Papal prayers

Q. During the Eucharistic prayer, our diocese prays by name both for our current bishop and also for our retired bishop. Yet I have never heard our pope emeritus (Pope Benedict) mentioned during the Eucharistic prayer. Is there a reason why he cannot be mentioned along with Pope Francis? (Schenectady, N.Y.)

A. It's a good question, and I agree with the sentiment you express. Strictly speaking, neither a retired pope nor a retired bishop is to be mentioned at that part of the Eucharistic prayer — the reason being that they no longer exercise pastoral authority.

That question was answered in the March 2013 newsletter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Divine Worship; that article explained that a retired pope or bishop, "while they retain their episcopal dignity and their standing within the order of bishops, they no longer symbolize, express or are responsible for the communion of the local or universal church."

The same article does permit mention of a retired pope or bishop in the prayer of the faithful or in the "commemoration of the living," which is part of one of the four main versions of the eucharistic prayer.

To be honest though, this all sounds rather technical to me, so here is what I have been doing. Four years ago, when our own bishop retired, the diocese announced that he could be mentioned by name along with his successor in the Eucharistic prayer. It struck me that, by the same logic, we should be permitted to mention Pope Benedict, who had retired the year before.

So for the past four years — in whichever of the Eucharistic prayers I am using — I have been praying publicly for our current pope and bishop and also for "Benedict, our pope emeritus, and Howard, our bishop emeritus." No one has complained, and somehow I think that God doesn't mind either.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.

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