are mentioned, that’s important to keep in mind.

Arguing from silence is always dangerous – but a good general principle to follow is that just because it isn’t forbidden that doesn’t mean it is allowed. 

I think there is some very good evidence that the deacon is not the intended minister here – but the cantor. 

Order of Mass 6 specifies the deacon as a possible minister in the 3rd form of the penitential rite; but the minister who invokes the Kyrie after the Confiteor is not specified in the GIRM or Order of Mass, though GIRM 52 does mention a cantor (or choir) singing first and then the people follow. This is echoed in Sing to the Lord:146. The ancient invocation Kyrie is a “chant by which the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy.” If the Kyrie is not included in the Act of Penitence, it is sung or said immediately afterwards. It is usually sung in dialogue by the entire liturgical assembly with the choir or cantor. 

See GIRM paragraph 52. There it states that the kyrie is sung either by everyone together or alternating between the people and the Cantor or choir.

So it seems that the kyrie is part of the Ministry of the Cantor and not (outside of necessity) of that of the deacon.For example, if a reader is present he or she should proclaim the first and second readings, not the deacon.The Deacon steps in only if necessary. Maybe that is a good principle to follow here as well. 

I think that a strong argument can therefore be made that if the Kyrie is sung, it really does not belong to the deacon.The deacon should intone the kyrie only if necessary (no cantor or choir, and better able to do so than the presider). That’s my interpretation. 

But what if this isn’t sung? That’s less clear, but I think we can get some direction here as well.One could argue that it simply makes more sense for the presider to continue; that speaks to the penitential act and kyrie unified.

But, again, nothing is specified. If the cantor does this if sung, should a deacon do this if spoken?

Again, I would have to ask why? We don’t assign liturgical tasks just to give someone something to do.

On the one hand, it is not specifically called for, and because something isn’t forbidden doesn’t mean we should do it.

So I would also argue that this part ought to remain with the presider.

On the other hand, the best argument against this is that since the cantor is preferred when sung, this isn’t envisioned as a presidential task – but a ministerial one… like intoning any litany.And therefore the deacon would be an appropriate minister.


A: Anyone may speak or chant the Kyrie after the Confiteor. The Order of Mass 7 assigns no one to this responsibility. GIRM 52 assumes that the choir or cantor may “take part in”—that is, lead—it.

If spoken. I believe that the best practice is for the presider to have the cantor or the reader or the deacon lead it, following the principle from Sacrosanctum Concilium 28: “In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.” The Kyrie does not belong to the office of the priest, nor to the deacon. If a layperson can begin it, that would be ideal. Whether it is sung or recited makes no difference.

We usually have a priest or deacon lead it out of expediency, not theology, not history.