Okla. bishop will no longer face congregation at Mass

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(RNS) Roman Catholic Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., will no longer face his parishioners during Mass, in an effort to “recover a more authentic Catholic worship.”

Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, Catholic Mass has been performed in the local language and with the priest facing the congregation. In a July 2007 decree, however, Pope Benedict XVI offered priests the option of celebrating the so-called “old Latin Mass.”

Slattery, in the September issue of the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic magazine, said Vatican II misplaced the crucial “orientation” (direction) of worship for Catholics.

“The priest faces the people while the people face the priest, even though the Eucharistic prayer is directed to the Father and not to the people,” says Slattery in his From the Bishop article.

Although both the Latin Mass and the Vatican II Mass are currently acceptable within the Catholic Church, the pope does not want to divide the church based on those who face the congregation and those who do not.

Echoing that sentiment, Slattery does not want his congregation to feel slighted by the change of orientation.

“This change ought not to be misconstrued as the bishop `turning his back on the faithful,’ as if I am being inconsiderate or hostile,” he wrote.

The change is not being enforced in other Oklahoma parishes. Slattery mentions only that he will revive the forward-facing position at the cathedral in Tulsa.

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