Saturday, September 5, 2009
Having a Requiem Mass for a Deceased Pontiff

As a follow up to my recent article on the Traditional Funeral Rites for the Supreme Pontiffs, I wish to expound upon the concept of having a Requiem Mass for a deceased pontiff. While many of us may be unfamiliar with this concept, it is certainly one that has historical significance. For example, when Venerable Pope Pius XII died in 1958, not only were prayers offered in the context of the Sacred Liturgy in Rome at his funeral, but also around the world as countless parishes, cathedrals, monasteries, et cetera celebrated Requiem Masses for the repose of his soul.

Images from the Requiem Mass for Venerable Pope Pius XII:

Requiem mass for Pope Pius XII, St. Patrick's Cathedral (New York)

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower (5R), Mrs. Henry R. Luce (4R), John Foster Dulles (3R) and John A. McCone (2R) during pontifical requiem mass for Pope Pius XII in Washington, D.C.

Yet, when Pope John Paul II died in 2005 few - if any - places in the Catholic world celebrated Solemn Requiem Masses for the repose of his soul. When Pope Paul VI changed the Papal Funeral Rite, it removed nearly all elements of the ceremony (see the Traditional Funeral Rite). Red vestments replaced the black vestments of mourning - a reminder to pray for the repose of the Pope's soul, not a time shout for a pre-mature canonization. Gone in the Novus Ordo is the absolution at the catafalque, which is used in place of the actual body.

Here is an excerpt from the New York Times dated February 18, 1939 illustrating such Requiem Masses for Pope Pius XI:
ABOARD THE S.S. REX, AT SEA, Feb. 17.--In the main hall of the Rex at 10:30 this morning, as the liner was off the cloud-shrouded coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, Mgr. Cassani, the chaplain, sang a high mass of requiem for the soul of Pope Pius XI.
Sancta Missa has on their website a video of a Requiem High Mass with Absolution over the Catafalque. The page includes the changes from the typical Tridentine (Traditional) Latin Mass with the specific prayers common to a Requiem High Mass. If you want to celebrate a Solemn High Mass for the soul of a deceased in the context of the Traditional Latin Mass then this page is highly useful.

In one example of the resurgence of this practice, Fr. Finigan said a Solemn High Mass for the 850th anniversary of the death of Pope Adrian IV. Let us pray for a resurgence so that the dead may be loosed from their time in purgatory through our prayers and most particularly, the prayers of the Church in the Sacred Liturgy.

Image Source: Flickr account of Lawrence OP; Catholic Requiem Mass celebrated in Dorchester Abbey

Suggestions for 2010:

6 February - 270 years from the Death of Clement XII
21 February - 280 years from Death of Benedict XIII (Dominican)
27 September - 310 years from Death of Innocent XII
27 September - 420 years from Death of Urban VII

With plenty of time to construct a catafalque and familiar yourself with the rubrics of the Requiem Mass, encourage your pastors to have a Solemn Requiem Mass for the repose of their souls. In one example, Pope Benedict XIII was a Dominican, and it would be extremely appropriate for Dominicans to remember his soul at a Solemn Requiem Mass on February 21, 2010 (the 280th anniversary of his death).

2 comment(s):

del_button June 9, 2010 at 7:56 PM
Anonymous said...

I wish they brough the Trindetine form of the Mass back so we may enjoy the rich ceromonies such as the pontifical requiem

del_button October 23, 2010 at 1:09 PM
Anonymous said...

Since the Tridentine Mass is the birthright of every Catholic and is the form of Mass that comes to us all the way from Our Blessed Lord Himself,every true Catholic is commanded,as far as possible,in the event of his/her impending death to arrange for a Traditional Requeim Mass with Graveside Service and Prayers at the residence from the Traditional Ritual

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