Unlamented: the “accessible” modern altar
The big free-standing altar that cluttered up the sanctuary of Westminster Cathedral has gone for good, it seems - with the full approval of Archbishop Vincent Nichols, who is happy to celebrate Mass at the proper altar at the back of the sanctuary, under the baldacchino
Not only has the new altar (above) gone, but the hideous wooden platform on which it stood is now firmly locked away in a warehouse, never to return. And its location is being kept a secret, lest Tabletistas steal it back and try to restore what they imagine is “Vatican II worship”.
The metal-framed altar was temporarily removed (as it always is) for Holy Week services, and then someone suggested to Archbishop Vincent Nichols that it should not return for his installation. I gather that he went up to Bentley’s original stone altar - where Mass can be celebrated west or east - and decided that, yes, this was the right place for him.
The wooden floor of the sanctuary has now been restored to remove the marks left by the platform, installed for the visit of John Paul II in 1982. I wish I could say that Archbishop Nichols celebrated eastwards, as the Pope would no doubt like him too - but, hey, one brick at a time.
One great blessing: the new Archbishop has presumably put paid to any mad re-ordering schemes for the cathedral. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, for example, apparently toyed with a plan to move Bentley’s altar forward and install his own throne under the baldacchino. (Such modest chaps, these “Vatican II” prelates - they like their seating arrangements centre-stage.)
Anyway, I’m hearing a lot of other good things about the new regime at Westminster Cathedral. But this is enough to be getting on with.
By Damian Thompson (Telegraph)