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Canon 1246 - Sundays and Holy Days

ß1: Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church. Also to be observed are the day of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary Mother of God and her Immaculate Conception and Assumption, Saint Joseph, the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, and finally, All Saints.

ß2: However, the conference of bishops can abolish certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday with prior approval of the Apostolic See.

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Complementary Norm: In accord with canon 1246, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the holy days of obligation to be observed in the United States are the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God; the Solemnity of the Ascension; the Solemnity of the Assumption; the Solemnity of All Saints; the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; the Solemnity of Christmas. The Solemnity of the Epiphany shall be transferred to the first Sunday following January 1; the Solemnity of Corpus Christi shall be observed on the second Sunday following Pentecost.

Approved: General Meeting, November 1983

Reviewed: Holy See (Congregation for Clergy), Letter from Apostolic Pro-Nuncio (Prot. No. 1091/84/8) February 13, 1984

Promulgated: Minutes of November 1983 General Meeting, March 1984

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SUBSEQUENT ACTION: Canon 1246ß2

DECREE OF PROMULGATION

On December 13, 1991 the members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States of American made the following general decree concerning holy days of obligation for Latin rite Catholics:

In addition to Sunday, the days to be observed as holy days of obligation in the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States of America, in conformity with canon 1246, are as follows:

January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension
August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
November 1, the solemnity of All Saints
December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Whenever January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or November 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.

This decree of the Conference of Bishops was approved and confirmed by the Apostolic See by a decree of the Congregation for Bishops (Prot. N. 296/84), signed by Bernardin Cardinal Gantin, prefect of the Congregation, and dated July 4, 1992.

As president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hereby declare that the effective date of this decree for all the Latin rite dioceses of the United States of America will be January 1, 1993, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

Given at the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, November 17, 1992.

Most Reverend Daniel E. Pilarczyk
Archbishop of Cincinnati
President, NCCB

Monsignor Robert N. Lynch
General Secretary

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SUBSEQUENT ACTION: Canon 1246ß2

In accord with the provisions of canon 1246ß2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states: "... the conference of bishops can abolish certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday with prior approval of the Apostolic See," the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States decrees that the Ecclesiastical Provinces of the United States may transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter to the Seventh Sunday of Easter according to the following procedure.

The decision of each Ecclesiastical Province to transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension is to be made by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the bishops of the respective Ecclesiastical Province. The decision of the Ecclesiastical Province should be communicated to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and to the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This decree was approved by His Holiness Pope John Paul II by a decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and dated July 5, 1999.

As President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hereby decree that the effective date of this decree for all the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States of America will be September 8, 1999, Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary.

Given at the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, August 6, 1999, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
President, NCCB

Reverend Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
General Secretary
February 28, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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Summary

The number Holy Days of Obligation other than Sundays has varied considerably through the Church’s history, and at some periods and places dozens of saints days were included as obligatory.

In 1911, Pope Pius X reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation for the universal Church to eleven, eliminating most patronal feasts. Even earlier, at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884), the US bishops had already removed the obligation from the Epiphany, Corpus Christi, and saints days (other than the Blessed Virgin Mary), reducing the number of these days to six, as in the present calendar.

In 1983, the year the new Code of Canon Law came into effect, the US bishops issued a “Complementary Norm” to Canon 1246, decreeing that the Holy Days of Obligation to be observed in the United States are

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (January 1)

The Solemnity of the Ascension (Thursday before Pentecost, 40 days after Easter)

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15)

The Solemnity of All Saints (November 1)

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8)

The Solemnity of Christmas (December 25)

At the same time, they transferred the celebration of the Solemnity of the Epiphany (January 6 on the universal calendar) to the Sunday after January 1, and the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (Thursday after Trinity Sunday on the universal calendar) to the second Sunday after Pentecost, with the intention of restoring central importance to these feasts of Christ, too-often neglected on their traditional dates by most Catholics.

The US bishops’ action was approved by the Holy See in February 1984.

In 1991, the US bishops further amended the Church calendar, by removing the obligation to attend Mass whenever January 1, August 15, or November 1 fell on a Saturday or a Monday. Their action was approved by the Holy See in 1992.

Another change was made in 1999, and approved by the Holy See. It decreed that Ecclesiastical Provinces “may transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter to the Seventh Sunday after Easter”, by the vote of 2/3 of the bishops of any “ecclesiastical province” in the United States. Each province would then communicate their decision to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and to the conference president. Thus the date of celebration of the Ascension varies in the dioceses of the United States.

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