In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  Thank you for your blog which I receive and refer to regularly.

I’m just seeking your clarification on the query below, which I received today for a local suburban parish here in Australia.

‘It has been our practice at our parish for Communion Ministers to purify the vessels (chalice) at the credence table after distribution of communion at Mass. The Communion Ministers are not ordained deacons. My understanding has been that this is acceptable – I know it has also been done at my previous parish in New Zealand. The vessels are cleaned by members of the altar society. We are intending to reinforce this in our training session.

I have a query from a member of the congregation who thinks that this is not accepted church instruction, quoting from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM): final text with application for Australia, 2012. Pg. 91-92., purification is a priestly /deacon/a validly instituted acolyte function only.

Is this person correct – that only the priest should be purifying the vessels (chalices, in this case)?’

I would be grateful of your expert response. Thank you.


A:  Thanks for your comments on my blog.

Your correspondent is correct. GIRM 279 says that the purification is done by “the Priest, the Deacon, or an instituted acolyte.”

in the past it was common practice in the US for communion ministers to assist with this ministry, but the practice has changed to align with GIRM 279. I’m not sure what the reason is, but I guess that the Vatican sees the role of extraordinary ministers as assisting with the distribution of communion to a large number of communicants, but not with other tasks. In truth, purifying vessels does not require as many people as distributing communion.