The Tabernacle and Old Altars


I recently found a church where they only have the pre-Vatican II altar that is against the wall with a reredos and the tabernacle is in the center where they reserve the Blessed Sacrament. I was wondering if this was allowed to be done without any special permission from the Bishop (both the use of only the old altar and the tabernacle’s position). I have looked at many other threads but I got a lot of different information that said things like the tabernacle isn’t on the altar but actually in the reredos so it is technically allowed.

The church has both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form of the Mass and all are said ad orientem. If it is of any help, the church is St. John Cantius in Chicago. :slight_smile:


While this doesn’t happen often in today’s Chruches, I think it’s fine. Yesterday, Cardinal Burke was celebrating Mass at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (the Monastery with Mother Angelica lives) for the dedication of the John Paul II Eucharistic Center.

During the Mass, they faced the main altar (with their backs to the Laity).

I’m sure others can provide better answers.


Yes this is perfectly fine and acceptable.

The placement of the tabernacle in the center of the church does not require any special permission. It was very common to have the tabernacle directly on, or just behind the altar in older churches, before the Second Vatican Council. At the same time, many older churches have never had the Blessed Sacrament in the center (none of the Papal Basilicas have, for instance). What matters is that the tabernacle is given a place of dignity.

Ad orientem celebration is allowed in the current Form of the Mass. Ad populum (facing the people) celebration was never even mentioned in the documents Second Vatican Council, but was added to the General Instructions of the Roman Missal, which reads: “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 expedit [useful] wherever possible,” (Art. 299). This is the only mention of the orientation of the altar in current liturgical law.

So yes, the church you visited is okay. I personally find ad orientem (facing east/the apse) celebration to be a beautiful tradition that has been lost in past years. Although it may be a bit annoying at first, it helps us focus on the fact that we are not focused on the priest, or even the community which is attending Mass, but we’re focusing beyond it all, on God.


Okay, thank you for clearing this up for me. :slight_smile:


All of the newest church buildings in my diocese have the tabernacle in the center behind the altar.


In our 10 year old church we just moved the tabernacle to behind the altar.


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