In his letter "Altar?" (May AD2000) Mr D. Davies is somewhat off target. His quote regarding the free-standing altar is not from a Vatican II document (as he claims) but from the General Instruction on the Roman Missal issued some five years after the Council and of which the Council knew nothing.
He might not be aware that the architect of the Novus Ordo liturgy, Fr (later Archbishop) Bugnini, informed the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, that "the task was to remove from the liturgy anything that could constitute the slightest risk of a stumbling block, or a source of displeasure, to our separated brethren."
The Bugnini version was confirmed during a Paris TV program in 1993 by philosopher and academician, Jean Guitton, who had been a close and long-time friend of Pope Paul VI. He affirmed from his association with the Pope that the purpose was "to have the Catholic liturgy conform as closely as possible to the Protestant Lord's Supper ... to correct or soften anything that is too Catholic in the Mass ... to bring the Catholic Mass away from the Council of Trent towards the Protestant Lord's Supper."
As regards the altar, Pope Pius XII had stated that "To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which, by their nature and their origin, should remain united." Pope Pius has yet to be proved wrong, but in the meantime the free-standing altar just ignores him.
As for "the popes since the Council leading by example", that too needs qualifying. The altar in the pope's Vatican private chapel is not free-standing. Altar and tabernacle are as Pius XII would have them, and the pope saying Mass would face the tabernacle, and away from any worshippers present (see front cover of February 1993 AD2000).
STUART J. BLACKWOOD