The Consecration of a Bishop

According to the Roman Pontifical
dated 30 March 1892
+ Michael Augustinus
Archiepiscopus Neo-Eboraci


The liturgy of the Consecration of a Bishop may properly be divided into: 
  1. the preliminary examination,
  2. the consecration proper, and
  3. the investiture.
The first part includes the form of ascertaining solemnly that the Bishop-elect has the right to Episcopal consecration; of receiving his oath of submission to the Holy See, the centre of unity; and of inquiring to the orthodoxy of his faith. The form of oath embodied in this document is that prescribed for the Bishops of the United States in the Second Council of Baltimore. In the examination the Bishop-elect is made to profess categorically his belief in the different matters of faith that have been particularly attacked by heretics, especially the doctrine of the Incarnation. These preliminaries having been duly gone through with, the Mass is begun, its simultaneous celebration by Consecrator and Bishop-elect betokening the unity of their faith. 

Immediately after the Gradual or Tract, the Consecration ceremony begins with the solemn announcement by the Consecrator of the awful duties of a Bishop. The different rites and prayers sufficiently indicate their purpose. The majesty of the plain chant in the Litanies, the Veni Creator, and the Preface is perhaps unsurpassed by any other portion of the liturgy. 

The Consecration ceremony proper being finished, the new Bishop is invested with the crosier and ring proper to the Episcopal order, the prayers and admonitions accompanying the investiture clearly indicating their uses and purposes. 

The Mass proceeds with the Consecrator and new Bishop celebrating in unison at the same altar. After the Communion (the new Bishop communicating both of the Sacred Host and Precious Blood) the new Bishop receives the mitre and gloves, which have been solemnly blessed by the Consecrator. Then with the utmost pomp the new Bishop is enthroned on the Episcopal seat while the magnificat Te Deum is intoned. During the hymn he is led between the two assistant Bishops around the church, blessing the people as he goes. Afterward he is received by the Consecrator to the kiss of peace, and the function is ended. 

Those only who appreciate the hierarchical importance of the Episcopate will thoroughly understand the sublimity of the whole ceremony. 

Feast of St John de Matha, 1894. 

