One of the fun facts about the Catholic Church, and something that speaks to her diversity representing the human race’s cultural expressions in the context of theological orthodoxy, are “rites”. These are different ways of celebrating the mass for different groups of people in certain areas. Most of these are tied to major political or cultural differences, and resolving the conflicts between faith and practice, but they are as old as the Church and still practiced today. The largest of these is the Byzantine rite, found most commonly in Eastern Europe in Ukraine and other Slavic lands. However, there is also the Mozarabic (once very common in Spain during Muslim rule), Melkite (Arabs and many Levantine peoples), Maronite (Lebanon), Chaldean (Iraq and the lands of southeastern Turkey), Armenian (Armenia), Coptic (Egypt and the Aksumite lands), Syro-Malabar (southern India), Anglican Use (not to be confused with the Anglican Church), and many others.
Now the Vatican is reporting that Pope Francis has approved another rite- the Zairean Rite -to be used in Zaire and other places in central Africa.
The Zairean Rite is “until now the only inculturated rite of the Latin Church approved after the Second Vatican Council” and “this process of liturgical inculturation in Congo is an invitation to enhance the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are a richness for all humanity,” writes Pope Francis in the preface to the new book.
The Zairean Mass (Rite zaïrois in French) or the Roman Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire is a variation of the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church as we know it. In everyday speak, the Mass is sometimes referred to as “Congolese Mass.”
This liturgical rite fits into Congolese culture and takes into consideration the African way of life and of celebrating solemn occasions.
The Rite encourages participation and engagement of the congregation. There is constant back and forth between the assembly and the principal celebrant. Among other liturgical rituals and gestures, engagement of the faithful, gathered in Church, takes the form of liturgical dance. Congregants move gracefully in Church as an expression both of their faith and joy.
Pope Francis notes that the Zairean Rite is particularly unique for its cultural vibrancy and spirituality. He says liturgical inculturation in the DRC is an invitation for all to enhance the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, which constitute a richness for humankind.
“Animated by religious songs with an African rhythm, the sound of drums and other musical instruments constitute real progress in the rooting of the Christian message in the Congolese soul. It is a joyful celebration. It is a true place of encounter with Jesus. They live what we have written: ‘The joy of the Gospel fills our hearts and our hearts,’” Pope Francis observes as he makes a passing reference to his document, “Evangelii gaudium.”
The book, “Pope Francis and the ‘Roman Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire,” has as its subtitle, “-a promising rite for other cultures.” The Holy Father suggests that the Zairean Rite could be a model for an Amazonian rite.
“The Zairean Rite suggests a promising way also for the possible elaboration of an Amazonian Rite,” said Pope Francis. He was optimistic that this could be done “without upsetting the nature of the Roman Missal, to guarantee continuity with the ancient and universal tradition of the Church.”
The Pope quotes from his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Querida Amazonia, released on 2 February 2020.
“Let’s remember what we explicitly said in the (document) Querida Amazonia. ‘It means that we can take up into the liturgy many elements proper to the experience of indigenous peoples in their contact with nature, and respect native forms of expression in song, dance, rituals, gestures and symbols. The Second Vatican Council called for this effort to inculturate the liturgy among indigenous peoples; over fifty years have passed, and we still have far to go along these lines,’” Pope Francis added. (source)
There are two interesting trends here.
First, is that Central Africa may have many Christians and former Muslims, but a lot of these people are “questionable Christian” as much as they were “questionable Muslim”, because there is so much paganism among them, including heinous practices such as cannibalism. This is not to say there is not hope for them, that they are less than human, or that one should just ‘give up’. Rather, however, it is to be aware that many of these people’s view of religion is not based on sound beliefs, but is a curious amalgamation of paganism and Christianity.
A question, and a trend to watch for the future, is to see if this new ‘Zairean rite’ helps to abolish the paganism, or whether it just unintentionally worsens it.
Second, and a more pressing issue, is the emphasis on the “Amazon” and an ‘Amazonian rite’.
It was a year ago when the ‘Pachamama’ controversy started that captured the attention of the Catholic world and what Shoebat.com wrote about as being as problematic as the man, Alexander Tschugguel, who “exposed” it, for he also worked extensive with Germanic groups and people bearing extremely close ties to paganism, and when pressed on the pagan issue, refused to address it and instead chose to attack us.
However, I do not wish to say that the objective criticism of the Pachamama by Tschugguel or others is bad. The Pachamama nonsense is evil and has no place in the Church because it is but a gateway to paganism with no redeeming qualities. That said, the fact that Pope Francis would couch the creation of an “Amazonian rite”, something very suspicious which he tied to his “Dear Amazon” letter that was tied to the Pachamama controversy, to the Zairean rite.
It cannot be directly concluded right now that it is so, but a trend to definitely watch for will be the application of this or other ‘rites’ as but a cover to advance the most theologically questionable ideas. If the saying ‘as goes the Church, so goes the world’ is true, then the practical embrace of pagan ideas naturally would inspire paganism in other parts of the world, especially Europe, and of which the only end could be conflict.