MADISON, Wis. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Madison's bishop Robert Morlino recently directed his pastors to move all tabernacles back to the center of the sanctuary.
As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, Bp. Morlino's directive could affect approximately 134, or about half of diocesan parishes whose tabernacles are currently off to the side or in separate side chapels.
Patrick Gorman, director of the diocesan office of worship, will be overseeing this transition, which will require some money and effort to accomplish. Bishop Morlino has set a three-year time limit for the move.
The bishop's intention, as per Gorman, is to emphasize the Lord's presence in the Eucharist. Speaking of the tabernacle, Gorman remarked, "This isn't just another piece of furniture in the sanctuary. It is housing the living God."
Catholics have always believed that Christ is present in the Eucharist truly and actually, not merely symbolically. The Council of Trent declared, "[In] the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist is contained truly, really and substantially the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ."
Morlino, Madison's ordinary since 2003, has been encouraging priests for more than a decade to reposition their tabernacle behind the altar in the sanctuary and requiring this reposition whenever parishes are renovated.
Saint Peter's Catholic Church in Ashton, Wisconsin, pictured above, is considered an ideal example of such placement by Morlino. Father Tait Schroeder, pastor of St. Peter's, relayed that the tabernacle had been moved off to the side in St. Peter's some years after Vatican II.
Gorman related that after Vatican II, there was a trend to move tabernacles to the side or locate them in smaller side chapels for various reasons. But he added that "in reality, the tabernacle ended up just being bypassed by people. It didn't accomplish what it set out to do. I think most priests would agree with that."
One local pastor, Father Michael Radowicz, remarked that, overall, parishioners seem to be receptive of the change.
Father Schroeder, referring to the tabernacle, commented, "It is really the focal point. It draws our hearts and minds to Christ and to our belief that he is really present with us."
To learn more about the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, watch this episode of our Premium show "Losing My Religion."