Use of the Cope on Palm Sunday

Date: May 18, 2024
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Question: In a recent article you mentioned the cope for the procession on Palm Sunday. In many churches it is common for the celebrant also to wear the cope for the solemn entrance on Palm Sunday. The rubrics do not seem to indicate whether this is appropriate or not. However, a parallel situation seems to occur on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, in which either a procession or solemn entrance may be chosen. In that case, the rubrics clearly indicate that the celebrant should wear Mass vestments for the solemn entrance. What is your view on the use of the cope for the solemn entrance on Palm Sunday? -- J.Z., Weston, Massachusetts


Answer: While it is clear that our reader has done his homework, I would point out that the two situations are not quite parallel.


On the feast of the Presentation two options are offered: the procession and the solemn entrance. On Palm Sunday, however, a third option of a simple entrance is also offered.


There are also some other minor differences insofar as that on Palm Sunday the solemn entrance also includes a brief procession of sorts with a representation of the community carrying palms.


This would seem to justify the possibility of using the cope on Palm Sunday for both the procession and for the solemn entrance.


For the simple entrance, however, since there is no blessing of palms and is practically a normal entrance for Mass in which the antiphon “Six days before the Passover …”  and Psalm 23:9-10 or some other suitable hymn is sung.


With some nuances, this would agree with the ceremonial books published by Bishop Peter J. Elliott (Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year) and Monsignor Marc Caron (Ceremonial for Priests). While these books are not official texts, they do gather most of the relevant norms as well as practical experiences of best practices.


Both books describe the solemn entrance on Palm Sunday as a close parallel to the procession and clearly imply, although not explicitly, that the option of the cope is present in both cases.


For example, one points out that it is preferable that the ministers who take part in the solemn entrance avoid going through the church nave to begin the celebration. This would be like the case of the procession coming from outside.


The other book, when speaking about the arrival at the altar, simply refers, without distinctions, to the description of the procession in which the possibility of using the cope is contemplated.


I agree with their reasoning and hence, unlike the case of the feast of the Presentation, I would say that the cope may be used for the solemn entrance on Palm Sunday.


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Readers may send questions to Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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