Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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Some comments on the clean up of the sanctuary of Westminster Cathedral by Damian Thompson in the Daily Telegraph:

Westminster Cathedral in 1982 and 2010: look how radically the sanctuary has changed

Today’s Papal Mass in Westminster Cathedral was a model of liturgy in every respect*. I was lucky enough to be present and, like many people I’ve spoken to, I was moved to the verge of tears by its beauty and the poignancy of the Pope’s message. I don’t, alas, remember anything about the Mass celebrated in the cathedral by Pope John Paul II in 1982 – but I’ve been looking at photographs of it and I’m struck by the radically different configurations of the sanctuary in 1982 and 2010:

The high altar at which Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass yesterday was actually hidden behind a curtain for the 1982 Mass, which was celebrated by Pope John Paul II at a free-standing altar (now thankfully discarded) much nearer the congregation. In those days Bentley’s high altar was thought to be a beautiful anachronism, redolent of the supposedly defunct Tridentine Mass. (Little did they know…) And note that, in 1982, there was no question of decorating the altar with the enormous candlesticks used today, let alone a large crucifix confronting the Holy Father as he consecrated the Host. I think these would have been regarded as “obstructions” 28 years ago, when there was a much greater focus on the physical presence of the Pope: hence the mocked-up throne facing the people. Benedict XVI, in contrast, views tall candles as symbols drawing attention away from the personality of the celebrant, and the crucifix as an object that orientates (alas, not usually literally) the priest towards Calvary rather than the congregation. It will be very interesting to see whether Westminster Cathedral makes the crucifix a permanent feature of Mass on its altars, in accordance with the Pope’s wishes. I hope so, because today it gave many Catholics their first taste of truly Benedictine worship.

(*Well, almost every respect. Those Gothicky chasubles are fine for welcoming visitors to your planet in a low-budget sci-fi series, but not for Mass. One thing they did get right in 1982 was the vestments – see above.)

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