Damian Thompson posted this over at his place.
My emphases and comments.
The Pope’s Mass in Glasgow: are Benedict XVI’s liturgical wishes being ignored?
Pope Benedict XVI likes to celebrate Mass on an altar bearing six candles, or seven if there is one behind the central crucifix. It’s a venerable Christian tradition, drawing possibly on the Jewish menorah or the use of seven acolytes in early medieval Masses. [The so-called “Benedictine Arrangment”, which is a transitional arrangement of the altar towards a reestablishment of ad orientem worship. I have some PODCAzTs about this. This arrangement, explained by Joseph Ratzinger in Spirit of the Liturgy, seeks to bring the attention of celebrant and congregation alike back to the Lord, who is to return “from the East”. Ad orientem worship is superior in this regard. But placing the Crucifix between the congregation and priest breaks the enclosed circle of priest and congregation attending to themselves, thus reorienting to the Lord who is to come.]
So I don’t know what to make of persistent reports that the organisers of the papal Mass at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, have decided not decorate the altar with six candles. [That, if true, would be quite an offense.] Can this really be true? Monsignor Guido Marini, the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies, usually goes to enormous trouble to ensure that the Holy Father’s wishes are implemented. I’m mystified. Are the organisers trying to appease the spirit of John Knox? Seriously: this rumour is doing the rounds, and – though a dispute about altar decoration may seem petty to non-Catholics – it’s damaging for the Scottish Church.
Also… I believe there will be 400 priests present at the Mass. That will be more than enough to distribute Holy Communion to even as many as 50,000 communicants. Church rules on this question are quite clear: lay people are to distribute the Sacrament only if there is a shortage of priests. So I’m assuming that there can be no truth in the rumour that Scottish parishes are being asked to provide “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion” for Bellahouston. [That would be DREADFUL.] “Lay ministers are not a feature of papal Masses, and if they were suddenly to make an appearance here it would look like sleight of hand,” says my source. “It would enable the old liberals to say afterwards: well, the Pope was OK with it in Glasgow.” [There will not be only priests at that Mass, but also we can assume not a few deacons, seminarians and … ehem… bishops. When did bishops stop being Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion? … of the Eucharist?]
I think the decision to ask Susan Boyle to sing at the service was a mistake, because it looked as if the organisers were using a TV personality to tempt Catholics to a papal Mass. But, in the end, that’s a question of taste. [I wonder if this isn’t some sort of trend. When the Pope was in the USA, some famous singers were trotted out at Communion time.] Playing fast and loose with the Vatican’s liturgical guidelines is another matter, however. I do hope Mgr Marini will put a call through to Glasgow to check that these rumours are untrue.
Like Damian, I would also like to know if these rumors are true.
Perhaps people in the UK could direct their questions to the organizers with a measure of respectful and gentle persistence?