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Pontifical Mass is the solemn Mass celebrated by a bishop with the ceremonies prescribed in the "Cæremoniale Episcoporum", I and II. The full ceremonial is carried out when the bishop celebrates the Mass at the throne in his own cathedral church, or with permission at the throne in another diocese. The "C remoniale" supposes that the canons are vested in the vestments of their order, the dignitaries, of whom the first acts as assistant priest, in copes, those of the sacerdotal order in chasubles, those of the diaconal order, of whom the first two act as assistant deacons, in dalmatics, and the subdeacons in tunics over the amice and the surplice or the rochet. In addition a deacon and subdeacon in their regular vestments and a master of ceremonies assist the bishop. Nine acolytes or clerics minister the book, bugia, mitre, crosier, censer, two acolyte candles, gremiale, and cruets, and four minister in turn at the washing of the bishop's hands. Mention is also made of a train-bearer and of at least four and at most eight torch-bearers at the time of the Elevation. All these clerics should wear surplices except the four who attend to the washing of the bishop's hands; the first four may also wear copes. The ornaments worn or used by the bishop, besides those ordinarily required for Mass, are the buskins and sandals, pectoral cross, tunic, dalmatic, gloves, pallium (if he has a right to use it), mitre, ring, crosier, gremiale, basin and ewer, canon, and bugia. A seventh candle is also placed on the altar besides the usual six.

The bishop vested in the cappa magna enters the cathedral, visits the Blessed Sacrament, and then goes to the chapel, called the secretarium , where he assists at terce. During the singing of the psalms he reads the prayers of preparation for Mass and puts on the vestments for Mass as far as the stole, then vested in the cope he sings the prayer of terce, after which the cope is removed, and he puts on the rest of the vestments. The procession headed by the censer-bearer, cross-bearer, and acolytes then goes to the main altar. The bishop recites the prayers at the foot of the altar, puts on the maniple, and after kissing the altar and the book of gospels and incensing the altar, goes to the throne, where he officiates until the Offertory. His gloves are then removed; having washed his hands, he goes to the altar, and continues the Mass. The ceremonies are practically the same as for a solemn Mass; however, the bishop sings Pax vobis instead of Dominus vobiscum after the Gloria; he reads the Epistle, Gradual, and Gospel seated on the throne; gives the kiss of peace to each of his five chief ministers ; washes his hands after the ablutions; sings a special formula of the episcopal blessing, making three signs of the cross in giving it, and begins the last Gospel of St. John at the altar and finishes it while returning to the throne or to the vesting-place. In pontifical Requiem Mass the buskins and sandals, gloves, crosier, and seventh candle are not used. The bishop does not read the preparation for Mass and vest during terce and he puts on the maniple before Mass begins.

A titular bishop usually officiates at the faldstool. He has no assistant deacons, their duties being performed by the deacon, subdeacon, and master of ceremonies ; there is no seventh candle on the altar, and ordinarily the crosier is not used; he vests in the sacristy or at the faldstool ; he recites the entire Gospel of St. John at the altar. The same parts of the Mass are said at the faldstool as at the throne. Sometimes the ordinary celebrates pontifical Mass at the faldstool, without assistant deacons. Solemn Mass celebrated with some of the pontifical ornaments and ceremonies by abbots and prothonotaries is also called pontifical. That of abbots is similar to a bishop's Mass celebrated at the throne. Certain points of difference are explained in the Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 27 September, 1659. The privileges and limitations in the use of the pontifical insignia by the different classes of prothonotaries are set forth in the Constitution of Pius X, "Inter multiplices curas" (21 February, 1905).

The solemn pontifical Mass celebrated by the pope in St. Peter's has some peculiar ceremonies. In the papal Mass a cardinal-bishop acts as assistant priest, cardinal-deacons are assistant deacons and deacon of the Mass, an auditor of the Rota is subdeacon, there is a Greek deacon and a subdeacon, and the other offices are filled by the assistants to the pontifical throne, the members of the prelatical colleges, etc. The procession of cardinals, bishops, prelates, and those who compose the capella pontificia vested according to their rank and in the prescribed order precedes the Holy Father into St. Peter's. The pope, wearing the falda, amice, alb, cincture, pectoral cross, stola, cope (mantum), and tiara is carried into the basilica on the sedia gestatoria under the canopy and with the two flabella borne on either side. Seven acolytes accompany the cross-bearer. The pope is received at the door by the cardinal-priest and the chapter, visits the Blessed Sacrament , and goes to the small throne for terce, where he receives the obedience of the cardinals, bishops, and abbots. While the psalms are being chanted, he reads the prayers of the preparation for Mass, during which his buskins and sandals are put on, and then he sings the prayer of terce. After that vestments are removed as far as the cincture, and the pope washes his hands, and puts on the subcinctorium, pectoral cross, fanon, stole, tunic, dalmatic, gloves, chasuble, pallium, mitre, and ring. He does not use the crosier or the bugia. He then gives the kiss of peace to the last three of the cardinal-priests.

The Epistle is sung first in Latin by the Apostolic subdeacon and then in Greek by the Greek subdeacon, and likewise the Gospel first in Latin by the cardinal-deacon and then in Greek by the Greek deacon. While elevating the Host and the chalice the pope turns in a half circle towards the Epistle and Gospel sides. After he has given the kiss of peace to the assistant priest and assistant deacons, he goes to the throne, and there standing receives Communion. The deacon elevates the paten containing the Host covered with the asterisk, and places it in the hands of the subdeacon, which are covered with the linteum pectorale , so that the subdeacon can bring it to the throne, then the deacon elevates the chalice and brings it to the pope at the throne. The pope consumes the smaller part of the Host, and communicates from the chalice through a little tube called the fistula. He then divides the other part of the Host, gives communion to the deacon and subdeacon, and gives them the kiss of peace, after which he receives the wine of the purification from another chalice and purifies his fingers in a little cup. The deacon and subdeacon, having returned to the altar, partake of the chalice through the fistula, the subdeacon consumes the particle of the Host in the chalice, and both the deacon and the subdeacon consume the wine and the water used in the purification of the chalice. The pope returns to the altar to finish the Mass. After the blessing the assistant priest publishes the plenary indulgence. At the end of the last Gospel the pope goes to the sedia gestatoria , puts on the tiara, and returns in procession as he had entered.


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