The Roman Ritual (Latin: Rituale Romanum) is one of the official liturgical books of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. It contains all of the services which may be performed by a priest or deacon which are not contained within either the Missale Romanum, the Pontificale Romanum or the Caeremoniale Episcoporum. The book also contains some of the rites which are contained in only one of these books for convenience.

Since 1969, the Roman Ritual is split into different books according to their subject for standard usage within the Latin Church, with the 1952 edition of the Roman Ritual still in regular use by priests and communities that use pre-Vatican II rites.


When first ritual functions books were written, the Sacramentary in the West and the Euchologion in the East, they contained all the priest's (and bishop's) part of whatever functions they performed, not only for the Mass or Divine Liturgy, but for all other sacraments, blessings, sacramentals, and rites of every kind as well.[1]

From one book to many

The contents of the Ritual and Pontifical were in the Sacramentaries. In the Eastern Churches this state of things still to a great extent remains. In the West a further development led to the distinction of books, not according to the persons who use them, but according to the services for which they are used. The Missal, containing the whole Mass, succeeded by the Sacramentary. Some early Missals added other rites, for the convenience of the priest or bishop; but on the whole this later arrangement involved the need of other books to supply the non-Eucharistic functions of the Sacramentary. These books, when they appeared, were the predecessors of the Pontifical and Ritual. The bishop's functions (ordination, confirmation, et cetera) filled the Pontifical, the priest's offices (baptism, penance, matrimony, extreme unction, etc.) were contained in a great variety of little handbooks, finally replaced by the Ritual.[1]


The Pontifical emerged first. The book under this name occurs already in the eighth century (Pontifical of Egbert). From the ninth there is a multitude of Pontificals. For the priest's functions there was no uniform book till 1614. Some of these are contained in the Pontificals; often the chief ones were added to Missals and Books of Hours. Then special books were arranged, but there was no kind of uniformity in arrangement or name. Through the Middle Ages a vast number of handbooks for priests having the care of souls was written. Every local rite, almost every diocese, had such books; indeed many were compilations for the convenience of one priest or church. Such books were called by many names--Manuale, Liber agendarum, Agenda, Sacramentale, sometimes Rituale. Specimens of such medieval predecessors of the Ritual are the Manuale Curatorum of Roeskilde in Denmark (first printed 1513, ed. J. Freisen, Paderborn, 1898), and the Liber Agendarum of Schleswig (printed 1416, Paderborn, 1898). The Roeskilde book contains the blessing of salt and water, baptism, marriage, blessing of a house, visitation of the sick with viaticum and extreme unction, prayers for the dead, funeral service, funeral of infants, prayers for pilgrims, blessing of fire on Holy Saturday, and other blessings. The Schleswig book has besides much of the Holy Week services, and that for All Souls, Candlemas, and Ash Wednesday. In both many rites differ from the Roman forms.[1]

16th century

In the sixteenth century, while the other liturgical books were being revised and issued as a uniform standard, there was naturally a desire to substitute an official book that should take the place of these varied collections. But the matter did not receive the attention of the Holy See itself for some time. First, various books were issued at Rome with the idea of securing uniformity, but without official sanction. Albert Castellani in 1537 published a Sacerdotale of this kind; in 1579 at Venice another version appeared, arranged by Grancesco Samarino, Canon of the Lateran; it was re-edited in 1583 by Angelo Rocca. In 1586, Giulio Antonio Santorio, Cardinal of St. Severina, printed a handbook of rites for the use of priests, which, as Paul V says, "he had composed after long study and with much industry and labor" (Apostolicae Sedis). This book is the foundation of the current Roman Ritual. On June 17, 1614, Paul V published the first edition of the official Rituale Romanum by the Constitution Apostolicae Sedis. In this, he points out that Clement VIII had already issued a uniform text of the Roman Pontifical and the Caeremoniale Episcoporum (Ceremonial of Bishops), which includes rubrical rules for liturgical functions of many members of the clergy besides bishops. "It remained", the Pope continues, "that the sacred and authentic rites of the Church, to be observed in the administration of sacraments and other ecclesiastical functions by those who have the care of souls, should also be included in one book and published by authority of the Apostolic See; so that they should carry out their office according to a public and fixed standard, instead of following so great a multitude of Rituals".[1]

