Lord, I never wanted to be separated from You.

Why do priests use a cloth in holding the Blessed Sacrament during Benediction?

MAGTANONG KAY FATHER: On the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

Benediction by Pope Benedict XVI
Gian Carlo Gutierrez asks
“May tanong po ako, bakit pag itinataas ng pari ‘yung Blessed Sacrament, may tela pong nilalagay sa kanya tapos ginagamit niya ‘yun ‘pag hahawakan niya, bawal po ba niyang hawakan ‘yun ng kamay lang niya?

(I’d like to ask why is it that during Benediction, the priest uses a cloth to hold of the Blessed Sacrament. Can he not hold it with his bare hands?)


Gian Carlo,

First of all, let us learn some vocabulary words:

Monstrance - is a sacred vessel used to display the consecrated Eucharistic host, during Eucharistic adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It comes from the Latin word monstrare, meaning "to show". Usually it is gold with sunburst design. There is a half-moon shaped holder of the host called “luna” inside it.

Ciborium – is a sacred vessel used as a receptacle for the consecrated hosts. It has a cover and sometimes, it has a veil to express the presence of the consecrated hosts inside. It can also be used for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Humeral Veil

Humeral Veil - is a liturgical vestment that covers the shoulders and hands of the minister to carry the Blessed Sacrament or give Benediction. It is also used at the Chrism Mass to carry the Holy Oils. Normally, it is made of silk or cloth of gold. It is also seen at the Mass of the Lord's Supper (Maundy Thursday) when the Ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament is taken in procession to the place of reposition, and again when it is brought back to the altar without solemnity during the Good Friday service. This is the “cloth” you are referring to.

Cope - is a liturgical vestment which is shaped like a cloak used in processions, blessings, and other liturgical rites that do not require the use of chasuble (for priests) or dalmatic (for deacons). It can also be seen to be worn underneath the humeral veil.

Thurible and Incense Boat
Thurible - is the liturgical vessel that is used to burn incense.

Incense Boat – is the vessel used to hold the incense.

Thurifer - is a server who takes care of the Thurible and incense during Liturgies.

Having learned the terminology, it is important to know why do we expose the Blessed Sacrament. The exposition of the Blessed Sacrament stimulates the faithful to an awareness of the marvelous presence of Christ and is an invitation to spiritual communion with Him. It is therefore an excellent encouragement to offer Him that worship in spirit and truth which is His due.

Benediction by Pope John Paul II

When the priest or deacon blesses the people with the monstrance, he covers his hands with the ends of thehumeral veil so that his hands do not touch the monstrance:
1. to show the sacredness of the consecrated host Who is Jesus Himself and
2. to indicate that it is Jesus present in the Eucharistic species who blesses the people and not the minister.

The thurifer, then incenses the consecrated host during benediction. The purpose of incensing and the symbolic value of the smoke is that of purification and sanctification. It adds a sense of solemnity and mystery to the Mass. The visual imagery of the smoke and the smell remind us of the transcendence of the Mass which links heaven with earth, and allow us to enter into the presence of God.


The humeral veil should not be confused with the vimpa, which is of a similar but narrower design. It is sometimes used when a bishop celebrates the Mass. The altar servers use it in holding the miter and the crosier (staff) to symbolize that the episcopal authority as Chief Shepherd of the flock does not belong to them.

I hope that this clarifies matters. God bless you.


Instruction on Eucharistic Worship, Sacred Congregation of Rites, 1967
The Catholic Encyclopaedia.
Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem , Pope Paul VI, June 18, 1967, no. 29.
Code of Canon Law, 1983, canon 1169.

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