Pope Francis paid a parish visit in Rome on Quinquagesima Sunday, also known as the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
From the picture above, let me first say what is good about it:
1. The priest's chair is to the side and the tabernacle is dead center
2. The altar is a strong symbol--in other words, it isn't a "table" it is an altar
Okay, that's all I can see as good.
Now the questionable and lamentable:
1. The priest's chair looks like a throne or a bishop's throne. In a parish church that is not necessary.
2. I would prefer the altar to be set back a bit further and higher up with the priest's chair to the front of it but still on the side of the sanctuary where it is. During the Mass, when the priest or deacon crosses from the chair to the altar, he should bow to the altar, not turn is back to it to genuflect to the tabernacle. Crossing in front of the altar is better because the bow is towards the altar with the tabernacle behind it.
3. I am glad the tabernacle is behind the altar, but it is, in my most humble opinion, a bit much in size and look, but that is a statement of taste on my part as is everything I am critiquing because in the Ordinary Form, unlike prior to Vatican II, there are no real laws governing where things are placed in the tabernacle and porportionality as it is all up to personal tastes and the liturgical nazi that wants this, that or the other.
4. The altar placed forward as it is leaves no real room for other liturgies, such as weddings, RCIA rituals, blessings of various sorts. The altar is too low and thus not even visible to the majority of the congregants in a full church, except for those on the front rows, especially when standing. And with other liturgies, like weddings, they would be on the nave level and invisible to all, even for the nuptials.
5. When altar railings are restored, it will be difficult to restore them here and that should have been an element for consideration. Altar railings should be present now that we have two forms of the one Roman Rite. Liturgical law for design of sanctuaries should reflect this!
6. One can tell that Msgr. Guido Marini was not present for the Mass with the pope because the MC who must be a parish priest did not set up the Benedictine altar arrangement which Marini certainly does when he travels with the pope even to local congregations.
7. The placement of the large and beautiful crucifix to the side without a crucifix on the altar for the priest to guide is devotional eyes towards the symbolic East, is ill thought. The crucifix should be central either on the altar, slightly behind the altar or suspended above the altar.
8. Finally and sadly, this kind of modern post-Vatican II architecture is quite common in Italy which in the pre-Vatican II era gave us the grandest of beautiful churches, basilicas and cathedrals. This is not renewal but corruption.