The Consecration of a Bishop

No one is to be consecrated unless first the Consecrator shall be sure of the commission to consecrate, either by apostolic letters, if he be outside the curia, or by verbal commission given by the Sovereign Pontiff to the Consecrator, if the Consecrator himself be a cardinal. The day chosen for consecration should be a Sunday or the feast day of one of the apostles, (in Liturgy the Feast of an Evangelist is equivalent to that of an Apostle.), or it may be even a feast day if the Sovereign Pontiff shall have made this special concession; and it is fitting that both the Consecrator and the elect should fast on the preceding day. If the consecration be performed outside of the Roman curia, it should be held in the diocese to which the Bishop-elect has been promoted, or within the province, if it can be conveniently done. In the church where the consecration is to take place two chapels are prepared, a larger one for the consecrating bishop, and a smaller one for the Bishop-elect. And in the larger, upon the altar, prepared in the usual manner, a cross is placed in the middle, and at least four candlesticks. On the ground at the foot of the altar carpets are laid, upon which the Bishop-elect shall prostrate himself, but the Consecrator is also prepared, upon which will be a clean cloth, two candlesticks, basins, and towels for the ablution of the hands, a vessel with holy water, and an aspersorium; and a thurible with boat, spoon and incense, if the office is sung, otherwise this is omitted; cruets with wine and water for the sacrifice; a chalice; the box of hosts; crumbs of bread for the cleansing of the hands; holy chrism. Furthermore, all the pontifical vestments of color suitable to the time and the office of the Mass, namely, sandals and amice, alb, cincture, pectoral cross, stole, tunic, dalmatic, gloves, chasuble, precious mitre, pontifical ring, pastoral staff, maniple and gremial. A faldstool is prepared for the Consecrator and three seats for the Bishop-elect and the two assistant bishops; a Missal and a Pontifical. The Consecrator should have at least three chaplains in surplice, and tow acolytes at the credence. In the smaller chapel for the Bishop-elect, which should be distinct from the larger, an altar is prepared with a cross and two candlesticks, a Missal and a Pontifical, and all the pontifical vestments in white, as enumerated above for the Consecrator, and in addition to these a white cope; near the altar a smaller credence with a clean cloth, vessels for washing the hands, and bread crumbs for cleansing the hands and head. Eight small strips from two rolls fo fine linen (cut in lengths through the middle, of which two are each six palms in length, the remaining six being of equal quantity) are prepared, and at least eight candles, each one pound in weight, four of which are placed on the altar of the consecrating bishop, two upon his credence and two upon the altar of the Bishop-elect; a jeweled ring to be blessed and to be given to the Bishop-elect; and an ivory comb. For the offertory, two torches four pounds each in weight, two loaves of bread, two small barrels of wine; the bread and the wine are to be ornamented, two to be decorated with silver and two with gold, bearing the escutcheons of the Consecrator and of the Bishop-elect, with hat, or cross, or mitre, according to the grade and dignity of each. At least two assistant bishops shall be present (The presence of three Bishops is required by the ancient Cannons, and by the general practice of the Church, but is not essential to the validity of the consecration. By special dispensation priests may assist in lieu of Bishops.) who are clothed in the rochet, and if they are regulars, in the surplice, the amice, stole, cope and the plain white mitre, and each one has his Pontifical. At a suitable hour the Consecrator, the Bishop-elect, the assistant bishops, and the others who are to be present at the consecration, assemble at the church, and the Consecrator, having prayed before the altar, ascends to his throne if he is in his own diocese, or goes to his chapel, to the faldstool near the Epistle corner, and there is vested as usual. The Bishop-elect, with the assistant bishops goes to his chapel and there puts on the necessary vestments, namely, if the Mass be sung, the amice, alb, cincture and the stole, crossed as it is warn by priests. If, however, the office is read, he can, before he takes the above mentioned vestments, put on the sandals and read the Psalm "Quam Dilecta," etc. The assistant bishops, in the meanwhile, put on the vestments as above. All being ready the Consecrator goes to the middle of the altar and there sits on the faldstool with his back to the altar. The Bishop-elect, vested and wearing his biretta, is led between the two assistant bishops vested and mitred, and when he comes before the Consecrator, uncovering his head and profoundly bowing, he makes a reverence to him, the assistant bishops with their mitres on slightly inclining their heads. Then they sit at a little distance from the Consecrator so that the Bishop-elect faces the Consecrator; the senior assistant bishop sits at the right hand of the Bishop-elect, the junior at his left, facing one another. When they shall have thus been seated, after a short pause they rise, the Bishop-elect without his biretta and the assistant bishops without their mitres, and the senior assistant, turned to the Consecrator, says: 

Most Reverend Father, our holy Mother the Catholic Church, asks that you promote this priest here present to the burden of the episcopate. 

The Consecrator says: 

The senior assistant bishop answers:  The Consecrator says:  Then the notary of the Consecrator, taking the mandate from the assistant bishop, reads it from the beginning to the end : in the meanwhile all sit with heads covered. The mandate having been read, the Consecrator says:  Or, if the consecration is made by virtue of Apostolic letters, by which even the reception of the oath to be made by the Bishop-elect is committed to the Consecrator, these letters being read, before the Consecrator says anything else, the Bishop-elect coming from his seat, kneels before the Consecrator and reads, word for word, the oath to be taken according to the tenor of the aforesaid commission, in this manner, viz: 

Form of Oath

The Consecrator, holding in his lap with both hands the books of the Gospels, opened towards the Bishop-elect, receives from him this oath, the Bishop-elect still kneeling before him saying:  He touches with both hands the text of the Gospels and then, and not before, the Consecrator says:  Then the Bishop-elect and the assistants being seated, the Consecrator reads in an audible voice the following examination, which should always be read as it is written, in the singular, even if many are examined together. The assistant bishops say in a lower voice whatsoever the Consecrator says, and all should retain their mitres and be seated. 



The ancient rule of the holy Fathers teaches and ordains that he who is chosen to the order of bishop, shall be with all charity examined diligently beforehand concerning his faith in the Holy Trinity, and shall be questioned concerning the different objects and rules which pertain to this government and are to be observed, according to the word of the apostle: "impose hands hastily on no man." This is done in order that he who is to be ordained may be instructed how it behooveth one placed under this rule to conduct himself in the Church of God, and also that they may be blameless who impose on him the hands of ordination. Therefore by the same authority and commandment, with sincere charity, we ask you, dearest brother, if you desire to make your conduct harmonize, as far as your nature allows, with the meaning of divine Scripture. 

Then the Bishop-elect, rising slightly, with uncovered head, answers: 

And he will act in like manner when making all the other responses that follow, and if there are many Bishops-elect, each one will answer thus in turn. 

