An unHubbardlike Celebration in Westminster

The recently-completed Papal Visit (UK) has had a number of fascinating results already, including the (potential) defeat of the long-standing “Vatican Rottweiler” meme that Margaret mentioned this morning.

Given my 5-day absence from the IntraWebs, I’m still sifting through all the commentary that has sprung up in the wake of the Pope’s visit. But given my pre-visit (and, perhaps, unfair) obsession with the altar planned for the Beatification of Cardinal Newman in Cofton Park, I found this little side-note from Damian Thompson more than a bit fascinating — apparently, not all of the visit’s altars were L. Ron Hubbard-inspired:

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…)

Check out Thompson’s post for the “before and after” shots, or have a look at the BBC’s photographic coverage of the Mass, which occurred on Day Three.


Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming -- "where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks" -- he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

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