(Vatican Radio) The head of the Holy See press office, Fr Federico Lombardi, has issued a clarification regarding comments by the head of the Vatican’s liturgical office, Cardinal Robert Sarah. The papal spokesman says the comments, made during a conference in London last week, were “wrongly interpreted” and do not represent new guidelines for priests about which way to face during the celebration of Mass.
In a statement issued on Monday evening, Fr Lombardi said that Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has always been “rightly concerned about the dignity of the celebration of the Mass” so that it adequately expresses “an attitude of respect and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery”.
However he noted that the cardinal’s words were misinterpreted by some parts of the media to suggest that new liturgical directives would be introduced next Advent regarding the question of whether a priest should face towards or away from the congregation during the celebration of Mass.
The statement quotes from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (n.299) which states that “The altar should be built separate 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. Moreover, the altar should occupy a place where it is truly the center toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns”.
Fr Lombardi notes that Pope Francis made this view clear to Cardinal Sarah during a recent audience, stressing that the ‘Ordinary’ form of the celebration of Mass is the one laid down in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while the ‘Extraordinary’ form, permitted in certain specific cases by Pope Benedict XVI, should not be seen as replacing the ‘Ordinary’ form.
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