Instituted acolytes only lay ministers to do purifications
Cardinal Arinze has made it clear that only instituted acolytes, deacons and priests are to do the purifications of the sacred vessels at Mass.
A copy of the letter dated 12 October 2006 was posted on 31 October here at jimmyakin.org.
On 22 March 2002 permission was given, for three years, for a USA diocesan bishop to allow any Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to do the purifications. This letter by Cardinal Medina Estevez is at usccb.org/liturgy/current/norms.shtml.
But Cardinal Arinze, his replacement, has written that in a meeting of 9 June 2006 with Pope Benedict he was instructed to reply:
"... 4. Paragraph 279 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal directs that the sacred vessels are to be purified by the priest, the deacon or an instituted acolyte. The status of this text as legislation has recently been clarified by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. It does not seem feasible, therefore, for the Congregation to grant the requested indult from this directive in the general law of the Latin Church. ..."
Even if Cardinal Arinze thought it was an excellent idea that any extraordinary minister do the purifications it seems he does not have the authority to allow it. Something has been decided recently by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts that means such an indult allowed in 2002 cannot be allowed in 2006.
I have not found what has been done by this Pontfical Council for Legislative Texts at www.vatican.va.
Unfortunately the main reporting of this letter has been under flawed headlines by Catholic News Service. The first headline was "Lay ministers may not cleanse Communion vessels, Pope Benedict says". Pope Benedict was not saying that instituted acolytes, who are lay ministers, cannot do this. The usual term for this ceremonial cleaning of the vessels during Mass is "purification" rather than "cleansing".
A new headline was given on 25 October "Extraordinary ministers of Eucharist barred from purifying vessels". There has been condemnation of the term "Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist" in the 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum:
"The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion
The last line in the stories was also amended. From "In the United States, instituted acolytes, who must be male, generally are seminarians preparing for priesthood." To: "In the United States, instituted acolytes, who must be male, generally are seminarians preparing for priesthood or men in formation for the permanent diaconate." Both are incomplete descriptions. In the United States lots of seminarians will have been instituted as acolytes but decided not to continue to ordination. They remain instituted acolytes. Also some bishops, such as Bishop Robert Vasa, institute men who are not preparing for ordination as acolytes.
Part of the article gives the incorrect impression: "with instituted acolytes being permitted in the Roman Missal to help the priest or deacon "to purify and arrange the sacred vessels."" In fact the instituted acolyte can do the purifications on his own as the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) describes:
"192. Likewise, when the distribution of Communion is completed, a duly instituted acolyte helps the priest or deacon to purify and arrange the sacred vessels. When no deacon is present, a duly instituted acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the credence table and there purifies, wipes, and arranges them in the usual way." This second sentence suggests that it is preferable that the instituted acolyte do the purifications, rather than the priest.
"247. The deacon reverently drinks at the altar all of the Blood of Christ that remains, assisted, if necessary, by some of the concelebrants. He then carries the chalice over to the credence table and there he or a duly instituted acolyte purifies, wipes, and arranges it in the usual way (cf. above, no. 183)."
"249. ... The deacon, however, consumes at the altar all that remains of the Precious Blood, assisted, if necessary, by some of the concelebrants. He carries the chalice to the credence table and there he or a duly instituted acolyte purifies, wipes and arranges it in the usual way."
"279. The sacred vessels are purified by the priest, the deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, insofar as possible at the credence table."
"284. ... b. Whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ is consumed at the altar by the priest or the deacon or the duly instituted acolyte who ministered the chalice. The same then purifies, wipes, and arranges the sacred vessels in the usual way."
A description of the process of purification is in 2002 GIRM 163: "Then, standing at the altar or at the credence table, he purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice then purifies the chalice, saying quietly, Quod ore sumpsimus (Lord, may I receive), and dries the chalice with a purificator." The full prayer, to be said inaudibly is "Lord, may I receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and for ever."
By J.R. Lilburne, 5 November, 2006. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.