I was told by a friend that the Roman Catholic Church has canon law for what to do if, while consecrating the Eucharist during mass (say, halfway through reciting the Words of Institution), a hostage situation breaks out within the church. His claim was that with two thousand years of tradition, this was bound to happen at some point and did in fact with some militant Irish Catholics.

I have no idea if there is any truth to this, or if they were just pulling my leg. But it sounds plausible given the extensive canon law that the Church has, so I figure it's worth asking. Is there a canon law for what to do if there is a hostage situation while consecrating the Eucharist? If not canon law, are there other official guidelines for what to do?


This isn't a matter of canon law, which governs the general conduct and culpability of the people of God; this is covered by the instructions for Mass.

The last Latin Missal (the Missale Romanum of 1962) contained the following instructions. I can't find anything similar in the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal.


X - De defectibus in ministerio ipso occurrentibus

  1. Si, sacerdote celebrante, violetur ecclesia ante Canonem, dimittatur Missa: si post Canonem, non dimittatur. Si timeatur incursus hostium, vel alluvionis, vel ruina loci ubi celebratur, ante Consecrationem dimittatur Missa; post Consecrationem vero sacerdos accelerare poterit sumptionem Sacramenti, omissis omnibus aliis.
  2. Si sacerdos ante Consecrationem graviter infirmetur, vel in syncopen incident aut moriatur, praetermittitur Missa. Si post Consecrationem Corporis tantum, ante Consecrationem Sanguinis, vel utroque consecrato id accidit, Missa per alium sacerdotem expleatur ab eo loco ubi ille desiit, et in casu necessitatis etiam per non ieiunum. Si autem non obierit, sed fuerit infirmus, adeo tamen ut possit communicare, et non adsit alia hostia consecrata, sacerdos, qui Missam supplet, dividat hostiam, et unam partem praebeat infirmo, aliam ipse sumat. Si autem semiprolata forma Corporis obiit sacerdos, quia non est facta Consecratio, non est necesse ut Missa per alium suppleatur. Si vero obierit semiprolata forma Sanguinis, tune alter prosequatur Missam, et super eundem calicem repetat integram formam ab eo loco: Simili modo, postquam cenatum est; vel posset super alium calicem praeparatum integram formam proferre, et hostiam primi sacerdotis, et Sanguinem a se consecratum sumere, ac deinde calicem relictum semiconsecratum.

  3. Si quis extra huiusmodi casus necessitatis integra Sacramenta non sumpserit, gravissime peccat.

My Latin isn't great, so the following is open to correction:


X - Of defects occurring in the ministry

  1. If, while the priest is celebrating Mass, the church is violated before the Canon, the Mass is ended; if after the Canon, it is not to be discontinued. If there is fear of an attack of the enemy, or flood, or the destruction of the place where [Mass] is celebrated: before the consecration, the Mass is ended; after the consecration, the priest can speed up the reception of the Sacrament, neglecting all other things.

  2. If before the Consecration the priest becomes seriously ill, or faints, or dies, the Mass is left undone. If after the consecration of the body only and before the consecration of the blood, or after both have been consecrated, another priest is to be sent from the place where he left off, and in case of necessity even breaking their fast. If, however, he has not died, but was ill and is still able to receive Communion, and if there is no other consecrated host, the priest who is completing the Mass divides the Host, and offers one part to the sick man, and consumes the other part himself. If the priest has died during confecting the Body, in that there is no consecration, it is not necessary for another [priest] to be supplied for the Mass. If, however, he died during the offering of the Blood, then the other [priest] continues the Mass, repeating the whole form from that place, over the cup: In a similar way, when supper was ended; or the whole formula could be offered over another prepared chalice, and the host of the first priest, and the Blood consecrated by himself, and then the cup left half-consecrated.

  3. If anyone does not receive the whole Sacrament aside from cases of necessity of this kind, he sins gravely.

Paragraph 2 is probably the most relevant. If the priest has not yet consecrated the sacred species, the Mass is ended and he does not continue. If he has done so, then he can omit as much of the rest of the Mass is necessary in order that the sacrament can be consumed.

Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered at the altar, but I don't know at what point that was in the Mass or what happened afterwards. I understand that Fr Jacques Hamel consumed the sacrament himself rather than let it be desecrated, before he was killed.

  • 2
    In the 1990s, our archbishop had the chalice knocked out of his by someone throwing a rock at him. The stone hit the chalice at the very moment of the elevation of the Blood of Christ. I can not recall the details, but the Archbishop called for calm and not to injure the man who threw the stone. The individual involved had mental health issues and was safely handed over to the police. Things do happen and it is good to know that protocols are in place in such circumstances.
    – Ken Graham
    Mar 1 '17 at 12:46

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