Pope Francis is praising an inculturated African Mass rite as a model for a proposed Amazonian indigenous rite even though the African Eucharistic liturgy incorporates the pagan custom of “invocation of ancestors.”
“The Zairean rite suggests a promising way also for the possible elaboration of an Amazonian rite,” writes Francis in his preface for a new book titled Pope Francis and the Roman Missal of the Dioceses of Zaire: A Promising Rite for Other Cultures.
The Zairean Mass, sometimes called the “Congolese Mass,” is “until now the only inculturated rite of the Latin Church approved after the Second Vatican Council,” claims Vatican News — although the Vatican also approved “Twelve Points of Adaptation” for a Hinduized “Indian rite Mass” in 1969.
Commending the Zairean rite for its cultural vibrancy and spirituality, Pope Francis says that the liturgical inculturation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is an invitation for enhancing the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, thus enriching humanity.
“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,” observes Francis.
This is not the moment to include half-baked theological speculations in the liturgy.
The pontiff insists that liturgical inculturation in Africa and the Amazon is possible “without upsetting the nature of the Roman Missal, to guarantee continuity with the ancient and universal tradition of the Church.”
Francis commendation of the Zairean Mass comes a year after the pontiff celebrated a special Mass for Rome-based Congolese Catholics in St Peter’s Basilica using the Zairean rite. Liturgists, however, are disturbed by pagan elements in the Zaire Mass, especially the rite of the “Invocation of the Ancestors of Upright Heart (invocation ancetres au coeur droi),” together with the saints in the opening rites of the Holy Mass — particularly as the congregation may even invoke their pagan ancestors.
In comments to Church Militant, Dr Joseph Shaw, editor of The Case for Liturgical Restoration explained the biblical, theological and liturgical “absurdity” of incorporating the invocation of ancestors into the liturgy.