The Consecrator interrogates. 

Then the Consecrator says to him:  Afterwards the Consecrator says:  The examination being finished, the aforesaid assistant bishops lead the Bishop-elect to the Consecrator, whose hand is reverently kissed by the Bishop-elect kneeling. Then the Consecrator, laying aside his mitre, and turning towards the altar with the ministers, says in the usual manner the Confession, the Bishop-elect remaining at his left hand, and the bishops standing before their seats say in like manner the Confession, with their chaplains. Having finished the Confession the Consecrator ascends to the altar, kisses it and the Gospel to be said in the Mass, and incenses the altar in the usual manner. Then he goes to his throne or faldstool and proceeds with the Mass up to the Alleluia, or the last verse of the tract or sequence exclusive. 

If Mass is read, however, having kissed the altar and the Gospel, the incensation being omitted, he reads as above from the Missal at the altar, after which, whether the Mass is read or sung, he returns with his mitre on to the faldstool, placed for him before the middle of the altar. 

The assistant bishops lead the Bishop-elect to his chapel, and there having laid aside the cope, acolytes put on his sandals, if he has not already done so, he reading the usual psalms and prayers. Then he receives the pectoral cross and adjusts the stole in such a manner that it may hang from his shoulders. After that, he is vested with the tunic, dalmatic, chasuble and maniple, and then advances to his altar, where, standing between the assistant bishops, with uncovered head, he reads the whole office of the Mass up to the Alleluia, or the last verse of the tract or sequence exclusive. He does not turn around to the people when he says The Lord be with you, as is wont to be done in other masses. 

The office of the day is never changed on account of the ordination of bishops. But after the collect of the day, a collect for the Bishop-elect is said under one Through Christ Our Lord, etc. 


The Gradual being finished, if the Alleluia is said, otherwise the tract or sequence up to the last verse exclusively being read, the Consecrator goes to the faldstool before the middle of the altar and there sits with his mitre on (The wearing of the mitre indicates the exercise of episcopal authority. By bearing this in mind the importance of these Rubrics, concerning the putting on and removal of the Mitre, will be better appreciated). The assistant bishops again lead the Bishop-elect to the Consecrator, to whom the Bishop-elect, having laid aside his biretta, (It will be observed that the Elect removes his biretta as a sign of respect for the superior authority of the Bishop), profoundly bending his head, makes a humble reverence; the assistants with their mitres on, and bowing slightly, also make a reverence to the Consecrator, then all sit as before, and the Consecrator, sitting with his mitre on, turned towards the Bishop-elect, says:  Then all rising, the Consecrator, standing with his mitre on, says to those surrounding him:  And then the Consecrator before his faldstool; and the assistant bishops before theirs, all with their mitres on, prostrate themselves. The Bishop-elect, however, prostrates himself at the left of the Consecrator; the ministers and all others kneel. Then the chanter, or if the office is read, the Consecrator, beginning the litanies, says:  After the petition, That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to all the faithful departed, etc. R. We beseech Thee, hear us, has been said, 

The Consecrator, rising and turning towards the Bishop-elect, holding in his left hand the pastoral staff, says in the tone of the litanies, first: 

Meanwhile always making the sign of the cross over him, and the assistant bishops do and say the same thing, remaining kneeling, however. 

Then the Consecrator again prostrates himself, and the chanter, or he who began the litanies, continues them to the end. 

The litany finished, all rise; and the Consecrator stands with his mitre on before his faldstool, the Bishop-elect kneeling before him. 

Then the Consecrator, with the aid of the assistant bishops, taking the open book of the Gospels, saying nothing, lays it upon the neck and shoulders of the Bishop-elect, so that the printed page touches the neck. One of the chaplains kneels behind, supporting the book until it must be given into the hands of the Bishop-elect. 


Then the Consecrator and the assistant bishops touch with both hands the head of the one to be consecrated saying: (The imposition of hands with prayer is the essential rite by which Episcopal power is conferred.) 

This being done, the Consecrator, standing and laying aside his mitre, says:  Then extending his hands before his breast, he says:  If the Consecration is performed in the Roman curia, the Apostolic Subdeacon or one of the pontifical chaplains binds the head of the Bishop-elect with one of the longer cloths from the eight mentioned above, and the Consecrator, prostrate on both knees, turned towards the altar, begins the Hymn, Come Holy Ghost, Creator, come, the others continuing it unto the end. 

