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From Fr. Blake’s blog (see here) and without comment, but…
FOR THE RECORD
Far be it for me to correct Cardinal Nichols but…
Far be it for me to correct Cardinal Nichols but it does strike me their Eminences are often badly informed or confused nowadays, he has sent an email to his clergy warning them off of follow Cardinal Sarah’s call for offering Mass ad orientem.
There is a paragraph here:
Following Cardinal Robert Sarah’s appeal last week during the the Sacra Liturgia conference in London, Cardinal Nichols who is Archbishop of Westminster, wrote to priests reminding them that, “the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the highest authority in the Church, states in paragraph 299 that ‘The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.’”
His Eminence is wrong in his interpretation of this rubric that “which is desirable whenever possible”, is not Mass facing the people, but that the “altar should be built apart from the altar from the wall”. Perhaps the Cardinal should read Fr Lang’s excellent Turning towards the Lord. Fr Lang is actually resident in his diocese.
This is how the CDW interprets it:
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in n. 299 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani constitutes a norm according to which the position of the priest versus absidem [facing the apse] is to be excluded.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after mature reflection and in light of liturgical precedents, responds:
Negatively, and in accordance with the following explanation.
The explanation includes different elements which must be taken into account. First, the word expedit does not constitute a strict obligation but a suggestion that refers to the construction of the altar a pariete sejunctum (detached from the wall). It does not require, for example, that existing altars be pulled away from the wall. The phrase ubi possibile sit (where it is possible) refers to, for example, the topography of the place, the availability of space, the artistic value of the existing altar, the sensibility of the people participating in the celebrations in a particular church, etc.
I have the protocol number for this letter somewhere, I can’t find it at the moment perhaps someone might help out with it.
The pre-Vatican II Sacred Congregation of Rites, had always recommended the separation of altar and walls and also the building of gradines behind altars so that candles and relics might be placed on them and not the consecrated mensa which was reserved for things which were truly necessary for Mass.
Mass in his cathedral is always more beautiful when celebrated according the rubrics, perhaps they should be read by HE, particularly those parts which talk about turning towards the people, which assume at other time he is not.