Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend John M. D’Arcy has issued new norms on the placement of the tabernacle in churches, aiming to end controversy on the topic.
The bishop described the new norms and the reasons for them in a July 19 letter posted on the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend website and addressed to priests, deacons, religious, and all the faithful.
“The presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is at the center of our faith and of the devotional life of our Catholic people,” his letter began.
Saying tabernacle placement has become “a source of controversy,” he said the Eucharist should always be “a means of unity and communion, and never of division.”
“The place of the tabernacle in our church should reflect our faith in the real presence of Christ, and should always be guided by church documents,” Bishop D’Arcy continued.
In his experience, people have always desired the tabernacle to be “central and visible” and find it “confusing” when it is not.
The norms state that the tabernacle should be “prominently located in the sanctuary of the church, along the central axis behind the main altar ... at an elevated, open location in the apse area, or in another central place in the sanctuary that is equally conspicuous.”
If a high altar with a tabernacle remains in place, the norms add, “it is appropriate to continue using this noble structure for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.”
The norms are to applied to all future construction or restoration projects, and in churches where the tabernacle is not centrally located a consultation should begin to determine how to do so.
Bishop D’Arcy explained that he asked norms for the placement of the tabernacle to be prepared by his diocese’s Office of Worship. The norms were refined and improved by the Presbyteral Council, the Liturgical Commission, and the Environment and Arts Committee.
“I urge all priests to follow these norms carefully and completely, and most importantly — to foster devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.” his letter concluded.
Bishop D’Arcy promulgated the norms on June 14, the Feast of Corpus Christi, and they will become effective on August 4 2009, the Feast of St. John Mary Vianney, patron saint of priests.