Roman Ritual

The Roman Ritual (Latin: "Rituale Romanum") is one of the official ritual works of the Roman Catholic rite. It contains all of the services which may be performed by a priest, which are not contained within either the "Missale Romanum" or the "Brevarium Romanum". The book also contains some of the rites which are contained in both of these books for convenience. Of all of the official books of the traditional Roman Rite it is probably the least organized.


When first ritual functions were written in books, the Sacramentary in the West, the Euchologion in the East contained all the priest's (and bishop's) part of whatever functions they performed, not only the holy Liturgy in the strict sense, but all other sacraments, blessings, sacramentals, and rites of every kind as well.

From One book to Many

The contents of our Ritual and Pontifical were in the Sacramentaries. In the Eastern Churches this state of things still to a great extent remains. In the West a further development led to the distinction of books, not according to the persons who use them, but according to the services for which they are used. The Missal, containing the whole Mass, succeeded the Sacramentary. Some early Missals added other rites, for the convenience of the priest or bishop; but on the whole this later arrangement involved the need of other books to supply the non-Eucharistic functions of the Sacramentary. These books, when they appeared, were the predecessors of the Pontifical and Ritual. The bishop's functions (ordination, confirmation, "et cetera".) filled the Pontifical, the priest's offices (baptism, penance, matrimony, extreme unction, etc.) were contained in a great variety of little handbooks, finally replaced by the Ritual.


The Pontifical emerged first. The book under this name occurs already in the eighth century (Pontifical of Egbert). From the ninth there is a multitude of Pontificals. For the priest's functions there was no uniform book till 1614. Some of these are contained in the Pontificals; often the chief ones were added to Missals and Books of Hours. Then special books were arranged, but there was no kind of uniformity in arrangement or name. Through the Middle Ages a vast number of handbooks for priests having the care of souls was written. Every local rite, almost every diocese, had such books; indeed many were compilations for the convenience of one priest or church. Such books were called by many names--"Manuale", "Liber agendarum", "Agenda", "Sacramentale", sometimes "Rituale". Specimens of such medieval predecessors of the Ritual are the "Manuale Curatorum" of Roeskilde in Denmark (first printed 1513, ed. J. Freisen, Paderborn, 1898), and the "Liber Agendarum" of Schleswig (printed 1416, Paderborn, 1898). The Roeskilde book contains the blessing of salt and water, baptism, marriage, blessing of a house, visitation of the sick with viaticum and extreme unction, prayers for the dead, funeral service, funeral of infants, prayers for pilgrims, blessing of fire on Holy Saturday, and other blessings. The Schleswig book has besides much of the Holy Week services, and that for All Souls, Candlemas, and Ash Wednesday. In both many rites differ from the Roman forms.

The 16th Century

In the sixteenth century, while the other liturgical books were being revised and issued as a uniform standard, there was naturally a desire to substitute an official book that should take the place of these varied collections. But the matter did not receive the attention of the Holy See itself for some time. First, various books were issued at Rome with the idea of securing uniformity, but without official sanction. Albert Castellani in 1537 published a "Sacerdotale" of this kind; in 1579 at Venice another version appeared, arranged by Grancesco Samarino, Canon of the Lateran; it was re-edited in 1583 by Angelo Rocca. In 1586 Giulio Antonio Santorio, Cardinal of St. Severina, printed a handbook of rites for the use of priests, which, as Paul V says, "he had composed after long study and with much industry and labor" ("Apostolicæ Sedis"). This book is the foundation of our Roman Ritual. In 1614 Paul V published the first edition of the official Ritual by the Constitution "Apostolicæ Sedis" of 17 June. In this he points out that Clement VIII had already issued a uniform text of the Pontifical and the "Cærimoniale Episcoporum" (The Ceremonial of Bishops), which determines the functions of many other ecclesiastics besides bishops. (That is still the case. The "Cærimoniale Episcoporum" forms the indispensable complement of other liturgical books for priests too.) "It remained", the pope continues, "that the sacred and authentic rites of the Church, to be observed in the administration of sacraments and other ecclesiastical functions by those who have the care of souls, should also be included in one book and published by authority of the Apostolic See; so that they should carry out their office according to a public and fixed standard, instead of following so great a multitude of Rituals".

