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27 Jan 2015 Articles Comments (2)

Why the Crusaders Went

This post is the third in a series about the most prevalent modern myths about the Crusades and how to refute them. Anna Comnena was the thirteen-year-…

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11 Sep 2014 USA No comments

Tense political divide doesn't stop Christian unity over Middle East

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30 Nov 2015 Middle East - Africa News No comments

Watch Pope Francis Open "Holy Door" in Bangui

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12 Dec 2014 Q&A No comments

Can deacons perform exposition and benediction?

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31 Dec 2014 Q&A No comments

Can God make square circles? If not, does that mean he isn't all-powerful?

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20 Nov 2015 Articles No comments

Governor forced to become bishop: the story of St Ambrose of Milan

St. Ambrose was Bishop of Milan, his hometown. He was born around A.D. 338 and died in 397. He was a very popular political figure, and since he was the Gove…

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13 Jul 2016 Americas Asia-Pacific Middle East - Africa News USA Vatican No comments

Lesotho Church officials call for international intervention following shooting of journalist

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29 Nov 2014 Q&A No comments

What is the difference between saints and blesseds?

Full Question What is the difference between saints and blesseds? Answer There are several steps in the Church’s process of declaring someone a s…

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09 Sep 2016 Articles No comments

Are Americans WRONG about work? How a Catholic approach to work actually increases profits

Are Americans wrong about work? New research and practical experience suggests we Americans are wrong about work, and that if we want to be more productive, we …

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Did Vatican II require that the tabernacle be placed in a side chapel?

Full Question

During a recent meeting on proposed renovations in our church, it was stated that Vatican II mandated moving the tabernacle out of the main body of the church and into a separate chapel. Is this correct and in what document of the council is this stated?


This is not correct. The documents issued by the Second Vatican Council do not mandate changes in the placement of the tabernacle. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy grants power to national conferences of bishops to adapt sacred furnishings to the needs and customs of their respective regions (Sacrosanctum Concilium 128).

The document referred to was the Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharist Mystery (Eucharisticum Mysterium), a post-conciliar document, issued by the Vatican following the Council. After recommending that the Blessed Sacrament ought to be reserved in a truly prominent location and one suitable for private prayer and devotion, the instruction states, “It is therefore recommended that, as far as possible, the tabernacle be placed in a chapel distinct from the middle or central part of the church, above all in those churches where marriages and funerals take place frequently and in places which are much visited for their artistic or historical treasures” (53).

It goes on to say, “The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a solid, inviolable tabernacle in the middle of the main altar or on a side altar, but in a truly prominent place. Alternatively, according to legitimate customs and in individual cases to be decided by the local ordinary, it may be placed in some other part of the church which is really worthy and properly equipped” (54).

The Code of Canon Law states, “The tabernacle in which the Blessed Eucharist is reserved should be sited in a distinguished place in the church or oratory, a place which is conspicuous, suitably adorned and conducive to prayer” (CIC 938:2).

Many church renovations are undertaken under the “authority” of a document titled Environment and Art in Catholic Worship. This document, promoted widely by “liturgical experts,” was passed by the American bishops’ committee on the liturgy in 1977, but it was never brought before the entire body of bishops for a vote, presumably because its backers realized that it would be voted down.

It has been published anyway in book form, giving many the idea that its recommendations are of binding authority; in fact, it has no authority at all and can be ignored.

In an eyebrow-raising move, the book’s editors added an appendix of photographs that showcase renovations even more radical than the text promotes. As Thomas Day, author of Where Have You Gone, Michelangelo?, has noted, the “presider’s chair” in the photographs isn’t a chair at all–it’s a gigantic concrete throne.

Through poor liturgical art and architecture and through a jettisoning of traditional symbols–all advanced by Environment and Art in Catholic Worship–the focus of the Mass shifts from the altar to the priest. (Needless to say, in the photographs tabernacles are well hidden.)


  1. christel Reply

    I deeply believe that tabernacles should be place in the center of the churches with uniformity i.e. everywhere. Tabernacles deserves utmost reverences and importance and anyone entering the church should find it in the center and not search for it. It should be the center of the church according to me.

    1. Mairead Conroy Reply

      I believe the Tabernacle should be in the centre of the church.I think it’s outrageous to see the priest’s chair in the centre and the Tabernacle out at a side altar.It shows unbelievable arrogance o the part of the clergy

  2. Mark Reply

    It should be behind the altar. My biggest pet peeve is watching people genuflect towards an empty altar. My fellow parishioners, your Lord and Savior is present off to the side!

  3. Margaret Guthridge Reply

    The Tabernacle should have been left in the middle,you cannot see it properly on the side,one has to look at an empty altar when praying to Jesus.The priest should not be sitting on the throne and Jesus cast aside.

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