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Editorial: Can a Parish decide not to celebrate Mass on the Feast of Assumption?

The Solemnity of the Assumption is one of the greatest Marian feasts of the Church. It is a holy day of obligation and a Catholic holiday in Ghana.  Can a Parish decide not to celebrate Mass on the day of the Solemnity but move it to the nearest Sunday?.  This will mean that the Mass for the Solemnity will be marked on Sunday and not on the real date, 15th August.  Take a bite of a response by former president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, Most Rev. Joseph Osei Bonsu .

Before we look at the question of whether or not a parish can decide to transfer a Solemnity, let us first look at what feasts can or cannot be transferred and who is the competent authority to do this.  According to Canon 1246, Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in the light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church and cannot be transferred.

The following solemnities, which are holy days of obligation and cannot be transferred, are: the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Christmas, 25 December), the Epiphany (6 January), the Ascension (Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter) and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Holy Mary Mother of God (1 January) and her Immaculate Conception (8 December) and Assumption (15 August), Saint Joseph (19 March), the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul (29 June), and finally, All Saints (1 November).

However, the conference of bishops of a given country can abolish certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday with prior approval of the Apostolic See (Code of Canon Law # 1246 §2).  Depending on one’s country, one could have more or fewer than the ten listed in the Code. For example, the United States adds her patron (The Immaculate Conception), as does Ireland (St. Patrick), Canada (St. Joseph) and many other countries, while dropping several from the list.

On 13 December 1991, the members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made the following general decree concerning holy days of obligation for Latin rite Catholics:  In addition to Sunday, the days to be observed as holy days of obligation in the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States of America, in conformity with canon 1246, are as follows:

(1) January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

(2) Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension

(3) August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(4) November 1, the solemnity of All Saints

(5) December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

(6) December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is clear from the foregoing that whether feasts can or cannot be transferred depends on what is universally decreed by Canon Law and also on what has been decided on by the Bishops’ Conference of a particular nation with the prior approval by Rome.  As far as I know, the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference has not sought the approval of Rome for the Solemnity of the Assumption to be made transferable.

Thus, a parish or a parish priest, or even a bishop in Ghana does not have the power to decree that the Feast of the Assumption, which is a Solemnity and is non-transferable, should be transferred to the Sunday before or after the date of the celebration, i.e. 15 August. For the Solemnity of the Assumption to be celebrated on a different date in Ghana, the Bishops’ Conference will have to take a decision on the matter and get approval for it from Rome.  Since this is not the case now, let everyone comply and celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption on 15 August!

Source : Most Rev. Joseph Osei Bonsu

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