Archdiocese of Manila: Pastoral letter on Sunday celebration of the Eucharist

Last June 14, 2009, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, issued a pastoral letter on the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist entitled, “Without Sunday we cannot live.” The full letter is 36 pages long (see pdf), divided into three parts.   I shall provide excerpts of the bullet points in the document, for they address many familiar liturgical issues (and problems) in the celebration of the New Mass in the Philippines:

I.  The Liturgical Assembly: “The Church: Assembly of the People of God”

Priest celebrant:

  • The presider at Mass should not appropriate the functions that the liturgical norms assign to lesser ministers, except in case of necessity.
  • The homily belongs to the office of the presiding priest.
  • When the presider invites the assembly to prayer with the words, “Let us pray,” he leads the assembly to some moments of silence in which they place themselves in God’s presence and make their own petitions.
  • Proper vestments should at all times be worn in keeping with the liturgical norms.


  • Lectors, especially those assigned for Sunday celebrations, are to come together during the week to study the Sunday readings
  • They need to prepare and familiarize themselves with the biblical
    text before they proclaim it to the assembly.
  • When there is no deacon, a reader may carry the Book of the Gospels in front of the presiding priest in the entrance procession and lay it on the center of the altar. When there is no deacon, the reader announces the
    intentions of the General intercessions from the


  • The choir is at all times a part of the assembly. It should not replace the assembly or dominate the assembly in songs that rightfully belong to them.
  • The music director, working collaboratively with other ministers, has a particular responsibility to help select musical settings that allow the worthy celebration of the liturgy, respecting the different nature
    of the texts and actions of the liturgy, the feast, and the liturgical seasons.
  • We strongly recommend that the members of the choir avail themselves of the formation programs offered by the Archdiocesan Music Ministry and the Institute of Music in the Liturgy.

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion:

  • We feel the need to commission other extraordinary ministers whose principal task is to bring Holy Communion to the sick and the home-bound.
  • Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should regard their ministry as essentially related to all the other ministries in the liturgical celebration.
  • There is a need to intensify parochial formation programs that will supplement the annual formation program given by the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, so that the extraordinary ministers of Holy
    Communion will be continually formed both liturgically and spiritually for the exercise of their ministry.

Altar servers:

  • It is a proven fact that many ordained ministers developed their vocation to the priesthood because of their membership in this ministry when they were young. We therefore wish to continue the practice of reserving this ministry to young boys.
  • Programs that will suit their age need to be designed by pastors and those that are in charge of them….The young altar servers should
    be diligently guided and formed by competent and God-fearing persons.

Greeters and Collectors:

  • [Greeters] should remember that they exhibit the image of a welcoming and open Church.
  • Greeters may assist with the collection and with the offering of the gifts.

Liturgy Coordinator:

  • The person to be appointed to as liturgy coordinator should have received formation through the liturgy programs of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission intended for this position.
  • The liturgy coordinator should foster and promote team work and coordination among the liturgical ministers.

II.  The Sunday Eucharistic Celebration

Liturgy of the Word:

  • The announcement of Mass intentions either at the beginning or at any part of the Mass has been discouraged.  We reiterate this policy …. so as not to perpetuate the misunderstanding among our people that they
    pay for the Mass.
  • The readings are to be proclaimed from the ambo.
  • It is appropriate that a period of silence be observed after the readings and the Gospel proclamation.
  • The high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the proclamation
    of the Gospel. The liturgy expresses this through solemn and special gestures of reverence. Particularly on Sundays, solemnities, and feasts, the use of the Book of the Gospel is highly recommended.
  • It is preferable that the responsorial psalm be sung.  The singing of psalms may be done in various ways. The usual form is responsorial: the psalmist or cantor sings the verses and the whole assembly takes
    up the response. In direct form, which is also permitted, there is no intervening response and the cantor, or the whole assembly together, sings the verses consecutively.
  • In the homily, firmly based on the mysteries of salvation, the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of Christian life are expounded from the Scriptures that have been proclaimed, and as the
    need arises, also from the other texts and rites of the liturgy.
  • The minister for the intentions of the prayers of the faithful is the deacon or, in his absence, the lector.
  • The place where this is announced is the ambo.

Liturgy of the Eucharist:

  • “Pondo ng Pinoy” collections can be a regular element in this liturgical act (procession with the gifts), since it can concretely express the gift of self by the faithful in union with Christ’s offering of himself to the Father. We have designated the last Sunday of every month for this
  • On the occasions of installation of parish priests, birthdays or anniversaries, and the like, it is discouraged that personal gifts for the priests be brought in procession. These personal gifts should be given to the priests during the reception party.
  • We reiterate the instruction given in the past that the use of holy water to bless persons who brought the Eucharistic gifts is not in keeping with liturgical norms and therefore should not be done.
  • The collection of money and other gifts are deposited in a suitable place but away from the Eucharistic table.

“He said the blessing”:

  • The great importance of the assembly’s response and acclamation can be difficult to bring out in the short word Amen. This should be sung or at least spoken loudly both at Sunday and weekday celebrations. Musical settings that moderately prolong the Amen or repeat it, though not excessively, can help the assembly respond more adequately to the prayer.
  • Before the breaking of the bread, the entire assembly prays …. the prayer Our Lord taught us…. We recommend that each parish should choose one musical setting to be used in all Sunday Masses so as to help the assembly participate fully and devoutly in singing it.
  • The proper gesture for the Lord’s Prayer is raised hands.
  • The breaking of the bread is done with dignity and deliberation by the priest celebrant, if necessary with the help of a deacon or a concelebrant.  It should never be done during the words of consecration.
  • Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who will assist at Communion should take their place in the sanctuary after the exchange of peace.

“He gave it to them”:

  • The faithful are not ordinarily to be given Communion from the tabernacle. Serious effort should be made to observe this norm as a regular practice in our parishes rather than as the exception.
  • Signs of unjust discrimination or social distinction  among persons at the Lord’s Table are to be avoided. When there is obvious intent of profanation, the priest and ministers should gently refuse to give
    Communion, avoiding the attention of the public.
  • Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion receive communion from the priest celebrant and receive the vessel of Communion from him.
  • The manner of receiving communion, whether by hand or in the mouth, is the prerogative of the communicant.
  • The purification of vessels after communion should be done at the side table and not on the altar.
  • Announcements should not interrupt the period of silence after communion. Novenas and other devotions and the collections should not be done during this time.
  • Announcements are done after the post Communion Prayer.

The part three on “Our Sunday Eucharist and Mission” does not concern liturgical norms.