LIFE TEEN around altar?

Question: 

I have heard that there is a church document that prevents people from gathering around the altar, especially LIFE Teen groups or others, who may block the altar from the congregation. Where is this written?

--Looking in Lafeyette

Answer: 

In the Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, we read:


At Sunday Masses in parishes, insofar as parishes are "Eucharistic communities",(52) it is normal to find different groups, movements, associations and even the smaller religious communities present in the parish. This allows everyone to experience in common what they share most deeply, beyond the particular spiritual paths which, by discernment of Church authority,(53) legitimately distinguish them. This is why on Sunday, the day of gathering, small group Masses are not to be encouraged: it is not only a question of ensuring that parish assemblies are not without the necessary ministry of priests, but also of ensuring that the life and unity of the Church community are fully safeguarded and promoted.(54)

Recently, on this question, the LIFE TEEN organization petition the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments for special rituals and practices for LIFE TEEN Masses. All requests were DENIED - therefore, LIFE TEEN Masses are to be like other Masses, following the General Instruction on the Roman Missal [GIRM] 2002 or third edition. The practice of people gathering around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer is not allowed. Only clergy may be around the altar; the reason being that priests and deacons have a special role within the Mass as "concelebrants."

Also, from the LIFE TEEN website, the following was posted and has been abbreviated for the purpose of this question:

On June 4, 2004, the Bishop of Phoenix, Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, met in Rome with Francis Cardinal Arinze regarding LIFE TEEN...The Cardinal ... believed that LIFE TEEN needs to fully implement the new GIRM 2002. In addition to his meeting with Cardinal Arinze, Bishop Olmsted met with Monsignor James Moroney, executive director of the United States Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy (BCL) regarding LIFE TEEN. Msgr. Moroney has been in dialogue with LIFE TEEN regarding implementation of the new GIRM.

As the founder of this youth movement, I am writing to confirm our adherence to the new GIRM, and as always, our obedience to our own local Bishops. In this spirit of obedience, we are asking all parishes using the LIFE TEEN model to make the following changes:

1. In accordance with the new GIRM, teens are no longer to enter the sanctuary for the Eucharistic prayer. Being in the sanctuary is reserved for the priest celebrant, concelebrants, and those performing a specific ministry.

2. The GIRM very specifically offers three options for the end of the Mass. We are to cease using the phrase "The Mass Never Ends, It Must Be Lived" and begin using one of the three prescribed endings found in the Missal.

3. After music practice or welcoming, please make sure there is a period of silence to begin the liturgical celebration.

4. As we have always taught, please make sure the music does not in any way detract from the action at the altar, ambo, or chair.

5. Please make sure that full implementation of the GIRM is done in accordance with your Diocese and accomplished with a spirit of joy.

Although these changes may be difficult for some parishes and teens to accept, let me assure you that our cooperation with Rome and the BCL will only enhance our liturgical celebrations and our mission in the Church. It will be essential that we catechize our teens and their families on what we are doing, and why we are doing it...We are asking for catechesis and full implementation of these changes by October 1, 2004.

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