Bishops approve use of adapted missal at presider’s chair

BALTIMORE — Concerns about young altar servers’ weak arms and older priests’ weak eyes prompted the U.S. bishops to support an adapted version of the Roman Missal to be used during the times at Mass when the celebrant is seated.

Meeting in Baltimore Nov. 17, the bishops endorsed “Excerpts from the Roman Missal: Book for Use at the Chair” by a vote of 187 to 27, with three abstentions. Approval by two-thirds of the Latin-rite members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, or 167 votes, had been needed for passage.

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, said the book would contain no new texts and no new translations. It would be about one-third of the size of the Roman Missal, by including only the texts needed at the presider’s chair.

The full Roman Missal would continue to be used at the altar, he said.

“Many priests have observed that the size of the book renders it too heavy to hold for any length of time, particularly for younger altar servers,” Bishop Serratelli said in presenting the document for approval.

Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn, New York, raised another issue “for some of us who cannot see well.” He said the size of the print in the missals currently in use means “I have to strain my eyes” to read from the presider’s chair.

Bishop Serratelli said at least one Catholic publisher has expressed interest in publishing a large-print version of the new book, once the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments grants its “recognitio,” or approval.

Retired Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania, and Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta expressed opposition to the new book, saying that its usefulness would not justify the cost.

Archbishop Gregory also took the occasion to ask whether there would be an opportunity “to examine the reception” by both Catholics in the pew and by priests of the new Mass translations that came into use four years ago.

“There are many wonderful things in the new translation, but some inconsistencies too,” he said. He called on his fellow bishops to “look at improving, adjusting, amending the text.”