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From the Peninsular Bishops To Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful
In response to queries about the Holy Father’s comment that the Mass is free (“the Mass is not paid for, redemption is free. If you want to make an offering okay, but the Mass cannot be paid for”. General Audience, 7 March 2018), we would like to clarify that the practice of accepting mass offerings does not in any way contradict the above statement.
The Mass or the Eucharist represents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross (CCC 1366). In terms of the “price” for such sacrifice, it has already been paid by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. In terms of us being the beneficiaries of that great sacrifice, it comes unmerited and without any further payment on our part. Thus, Pope Francis is right to highlight that the Mass, which is the sacrifice of Christ, has been and is always “free” in that we need not and cannot possibly make any additional ‘payment’ to that one eternal sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The Church cannot and will not impose any “entrance fee” for assisting at Mass.
The practice of Mass offerings, which is an ancient one that dates back to the early Church, does not constitute “paying” for the Mass. It is not a “fee” for the Mass, which is always free. According to Canon 945§ 1 of the Code of Canon Law, “any priest celebrating or concelebrating is permitted to receive an offering to apply the Mass for a specific intention”.
The purpose of Mass offerings stated in Canon Law (Canon 946) is: “The Christian faithful who give an offering to apply the Mass for their intention contribute to the good of the Church and by that offering share its concern to support its ministers and works.”
According to Blessed Pope Paul VI’s Motu Propio, Firma in traditione, the donors of Mass offerings “associate themselves more closely with Christ’s act of offering himself as victim and in so doing experience its effects more fully”.
The final and most important note is to remember that you are not paying for the graces from God (which are of infinite value and cannot be paid for). With that in mind it makes much more sense and is not something that should cause scandal.
Mass intentions are a great treasure of the Church and have a spiritual weight that is incalculable. For this reason, the bishops of Peninsular Malaysia would like to recommend to Catholics to continue this laudable practice, although we must constantly and judiciously be on guard against abuse.
Rt Rev Sebastian Francis, DD
Bishop of Penang
Most Rev Julian Leow, DD
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur
Rt Rev Bernard Paul, DD
Bishop of Malacca-Johore – Herald Malaysia, 14 Apr 2018