by Michael Davies


Anyone wishing to see a famous Church which has stuck to the letter of the law in reordering its sanctuary, and made only those changes which are mandatory, should visit the Brompton Oratory in London. The Oratorian Fathers are certain the most liturgically literate groups of priests in Britain and they have not made a single change in their sanctuary because there is no law requiring them to do. Their magnificent altar stands just as it has always done with the prominent tabernacle in the centre.

Cardinal Ratzinger,who as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,is second only to the Pope in his authority in the Church stated recently that the change to Mass facing the people was a mistake. Asked to comment on the Cardinal's remarks, Paolo Portoghesi, one of the greatest architects in the world with a specialized knowledge of ecclesiastical architecture, said that he was in full agreement with the Cardinal and admired his courageous stand. It may well be that we are on the verge of a return to liturgical sanity, what Cardinal Ratzinger has termed "a reform of the reform". On Friday 21 October 1995 I visited the chapel of the American College in Rome where at the request of the seminarians the tabernacle has recently been restored to its traditional place of honour in the centre of the high altar. This would certainly not have been done if mandatory legislation existed requiring it to be situated elsewhere.

On Saturday 22 October 1995, during a meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger I informed him of what had happened in the American College and he expressed great pleasure at the news. I also showed him a drawing of a proposed sanctuary reordering for an Irish cathedral and asked him whether these changes were necessary. He stated that they were not, and confirmed that the Liturgy Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, and subsequent legislation, does not mandate any changes in the sanctuary. Where a bishop orders such changes he does so because he wishes to, and not because he has to. The Cardinal gave me his permission to quote him to this effect.

1997 Michael Davies.

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Last modified 27th October, 1997, by David Joyce.