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More on ordination customs

04 August 2017

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or to add to the answers given below.


Your answers


The Catholic Herald has lately reported the revived “Extraordinary Form” ordinations (i.e. under the old Latin rite) in St Mary’s, Warrington, with an array of photos that show the RC Archbishop of Liverpool wearing a long purple train, but also the newly ordained priests with their chasubles pinned up at the back. . . [Answers, 14 July]


The cappa magna has made something of a comeback since the issue of Summorum Pontificum in 2007. . . It reminds the wearer of the weight of his office and the seriousness of the function he is about to perform. The maximum length of the cappa was curtailed by Pope Pius XII from 15 to seven metres.

Nearly all ceremonial actions in the traditional Roman rite have practical origins, and developed symbolic meanings only much later. The probable real reason that the chasubles are pinned is that this makes it much easier for the bishop to place them over the ordinands’ heads. As the newly ordained spend the next long part of the service kneeling before the altar, the chasubles are not let down until they stand up again after communion. This is also the point, in the Latin rite, where the authority to forgive sins is bestowed; so the letting down of the chasuble has become associated with this ceremony, which marks the completion of the ordination.

These customs would not have been witnessed in the Church of England before the 1960s. Ordinations are diocesan services, and, whatever the bishop’s own views and preferences might have been, such ceremonies would have been unacceptable to those many ordinands who were unlikely ever to wear mass vestments in their subsequent ministry. In more homogeneously Anglo-Catholic Provinces such as the West Indies or West Africa, the service would have been clothed in ceremonial of the Tridentine rite as far as possible. Even so, Ritual Notes does not mention the folding up of the chasubles, presumably because, in the Prayer Book, the bestowal of authority to forgive sins, with which the unfolding is associated, precedes the conferring of sacramental ministry, which is where the vesting takes place.

I have not read or heard of any occasion where the cappa magna has been worn in an Anglican context. Ritual Notes countenances its usage, but observes that Anglican bishops mostly retain the traditional choir dress of rochet and chimere.

Matthew Tomlinson



Your questions

If a parish priest rejects his bishop’s oversight and joins a “GAFCON” Church and is followed by the PCC, do they have a claim on the church building and other parish property?

J. G.


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