At the conclusion of the first verse, the bishop rises and sits on the faldstool before the middle of the altar, takes his mitre, lays aside his ring and gloves, puts on the ring again and receives the gremial from the ministers. Then he dips the thumb of his right hand in the holy chrism and anoints the head of the Bishop-elect kneeling before him, making first the sign of the cross on the crown, then anointing the rest of the crown, saying in the meanwhile: 

And making with his right hand, the sign of the cross three times over the head of the Elect, he says:  And if several are to be consecrated, he repeats this to each separately. 

Having completed the anointing, the bishop cleanses his thumb somewhat with bread crumbs, and the above-mentioned hymn having been finished, he lays aside his mitre, rises and continues in the same tone as before, saying: 

Then in a lower tone of voice he reads the following so as to be heard by those surrounding him:  After this the Consecrator begins, and the choir takes up the Antiphon.  Then the whole Antiphon is repeated, The ointment upon the head, etc. 

The Antiphon before the psalm having been begun, one of the longer strips from the eight above mentioned, is placed on the neck of the Bishop-elect. The Consecrator sits down, takes his mitre, whilst the Bishop-elect kneels before him, having his hands joined. Then the Consecrator anoints with chrism the hands of the Bishop-elect in the form of a cross, by drawing two lines with the thumb of his right hand, which has been dipped in the oil, namely, from the thumb of the right hand to the index finger of the left, and from the thumb of the left hand to the index finger of the right. And afterwards he anoints the entire palms of the Bishop-elect, saying: 

And making with his right hand the sign of the cross thrice over the hands of the Bishop-elect, he says:  Sitting down, he continues:  After this, the one consecrated joins both hands, the right resting upon the left, and places them upon the cloth hanging from his neck. The Consecrator cleanses his thumb somewhat with some bread crumbs, and laying aside his mitre, rises and blesses the pastoral staff, if it has not been blessed, saying:  Then he sprinkles it with holy water. Sitting down and taking his mitre, he himself hands the staff to the one consecrated, who is kneeling before him, and who receives it between the index and middle fingers, the hands remaining joined, whole the Consecrator says:  After which, laying aside the mitre, the Consecrator rises and blesses the ring, if it has not been blessed before, saying:  He then sprinkles the right with holy water, and sitting with his mitre on, himself places the ring on the ring finger of the right hand of the one consecrated, saying:  Then the Consecrator takes the book of the Gospels from the shoulders of the one consecrated, and with the aid of the assistant bishops, hands it closed to the one consecrated, the latter touching it without opening his hands, whilst the Consecrator says:  Finally the Consecrator receives the one consecrated to the kiss of peace. The Assistant bishops each do likewise, saying to the one consecrated:  And he answers to each:  Then the one consecrated, between the assistant bishops, returns to his chapel, where, while he is seated, his head is cleanses with some bread crumbs and with a clean cloth. Then his hair is cleansed, and combed; afterwards he washes his hands. The Consecrator washes his hands at his faldstool. Then he goes on with the Mass up to the Offertory inclusive. The consecrated does the same in his chapel. 

The Offertory having been said, the Consecrator sits with his mitre on at the faldstool before the middle of the altar, and the one consecrated, coming from his chapel, between the assistant bishops, kneels before the Consecrator and offers to him two lighted torches, two loaves of bread and two small barrels of wine, and kisses reverently the hands of the Consecrator receiving the above gifts. 

Then the Consecrator washes his hands and goes to the altar. The one consecrated also goes to the Epistle side of the same altar : there, standing between the assistant bishops, having before him his Missal, he says and does with the Consecrator everything as in the Missal. And one host is prepared to be consecrated for the Consecrator and the one consecrated, and wine sufficient for both is placed in the chalice. 

The following Secret is said with the Secret of the Mass of the day under on Through Our Lord by the Consecrator. 

The one consecrated says:  During the action the Consecrator says:  The one consecrated says:  The prayer Lord Jesus Christ, who, etc. having been said by the Consecrator and the one consecrated, the latter goes up to the right of the Consecrator and both kiss the altar. Then the Consecrator gives the kiss of peace to the one consecrated saying:  To whom the one consecrated answers:  Then after the Consecrator has consumed the Body of the Lord, he does not entirely consume the blood, but only a portion with the particle of the host that has been placed in the chalice, and before he takes the purification, he communicates the one consecrated, who stands with bowed head and not genuflecting, first giving him the Body and then the Blood. Then he purifies himself and afterwards the one consecrated. He then washes his fingers over the chalice and takes also the ablution, and having received the mitre, he washes his hands. Meanwhile, the one consecrated, with his assistant bishops, goes to the other corner of the altar, namely, the Gospel side, and there continues the Mass while the Consecrator does the same at the Epistle side. 

