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Q & A

What can be changed in the Liturgy?

Priests often change the words of the Mass in small, but significant ways, especially in invitations to pray the Penitential Act, the Our Father and the Sign of Peace. Priests may not realize that the authority given them in the previous edition of the Missal to say, “these or similar words” for many of the invitations to prayer in the Order of Mass, were removed from the 3rd Edition. This option to use "these or similar words" was only retained in the Missal for some specific Solemnities, listed below. 

Priests may say, "these or similar words" in the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal* in the following Greetings: 


  1. Palm Sunday — #5 (pg. 274 /pg. 272 pdf) and #8 (pg. 279 or pdf pg. 277)

  2. During the Chrism Mass — #9 (pg. 281 or pdf pg. 289) 

  3. Easter Vigil — preparation of the fire at #9 (pg. 344, pdf pg. 342); at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word at #22 (pg. 364 or pfd pg. 362); before the Baptismal liturgy, if it takes place in the sanctuary at #40 (pg. 369 or pdf pg. 367); and before the renewal of Baptismal promises at #55 (pg. 382  or pdf pg. 380) 

  4. Pentecost Sunday Vigil Mass, Extended form at #3 (pg. 447 or pdf pg. 445)

  5. The Presentation fo the Lord, February 2, The Blessing of Candles and the Procession at #4 (pg. 816 or pdf pg. 814)

The Roman Missal does take into account places where it is logically necessary to change wording. This permission is given in the red text in the Missal. For example, it is permitted to change words from singular to plural or for gender (he/she). The authority to make these changes is given in the Missal or in the GIRM. These notations are found in the following places in the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition: 

  1. In the Commons # 2 & #3 (pg. 1031 or pdf pg. 1029) for Martys and for holy Men and Women. 

  2. In Masses for the Dead #1 and #3 (pg. 1370  or pdf pg. 1368). Number 1 says, "[...] if the prayers given here for funerals and anniversaries are used in other circumstances, the phrasing that appears less suited should be omitted. Number 3 allows, "in easter time, the alleluia at the end of the antiphons may, if appropriate, be omitted."

  3. Appendix II, Rite for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Water, the greeting at #2 (pg. 1453 or pdf pg. 1451)

Other changes allowed are found in GIRM 48: 

If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon given in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation (cf. no. 31).

Another part of the Mass which may appear to change is the Penitential Act. The USA version of the Roman Missal has an appendix (Appendix VI) with seven sample invocations in addition to the three in the Missal's Order of Mass. Your country's Bishops' Conferences or individual bishops may have other sample invocations for your area. They may appear in your country's approved version of the Missal or not. You may not have access to this information. Of note: there is nothing in the Roman Missal or the GIRM which explicitly states that priests may write their own invocations, however, it is implied by the fact that "samples"are given. Here is an article about writing the invocations. 


You may see other changes in the Mass because of a bishop's guidelines. These may or may not be published for the laity. Bishops' authority over the Mass are explained in the GIRM, Chapter IX, "Adaptations within the Competence of Bishops and Bishops' Conferences," beginning at 386. Father Edward McNamara, LC discusses what bishops can and cannot change in Bishops' Interpretations of Liturgical Laws in a post in EWTN's Library.

* All page numbers refer to the USCCB edition of the Roman Missal. See Church Documents for information on where to find a pdf copy online. If you are outside of the United States of America, your Bishops' conference's edition may vary slightly in wording. When documenting an abuse, always refer to the documents from your Bishops' conference.

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