The following comes from a Nov. 1 blog posting in the Daily Telegraph (U.K.).

And he mystifies us again…

It seems that on Thursday morning Pope Francis celebrated Mass ad orientem at the tomb of John Paul II. For those not hip with the Catholic jargon, this means that he said Mass facing away from the people and towards the altar/God. The practice is growing in popularity in many Roman Catholic parishes but remains highly controversial. For conservatives it represents a tentative return to the beauty of the Old Rite. For liberals, the act of turning one’s back on the people represents everything bad about the authoritarian, arcane bad old days of the pre-Kumbaya era. What next? Sermons about the devil?!

In fact, Francis only celebrated ad orientem because he had no choice – the altar at the tomb is pushed against a wall and it’s impossible to stand behind it. But as some commentators have noted, whenever John Paul II celebrated ad orientem he insisted that photographers only capture him during the moments in the liturgy when he had to face the people. Francis, by contrast, has been photographed showing his back to the camera.

The likeliest interpretation of this isn’t that Francis is a liturgical conservative but rather that he just doesn’t care about the protocol sensitivities of either trads or liberals. We have a Pope who, for better and worse, isn’t that bothered about liturgy and is far more focused on evangelism and charity.

That’s bad in the sense that it means traditionalists have lost a champion in the Vatican (Benedict was a fairly reliable friend) but good in the sense that the liturgy is likely to become de-politicised. Face the people, don’t face the people – all that matters is doctrinal orthodoxy and conducting the Mass in the right spirit.

Of course, that won’t stop some of the guitar strumming liberals in the Church from getting very excited about this. They’ve been working darn hard for decades to introduce clown shoes and puppets to the Mass and they won’t go down without a fight. Or at least the angry shake of a tambourine…

To read the original posting, click here.