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Bishop urges priests to drop the Hail Mary from Masses

Bishop Kieran Conry (Photo: Mazur)

The Hail Mary should not be part of the bidding prayers at Sunday Mass, Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton has told his clergy.

Bishop Conry wrote to his priests, saying: “Questions come up again and again about the inclusion of Marian prayers with the Prayers of the Faithful. There should be no Marian prayer at this point.”

But a liturgical scholar has suggested that the use of the Hail Mary may be an acceptable “local expression of prayer”.

Parish priests in Bishop Conry’s diocese have asked those who prepare the bidding prayers to exclude the Hail Mary. “However, this should not in any way undermine the importance of devotion to Mary and we strongly encourage the use of Marian prayers in the home and other non-Eucharistic liturgies,” said the newsletter of the parish of the Nativity of the Lord in Redhill, Surrey.

A spokesman for Bishop Conry said: “Bishop Kieran has recently reminded his clergy that the Hail Mary should not be included in the Prayers of the Faithful in line with the sample prayers provided in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, the guidance provided by the bishops’ conference liturgy office, and his own previous Guidelines for Prayers of the Faithful issued in 2005.”

The guidelines state: “The Roman Rite does not, in fact, envisage the inclusion of devotional prayers in the Prayer of the Faithful. Following a medieval practice in England, the Hail Mary has been customarily said after the final intercession. Properly understood, a set of prayers directed to the Father, through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, contains no obvious place for prayers to the saints. This is why, some years ago, the Holy See wrote to the Bishops of England and Wales advising that such devotional prayer should not have a place in the Prayer of the Faithful. The Holy See asked that the, by then, widespread practice be gradually and gently discouraged.”

Bishop Conry also told his clergy that “when the papal Masses for Pope Benedict’s visit in England were being prepared any set of Intercessions that were sent to Rome that included the Hail Mary were returned with this prayer removed”.

The diocesan spokesman added: “In offering this advice to his clergy Bishop Kieran is endeavouring to follow the mind of the Universal Church and encouraging them to do likewise.”

Prof David Fagerberg, author of Mary in the Liturgy, said that because the practice of including the Hail Mary was widespread in England but not elsewhere, there was a tension between national and universal practices.

He said: “Need things be the same in all countries? In matters of popular piety and devotion, certainly not. But the case of the official liturgy is different. So the question turns on this: is the use of the Hail Mary a local expression of prayer, or does it become a liturgical formula, part of the cultic act of the Church?”

He added: “We have suffered many decades of a false opposition between liturgy and devotion, with some liturgical scholars looking down their noses on Marian devotion. I would hope none of that is involved here.”