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Online Edition - Vol. VII, No. 5-6 - July-August 2001

Postures of the People at Mass

Norms of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani [liturgical instructions in the new Roman Missal] concerning the postures of the congregation during the celebration of Mass, and proposed amendments approved by the US bishops June 15, 2001, for submission to the Holy See for necessary recognitio (approval). (Emphasis added for clarity.)

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Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani

43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the opening song or when the priest enters until the end of the opening prayer or collect; for the singing of the Alleluia before the gospel reading; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the profession of faith and the general intercessions; from the Invitatory, "Pray that our sacrifice...", before the prayer over the gifts to the end of the Mass, except at the places indicated later in this paragraph.

They should sit during the readings before the Gospel reading and during the Responsorial Psalm, for the homily and the preparation of the gifts, and, if this seems helpful, during the period of religious silence after Communion.

They should kneel at the Consecration, except when prevented by reasons of health, lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good reason. However, those who do not kneel at the Consecration ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the Consecration.

But it is up to the Conference of Bishops to adapt the gestures and posture in the Order of the Mass to the customs and reasonable traditions of the people according to the norm of law.1 The Conference, however, must make sure that such adaptations correspond to the meaning and character of each part of the celebration. Where it is the custom that the people remain kneeling from the end of the Sanctus until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, this is laudably retained.

For the sake of observing a uniformity in gestures and posture during the same celebration, the faithful should obey the directions which the deacon or a lay person or the priest give during the celebration, according to whatever is indicated in the liturgical books.

1 See Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 40; see Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Inst. Varietates Legitimae, January 25, 1994, n. 41: AAS, 87 (1995), p. 304.

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Cardinal Medina Estevez's Responsum ad dubium
(November 7, 2000: Prot. n. 2372/00/L)

Dubium 1. Is it the case that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by No. 43 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, intends to prohibit the faithful from kneeling during any part of the Mass except during the Consecration, that is, to prohibit the faithful from kneeling after the Agnus Dei and following the reception of Holy Communion?

Resp.: Negative.

Dubium 2. Does the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments intend by Nos. 160-162, 244, or elsewhere in the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, that the people may no longer genuflect or bow as a sign of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament immediately before they receive Holy Communion?

Resp.: Negative.

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Proposed American Adaptation of IGMR §43

43. Gestures and Posture of the Faithful
In general the directives of the Roman Missal concerning the posture of the congregation at Mass should be left unchanged, except for the following:

Eucharistic Prayer
The people kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer except when prevented by reasons of health, lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good reason as specified by the diocesan bishop.

Communion Rite
The faithful kneel at the Ecce Agnus Dei unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise. They may kneel or sit following the reception of Holy Communion.

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Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani

160. The priest then takes the paten or a vessel and goes to the communicants, who, as a rule, approach in a procession.

The faithful are not permitted to take up the consecrated Bread or the sacred Chalice themselves, and still less hand them on to one another. The faithful may communicate either standing or kneeling, as established by the Conference of Bishops. However, when they communicate standing, it is recommended that they make an appropriate gesture of reverence, to be laid down in the same norms, before receiving the Sacrament.

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Proposed American Adaptation of IGMR §160

160. Distribution of Holy Communion

The faithful come forward in procession to receive Holy Communion. The posture for the reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Each communicant bows his or her head before the sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives Holy Communion from the minister. The consecrated Host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is made before receiving both the Body and the Blood of Christ.

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