Benedict’s Funeral Mass Omits Roman Canon

News: World News
by Jules Gomes  •  •  January 4, 2023   

Vatican liturgy experts dump pope emeritus' preferred eucharistic prayer

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VATICAN CITY ( - Vatican liturgists have omitted the ancient Roman Canon from Pope Benedict's funeral Mass, despite it being the pope emeritus' preferred eucharistic prayer. 

Cdl. Ratzinger incensing the coffin of Pope John Paul II

The omission has triggered a heated debate, with faithful Catholics and liturgical experts asking if the exclusion was a deliberate slight to Benedict's legacy of liberating the Traditional Latin Mass, which is now heavily restricted by Pope Francis' Traditionis Custodes

On Tuesday, the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff released the details of the service for Benedict XVI.

The Holy See Press Office director, Matteo Bruni, told reporters that a team of specialists prepared the liturgical rite for the Requiem Mass to be offered on Thursday morning in St. Peter's Square. 

The unprecedented celebration of a pope's funeral presided over by his successor, "roughly speaking, repeats the model of the funeral of a high pontiff," Bruni explained. 

But commentators pointed out that this would be the first time since A.D. 604 that the Roman Canon (also known as Eucharistic Prayer I) would be dropped from the Requiem Mass of a Roman pontiff, even if the pontiff had resigned his office, as in the case of Pope Celestine V.

Following the tumultuous liturgical upheaval ushered in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, Eucharistic Prayer III was composed by Fr. Cipriano Vagaggini using North African sources. 

 To omit it at a papal Requiem Mass is a scandal to anyone with a Catholic soul.   

Several priests took to Twitter to lament the omission of the Roman Canon. 

"Sad but unsurprising. I will at least ensure this deceased pontiff is prayed for at my Masses using the Roman Canon," Fr. Jacob Straub tweeted.


"You might wish that they did the Roman Canon in Latin at St. Peter's more often (I do), but I don't think there's grounds to interpret this as any kind of a slight against Benedict," Fr. Peter Totleben, a Dominican, remarked

Dr. Simon Reynolds, liturgical scholar and research fellow at Winchester University, noted that Eucharistic Prayer III was used at most Catholic funerals including Requiem Masses offered for bishops and priests. 

Pope Francis' omission of the Roman Canon could be seen as a prophetic indictment.

"Modelled on Hippolytus's anaphora, it has a pedigree of historic usage in Rome pre (what's become) the Roman Canon," Reynolds pointed out

Popular British author Dcn. Nick Donnelly told Church Militant that "the omission of the Roman Canon at Pope Benedict XVI's Requiem Mass is incomprehensible given his deep love for this quintessential expression of the faith of the See of St. Peter." 

Donnelly elaborated: 

The Canon's naming of the early popes — St. Linus, St. Cletus, St. Clement, St. Sixtus — immediately following the Twelve Apostles testifies to the Apostolic Succession guaranteed by communion with the See of St. Peter. To omit it at a papal Requiem Mass is a scandal to anyone with a Catholic soul, aware that we are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1). 

Pope Francis' omission of the Roman Canon could be seen as a prophetic indictment as it contains the words "et omnibus orthodoxis, atque Catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus" — "and all right believing teachers of the Catholic apostolic faith." Maybe Pope Francis couldn't bear to hear those words proclaimed before the whole world.

Speaking to Church Militant, Dr. Joseph Shaw, liturgical commentator and president of Una Voce International, said, "It seems extraordinary that the ancient Roman Canon is not to be used at his funeral, given Pope Benedict's great appreciation of the Latin liturgical tradition."

Shaw pointed out that Pope Francis himself recently emphasized the importance of this eucharistic prayer as a symbol of the continuity of the post-Conciliar liturgy with what went before it:  

Whoever wishes to celebrate with devotion according to earlier forms of the liturgy can find in the reformed Roman Missal according to Vatican Council II, all the elements of the Roman Rite, in particular the Roman Canon which constitutes one of its more distinctive elements.

Benedict referred to the Roman Canon multiple times in his writings on the liturgy, using the prayer to illustrate and explicate the profundity of the Holy Mass. In the anthology Joseph Ratzinger Collected Works: Theology of the Liturgy, there are at least 15 references to the Roman Canon.  

Benedict outside the Madonna della Salute Chapel, Italy

"In the prayers of the Roman Canon, we unite ourselves with the great men who offered sacrifice at the dawn of history: Abel, Melchizedek, and Abraham. They set out toward the Christ who was to come. They were anticipations of Christ, or, as the Fathers say, 'types' of Christ," Benedict wrote.  

"We notice first of all something quite remarkable," in the Roman Canon, the pope emeritus explained. "It does not talk only about God and about Christ, his death and his Resurrection. It mentions people by name: Sixtus, Clement, Cyprian; it allows us to insert names, the names of people we have loved and who have gone before us into the other world."

In one place, Benedict laments how "several modern translations of the Roman Canon have simply omitted the supplices" — which he describes as the bodily posture of "bowing low." 

"Perhaps they regarded the physical expression, which as a matter of fact has disappeared, as unimportant. Perhaps, too, they thought it was an unsuitable thing for a modern man to do," the former pope noted. 

When he was the main celebrant for the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II, Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger chanted the Roman Canon in Latin.

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