Well, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, here we go on another tangent, woo hoo!
When I saw this, I thought, "Hmm, maybe Mor Ephrem has a point."
Then I looked up the story behind the altar and thought, "Hmmmmm. Maybe Francis has a point."
You do know that the people of the island built the altar for the Pope to use, right? Francis didn't bring it with him from the Vatican.
I'm aware that the altar was constructed by the people of the island, and not brought from the Vatican. That's besides the point. What makes anyone anywhere think that a rainbow-coloured boat with a mensa attached is a suitable altar for the Liturgy? It wasn't an emergency situation, it's not like chaplains saying Mass on the roofs of Jeeps in combat zones.
I don't see how the boat trivializes anything. Here is the story on the purpose of it. It's a powerful statement by the Pope advocating for the rights of the oppressed. What is he going to do? Tell the people "No, sorry, I'm not going to use this altar, get me a fancier one"?
Again, I'm aware of the story behind this event. But your comment begs the question: since when is the rite
of Mass/Divine Liturgy the appropriate venue to make "a powerful statement advocating for the rights of the oppressed"? Such statements can and ought to be made in public preaching, within and without the Mass. But is there a need to construct an altar out of a boat in order to make the point? An altar is not just a table on which we do some Christian things to bread. If you can bastardise an altar of sacrifice in order to make a humanitarian statement, what else can you do to the Liturgy to make whatever point you want to make?
I don't know how effective such visual changes are in terms of making powerful statements on behalf of the oppressed, but I do know how effective they are in making powerful statements on what we do in the Liturgy.
And no, I don't think the Pope is going to tell them "Get me a fancier altar, I don't want to use this". But I also don't think the Pope is like the Orthodox bishop of some small diocese who travels to a parish with a seminarian to assist him, and they show up and have to deal with whatever the parish has. He's the Pope: he has a papal master of ceremonies who himself has several assistants and a whole department in charge of such things, and they are routinely involved in planning and executing papal liturgical events within and outside Rome. That so many priests, bishops, and a Pope saw nothing wrong with using the Mass as a blank slate upon which to display their political/humanitarian statements is alarming.
The Mass has only one political statement--the kingdom of God. The Mass has only one humanitarian statement--the gospel of salvation. The rites of the Liturgy are what they are in order to convey that and that alone. Particular applications of gospel principles, such as the humanitarian situation this was meant to address, are best done through preaching, teaching, political action, humanitarian aid, etc. But the rite of Mass isn't where to do it because the rite of Mass is supposed to bring the kingdom of God down to earth, and elevate us to things above. In a sense, it's outside of time, even if it is celebrated on earth within time. A boat-altar doesn't convey that idea, and was never meant to, by everyone's own admission. That's a huge problem.