Q: If the order of the Mass presumes that the priest has his back to the congregation, then why, for the last 50 plus years, have priests been facing congregations?
A: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says this: “The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible” (299). There are cases where it is difficult if not impossible, so the Order of Mass makes some accommodation for it. But the priest should normally face the people while presiding at mass. During the Eucharistic Prayer the priest “associates the people with himself in the Prayer that he addresses in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit” (GIRM 78).