Lions, turtles and alligators, o my!
If I may offer my humble opinion, I much prefer Pope Benedict’s altar arrangement. The entire purpose of it to him, as he wrote in The Spirit of the Liturgy, was to draw the focus away from the priest and toward Our Lord, by a) the image of Christ on the crucifix and b) the “obscuring” of the priest behind the candles and crucifix (this also applies to the slightly altered arrangement Pope Francis used last year). Unfortunately, it seems like Pope Francis’ current setup, with the candles on the sides and usually a smaller crucifix, attempts to allow people to see things—Eucharist, priest, and all—more easily. I’ve never been a fan of the idea that we absolutely must “see” everything during Mass. That’s what the post-Consecration elevations are for, so that we can see when the missal thinks it best (it’s also why, if versus orientem, the priest turns around at the Ecce Agnus Dei): when we’re supposed to see, the missal provides for it. We don’t need to see the goings-on the entire time. Additionally, on a more practical note, it seems like the arrangement His Holiness now uses won’t do much good at St. Peter’s: the place is so huge that most people probably wouldn’t be able to see anyways. :)
Pope Benedict XVI's arrangement, better than Pope Francis. The veil is quite good for conveying mystery
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