The Post-Communion which ought to be said with the Post-Communion of the day under one Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth. 

Then after Go, the Mass is ended, or Let us bless the Lord, as the time requires, has been said, the Consecrator having said May the performance, etc., in the middle of the altar, and received there the mitre, if he be not an Archbishop, and in his province, turned towards the altar, he solemnly blesses the people, saying : Blessed be the name of the Lord, etc. 


The Investiture

Having given the Benediction, the Consecrator, with his mitre on, sits on the faldstool which has been placed before the middle of the altar : the one consecrated, keeping his biretta on his head, kneels before him. Then the Consecrator, having laid aside his mitre, rises and blesses the mitre, if it has not been blessed, saying:  And then he sprinkles it with holy water, after which, sitting down with his mitre on, the assistant bishops aiding him he places it on the head of the one consecrated, saying:  Then if the gloves have not been blessed, the Consecrator rises, having laid aside the mitre, and blesses them, saying:  And he sprinkles them with holy water. Then the pontifical ring is drawn from the finger of the one consecrated, the Consecrator sits down and having received the mitre with the aid of the assistant bishops, places the gloves on the hands of the one consecrated, saying:  And immediately he places on the finger of the one consecrated the Episcopal ring. Then the Consecrator rises and takes the one consecrated by the right hand, and the senior assistant bishop takes him by the left, and they enthrone him by placing him sitting on the faldstool from which the Consecrator has risen, or if the ceremony be performed in the Church of the one consecrated, they enthrone him on the usual episcopal seat, and the Consecrator places in his left hand the pastoral staff. 

Then the Consecrator, turning towards the altar and laying aside the mitre, while standing, begins, the others taking it up and finishing it, the Hymn, We praise Thee, O Lord. 

At the beginning of the hymn, the one consecrated is led by the assistant bishops with their mitres on around the Church, and he blesses everyone. The Consecrator meanwhile without his mitre remains standing in the same place at the altar. When the one consecrated has returned to his seat or the faldstool, he sits again until the above mentioned hymn is finished. The assistants lay aside their mitres and stand with the Consecrator. 

At the conclusion of the hymn, the Consecrator, standing without his mitre, at the throne, or the faldstool at the right hand of the one consecrated, says; or if the office be sung, he begins, the choir taking up the Antiphon. 

And the whole Antiphon is repeated. When this is finished the Consecrator says:  After which the Consecrator, with uncovered head, remains at the Gospel corner of the altar, the assistants, also uncovered, standing with him. 

The one consecrated rises, and going with his mitre and his pastoral staff before the middle of the altar, turns towards it; and, signing himself with the thumb of his right hand before his breast, he says: 

Then making the sign of the cross from his forehead to his breast, he says:  Then raising and joining his hands, and bowing his head, he says:  Then the Consecrator takes his mitre, and stands at the Gospel corner, his face turned towards the Epistle corner. The assistants, with their mitres on, stand near him. The one consecrated goes to the epistle corner of the altar, and there with his mitre on, and holding his staff, facing the Consecrator, he makes a genuflection and sings:  The going to the middle of the altar, he again genuflects as before, and says, singing in a higher voice:  Afterwards he goes to the feet of the Consecrator and genuflecting a third time as above, he sings again in a still higher tone of voice:  Then when he has risen, the Consecrator receives him to the kiss of peace. The assistant bishops do likewise. These lead between them the one consecrated, who wears his mitre and walks with the pastoral staff, reciting the Gospel of St. John, In the beginning was the Word, etc. After having made a reverence to the cross upon the altar he goes to his chapel, where he lays aside his vestments saying meanwhile the antiphon Of the Three children, etc., and the canticle, "Bless ye." The Consecrator, having given the kiss of peace to the one consecrated, says in a low voice:  He signs the altar and himself, and having made likewise a reverence to the cross, he lays aside his sacred vestments at the throne or the faldstool, saying also the antiphon Of the three children and the canticle "Bless ye," etc., after which the one consecrated returns thanks to the Consecrator and his assistants, and all depart in peace.