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Which Way Should the Priest Face? A Viatorian Response

July 18, 2016

In the latest issue of the Tablet, an international Catholic journal published in London, Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, has written the cover story, which asks: One direction?Tablet

In it, Fr. Francis responds to a recent call by a Vatican prelate for the celebrant at Mass to face the same direction as the congregation, that is, with his back to them as was common in the Tridentine Rite.

Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago

Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago

“One of the main goals of the (pre-Vatican II) liturgical movement was its emphasis on restoring liturgical participation by the laity at Mass,” Fr. Francis writes. “For this reason it promoted ‘dialogue Masses.’ “

Cardinal Robert Sarah, the current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW), spoke earlier this month at a liturgical conference in London, in which he made an impassioned plea for priests to start celebrating Mass with their back to the people — as early as this Advent.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Vatican prefect

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Vatican prefect

“I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the center,” Cardinal Sarah said in defending his position.

Fr. Francis argues that the priest, in celebrating Mass, is a member of the church who belongs to the same world as the rest of the assembly.

“The church is in the world,” he writes. “This means that the private, spiritual sense of church and priestly activity is past.”

The Tablet dates its publication back to 1840. It continues to provide a forum for “progressive, but responsible Catholic thinking, a place where orthodoxy is at home but ideas are welcome.”

Read the full context of Fr. Francis’ article here.