Post-Tridentine uniformity

But, unlike the other books of the Roman Rite, the Ritual has never been imposed as the only standard. Paul V did not abolish all other collections of the same kind, nor command every one to use only his book. He says: "Wherefore we exhort in the Lord" that it should be adopted. The result of this is that the old local Rituals have never been altogether abolished. After the appearance of the Roman edition these others were gradually more and more conformed to it. They continued to be used, but had many of their prayers and ceremonies modified to agree with the Roman book. This applies especially to the rites of Baptism, Holy Communion, the form of absolution, Extreme Unction. The ceremonies also contained in the Missal (blessing of holy water, the processions of Candlemas and Palm Sunday, etc.), and the prayers also in the Breviary (the Office of the Dead) are necessarily identical with those of Paul V's Ritual; these have the absolute authority of the Missal and Breviary. On the other hand, many countries preserved local customs for the liturgical celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony, the visitation of the sick, etc., numerous special blessings, processions and sacramentals not found in the Roman book, still printed in various diocesan Rituals. It is then by no means the case that every priest of the Roman Rite used to follow the Roman Ritual. Very many dioceses or provinces still had their own local handbooks under the name of Rituale or another (Ordo administrandi sacramenta, etc.), though all of these conformed to the Roman texts in the chief elements. Most contain practically all the Roman book, and have besides local additions/supplements.[1]

18th–20th centuries

Benedict XIV in 1752 revised the Roman Ritual, together with the Pontifical and Cærimoniale Episcoporum. His new editions of these three books were published by the brief Quam ardenti (25 March 1752), which quotes Paul V's Constitution at length and is printed, as far as it concerns this book, in the beginning of the Ritual. He added to Paul V's text two forms for giving the papal blessing (V, 6; VIII, 31). Meanwhile, a great number of additional blessings were added in an appendix. This appendix grew nearly as long as the original book. Under the title Benedictionale Romanum it is often issued separately. Leo XIII approved an editio typica published by Pustet at Ratisbon in 1884.[1] In 1925, the Vatican under the authority of Pope Pius XI issued another typical edition of the Rituale, which, as the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (June 10, 1925) informs us, had been adapted to the norms and guidelines of the Codex Juris Canonici of 1917, and the revised rubrics of Missal and Breviary.

The latest typical edition of the Roman Ritual was published in 1952.[2]


With the advent of the Second Vatican Council The Roman Ritual was split up into different fascicles and revised, with each fascicle being published as a single volume from 1969 onward. They are prefaced with theological introductions, and their translation into the vernacular language is overseen by Episcopal Conferences. The current authoritative Latin versions are:

The second section of the Roman Ritual, the Benedictionale, was also extensively revised, and published in 1987 as De Benedictionibus.

The Rite of Exorcism also underwent a series of revisions and was finally promulgated in 1999, as De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam (Concerning Exorcisms and Certain Supplications).


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The Rituale Romanum is divided into ten "titles" (tituli). All, except the first, are subdivided into chapters. The first being called “Ultimum, Gh.” In each title (except I and X), the first chapter gives the general rules for the sacrament or function, while the others give the exact ceremonies and prayers for various cases of administration.[1]

Other rituals

The Ambrosian Rite has its own ritual (Rituale Ambrosianum, published by Giacomo Agnelli at the Archiepiscopal Press, Milan).[1]

In the Byzantine Rite, the contents of the ritual are contained in the Euchologion.[1]

The Armenians have a ritual book (Mashdotz) similar to the Roman Ritual.[1]

Other churches not in communion with the Holy See have not yet arranged the various parts of this book[which?] in one collection. Nearly all the Eastern Catholic Churches, however, now have ritual books formed on the Roman model.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ritual". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ "Celebration of old rite: Holy See responds to questions presented by bishops". Vatican News. 2021-12-18. Retrieved 2021-12-18.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Further reading