Post-Trent Uniformity

But, unlike the other books of the Roman Rite, the Ritual has never been imposed as the only standard. Paul V did not abolish all other collections of the same kind, nor command every one to use only his book. He says: "Wherefore we exhort in the Lord" that it should be adopted. The result of this is that the old local Rituals have never been altogether abolished. After the appearance of the Roman edition these others were gradually more and more conformed to it. They continued to be used, but had many of their prayers and ceremonies modified to agree with the Roman book. This applies especially to the rites of Baptism, Holy Communion, the form of absolution, Extreme Unction. The ceremonies also contained in the Missal (holy water, the processions of Candlemas and Palm Sunday, etc.), and the prayers also in the Breviary (the Office for the Dead) are necessarily identical with those of Paul V's Ritual; these have the absolute authority of the Missal and Breviary. On the other hand, many countries have local customs for Marriage, the visitation of the sick, etc., numerous special blessings, processions and sacramentals not found in the Roman book, still printed in various diocesan Rituals. It is then by no means the case that every priest of the Roman Rite uses the Roman Ritual. Very many dioceses or provinces still have their own local handbooks under the name of "Rituale" or another ("Ordo administrandi sacramenta", etc.), though all of these conform to the Roman text in the chief elements. Most contain practically all the Roman book, and have besides local additions.

From the 18th Century until the 20th Century

The further history of the "Rituale Romanum" is this: Benedict XIV in 1752 revised it, together with the Pontifical and "Cærimoniale Episcoporum". His new editions of these three books were published by the Brief "Quam ardenti" (25 March, 1752), which quotes Paul V's Constitution at length and is printed, as far as it concerns this book, in the beginning of the Ritual. He added to Paul V's text two forms for giving the papal blessing (V, 6; VIII, 31). Meanwhile a great number of additional blessings were added in an appendix. This appendix is now nearly as long as the original book. Under the title "Benedictionale Romanum" it is often issued separately. Leo XIII approved an "editio typica" published by Pustet at Ratisbon in 1884. This is now out of date. The Ritual contains several chants (for processions, burials, Office of the Dead, etc.). These should be conformable to the "Motu Proprio" of Pius X of 22 Nov., 1903, and the Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 8 Jan., 1904. All the Catholic liturgical publishers now issue editions of this kind, approved by the Congregation.

From 1964 until Today

With the advent of the Second Vatican Council there was a push to revise all of the official books of the Catholic Church, including the Pontifical, the Ceremonial of Bishop, The Roman Ritual, the Missal and the Breviary. The initial changes were made to the Missal, and the changes followed on from there, with each rite of the church being strenuously revised. The Roman Ritual itself was split up into Two volumes, published in 1976 with the most recent edition dating from 1990, now called "The Rites." The first volume contains the majority of the old Roman Ritual, it covers all of the sacraments with the exception of Ordination, and it covers funerary rites. The second volume covers more episcopal ceremonies including the consecraton of altars, the order of ordaining Deacons, Priests and Bishops and consecrating the oils for use in the church.

The second section of the old Roman Ritual, the "Benedictionale", was also extensively revised. It is now published as "The Book of Blessings," or in Latin "De Benedictionibus"." This was published initially in 1987 with the most recent edition dating from 1990 also. It contains many blessings, however they are far less florid, or traditional in comparison to those in the Ritual. The blessings in the new book follow more the structure of the Mass, with general intercessions, readings, and other features which in the older blessings were not included.

The Rite of Exorcism also underwent a series of revisions with it finally being promulgated in 1999, as "De Exorcismus et Supplicationibus Quibusdam" (Concerning Exorcisms and Certain Supplications).

With the increasing popularity of the older form of the Mass and the Sacraments, and following the "Motu Proprio" of Benedict XVI Fr. Philip T. Weller's Translation of the ritual of 1964, in three volumes, has once more begun to be printed and made available to the public for use.


The "Rituale Romanum" is divided into ten "titles" ("tituli"); all, except the first, subdivided into chapters. In each (except I and X) the first chapter gives the general rules for the sacrament or function, the others give the exact ceremonies and prayers for various cases of administration. The following are the contents of the English Translation of the Roman Ritual made by Fr. Philip T. Weller in 1964.

