Gathering around the altar

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Stumped in Class. Not the first time of course. But when it happens I tell them I’ll go to my “go to rubrics guy” – you.

 Is there anything in the liturgical legislation that prevents people from gathering around the altar – i.e. in the sanctuary space?

As always, thanks


A: GIRM 294 says that the faithful are to have a place that facilitates their participation. It then assigns ministers a place in the sanctuary. As you’ll see in that paragraph, this distinction promotes several values: the hierarchy of the church, the diversity of duties, and the unity of the entire People of God.

The GIRM elsewhere presumes that the sanctuary is distinct from the nave, though the word  “nave” never appears (GIRM 49, 154, 188, 195, 207, 274, 295, 307, 310, 315). I don’t know of anything that prevents people from gathering around the altar, as long as they preserve the values in 294.

Regarding their posture, GIRM 43 asks the faithful to kneel for most of the eucharistic prayer, but permits exceptions for a reasonable cause.


Regarding your post on the faithful gathering around the altar at Mass , I found this: . On page 61, it says that for the liturgy of the eucharist the faithful take their place in the church outside the sanctuary, which is reserved for the celebrant or concelebrants and ministers.


Thank you for pointing out that reference.