from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 2002
299. The altar should be built apart 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. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the center toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns.116 The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.
desirable whenever possible!?
I thought the GIRM was a pretty high-ranking/authoritative document... I was just rather surprised to find this directive in it. Since I've recently been concerned with things like this, I've been under the impression that the idea of "facing the people" was just made up after Vatican II, not actually prescribed anywhere...
but here we have conflicting what the pope has been doing, with the GIRM. I guess I'm just then confused about the authority of this document.