* Decree
* Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul V on the Roman Ritual
# The Holy Sacraments
## Holy Sacraments - Introduction
## Holy Sacraments - General Rules
# The Sacrament of Baptism
## Holy Baptism - Introduction
## Holy Baptism - General Rules
## Write for baptism of children
## Baptism of adults - Introduction
## Baptism of adults - General Rules
## Norms for new rite for baptism of adults
## Right for baptism of adults
## Rite for supplying of ceremonies omitted in baptism
## Rite for baptism administered by a bishop
## Blessing of baptismal water
# The Sacrament of Confirmation
## Confirmation - Introduction
## Confirmation - General Rules
## Rite for confirmation apart from danger of death
## Rite for confirmation in danger of death
# Holy Eucharist
## Holy Eucharist - Introduction
## Holy Eucharist - General Rules
## Rite for holy communion outside of Mass
## Communion during Eastertime
## Communion for the sick, general rules
## Rite for communion for the sick
## Rules for celebrating Mass more than once the same day
## Mass celebrated by a blind priest
## Forty Hours' Adoration
# Penance
## Penance - Introduction
## Penance - General Rules
## Common form for absolution
## Rite for absolving from excommunication
## General absolution and papal blessing for religious
## Rite for absolving from suspension or interdict apart from sacramental confession
# Anointing of the Sick
## Anointing of the Sick - Introduction
## Anointing of the Sick - General Rules
## Rite for anointing of the sick
## Visit and care of the sick
## Spiritual assistance to the dying
## Apostolic blessing at the hour of death
## Rite for commending a departing soul
## Prayers at the moment of death
# Matrimony
## Instruction on the Day of Marriage and Exhortation before Marriage
## Rite for celebrating marriage
# Holy Orders: Priesthood
## Holy Orders - Priesthood - Introduction
## Rite for ordination of priests
# The Seven Penitential Psalms and Litany of the Saints
# Liturgy for the Faithful Departed
## Liturgy for the Faithful Departed - Introduction
## Liturgy for the Faithful Departed - General Rules
## Rite for burial of adults
## Exequies when the body is not present
## Rite for burial of children
## Vespers for the dead and prayers at a wake
# Blessings and other sacramentals, introduction and general rules
## Blessings and Other Sacramentals - Introduction
## Blessings and Other Sacramentals - General Rules
## Blessings for special days and feasts
## Blessings of persons
## Blessings of animals
## Blessings of places not designated for sacred purposes
## Blessings of places designated for sacred purposes
## Blessings of things designated for sacred purposes
## Blessings of things designated for ordinary use
# Processions
## Processions - General rules
## Rites for Processions
# Exorcism
## Exorcism - Introduction
## Exorcism - General Rules
## Rite for Exorcism
## Exorcism of Satan and the Fallen Angels
# Litanies
# Blessings formerly reserved to religious orders
* Appendices
# Reception of Converts and Profession of Faith
# Profession of Faith
# Short Form For Profession Of Faith
# Short Form For Conditional Baptism Of Adult Converts
# The Itinerarium
# Blessing at Meals
# Home Enthronement of the Sacred Heart
# Oath against Modernism

Other Rituals

The Milanese Rite has its own law ("Rituale Ambrosianum", published by Giacomo Agnelli at the Archiepiscopal Press, Milan). In the Byzantine Rite the contents of the ritual are contained in the "Euchologion". The Armenians have a ritual ("Mashdotz") similar to the Roman Ritual. Other Churches have not yet arranged the various parts of this book in one collection. But nearly all the Eastern Catholics now have Rituals formed on the Roman model.

Popular Culture

The "Rituale Romanum" is probably most famous for its rite of Exorcism made famous by the 1973 horror film "The Exorcist". While the text is becoming increasingly more rare, every Catholic Diocese in the world has a Priest to whom matters of exorcism are brought to by the Bishop. The "Rituale Romanum used" to be the only text the Church would allow for a valid Exorcism.

In 1999, Jorge Medina Estévez presented journalists in Vatican-City the new version of the "Rituale Romanum" that has been used by the Catholic Church since 1614. The updates came after more than 10 years of editing and is called "De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam" literally "Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications" and otherwise known as "The exorcism for the upcoming millennium". The Pope approbated the new Exorcism Rite, which is now allowed for worldwide use. This new form of exorcism came after the German Bishops' Conference demanded to ultimately abolish the "Rituale Romanum" and especially the Exorcism entirely. The new Rituale Romanum has been met by fierce criticism by leading Vatican and Roman Catholic exorcists, including Fr. Gabriele Amorth. The preface to the new revised Ritual however contains a phrase which allows - for important reasons - the use of the original centuries-old Ritual, including its traditional exorcism prayers in Latin.

ee also


External links

* [ 1964 Roman Ritual for use in the United States]
* [ extracts from the 1952 Rituale Romanum]
* [ to buy a copy of the 1944 Rituale Romanum]

Criticism of The Revised Rites

* [ The New Rite of Exorcism: The Influence of the Evil One] concernig the Book of Blessings.

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