Where Can Mass Be Celebrated?

Dear Catholic Exchange:

I have a question about the celebration of the liturgy of the Word (Mass). It is my understanding that you can only celebrate the liturgy of the Word (Mass) in the church unless you have special permission by your bishop in your diocese. If this is correct or not, could you please tell me where in the Canon Law (paragraph number) that explains this and the exceptions of where you can celebrate the liturgy of the Word.

I thank you in advance for your help and knowledge. This question has come up quite a bit but can not find it in the Canon Law.

Once again thanks for your help,


Dear Teresa,

Peace in Christ!

You seem to be assuming the “liturgy of the Word” and Mass are synonymous. The liturgy of the Word is only “half” of the Mass centered around the Biblical readings; the “liturgy of the Eucharist” centered around Communion makes up the rest.

As for where Mass can be celebrated this is addressed in the Code of Canon Law, Canon 932, section 1.

“The celebration of the Eucharist is to be performed in a sacred place, unless in a particular case necessity demands otherwise; in such a case the celebration must be done in a respectable place.”

In general, there is no requirement that permission from the ordinary (bishop) be given for Mass to be celebrated outside a sacred place. By implication, the determination of necessity is done at the discretion of the celebrant. The one exception to this is the possibility of celebrating Mass in another church or ecclesial community that lacks full communion with the Catholic Church. This is possible under Canon 933 only with the consent of the bishop.

Of course the norm is to celebrate Mass in a church but there are many cases where this is not possible. Masses are often celebrated in prisons, Catholic schools that lack chapels, in the gymnasiums such as here at Franciscan, and even our CUF offices in a room that doubles as a board room.

United in the Faith,

Pete Brown

Information Specialist

Catholics United for the Faith

827 North Fourth Street

Steubenville, OH 43952

800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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