SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
DECREE REGARDING PUBLIC CELEBRATION OF MASS
In various places Catholic ministers are asked to celebrate Mass for deceased persons baptized in other Churches or ecclesial communities, particularly when the departed showed special devotion and honour for the Catholic religion or held public office at the service of the whole civil community.
There is, of course, no difficulty about the celebration of private Masses for these deceased persons, indeed there can be many reasons in favour, such as piety, friendship, gratitude and the like, provided that no prohibition stands in the way.
With regard to public celebration of Masses, however, the present discipline lays down that they shall not be celebrated for those who have died outside of full communion with the Catholic Church (1).
In view of the present change in the religious and social situation that gave rise to the above-mentioned discipline, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has received inquiries from various quarters to ask if in certain cases even public Masses can be said for these deceased persons.
The Fathers of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith duly examined the whole question and in the Ordinary Congregation of 9 June 1976 made the following Decree on the matter.
I. The present discipline regarding the celebration of public Masses for other Christians who have died shall continue to be the general rule. One reason for this is the consideration due to the conscience of these deceased persons, who did not profess the Catholic faith to the full.
II. Exceptions can be allowed to this general rule, until the new Code is promulgated, whenever both the following conditions are verified.
1. The public celebration of the Masses must be explicitly requested by the relatives, friends or subjects of the deceased person for a genuine religious motive.
2. In the Ordinary's judgment, there must be no scandal for the faithful.
These two conditions can be verified more easily in the case of our brethren of the Eastern Churches we have a closer fellowship with them in matters of faith, even if it is not complete.
III. In these cases public Mass may be celebrated, provided, however, that the name of the deceased is not mentioned in the eucharistic prayer, since that mention presupposes full communion with the Catholic Church.
If there are other Christians present as well as the Catholics who are participating in the celebration of the Masses, the rules made by the Second Vatican Council (2) and the Holy See (3) with regard to communicatio in sacris must be observed faithfully.
In the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 11 June 1976, the Supreme Pontiff Pope Paul VI, repealing to whatever extent is necessary canon 809 (along with canon 2262, paragraph 2, 2°) and canon 1241, all things to the contrary notwithstanding, ratified, approved and commanded to be promulgated the above-mentioned decision of the Fathers.
Rome, at the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 11 June 1976.
FRANJO Cardinal ŠEPER
JÉRÔME HAMER, O.P.
* L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, September 30, 1976, Page 2.
1. Cf. canon 1241, taken with canon 1240, paragraph 1, 1°.
2. Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 26-29, AAS 57 (1965), pp. 84-85; Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 8, AAS 57 (1965), p. 98.
3. Cf. Directorium de Re Oecumemca, 40-42 and 55-56, AAS 59 (1967), pp. 587, 590-591. Instructio de Peculiaribus Casibus Admittendi Alios Christianos ad Communionem Eucharisticam in Ecclesia Catholica, 5-6, AAS 64 (1972), pp. 523-525.