Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Last Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for the Congolese community based in Rome. The Mass commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy in Rome.
Cardinal Frederic Etsou inaugurated the Congolese chaplaincy in 1994 following requests by Congolese nationals in Italy.
Congolese Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass according to the Zairean or Congolese Rite officially known as the “Congolese Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire.”
Some observers remarked that the Sunday Mass reminded them of the First African Synod when the African Church got the nickname of a “Dancing Church.”
A people of God rejoicing to the sound of drums
After the First African Synod, Pope Saint John Paul II, in his Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa, reminisced, “The Church which is in Africa celebrated with joy and hope its faith in the Risen Christ during the four weeks of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. Memories of this event are still fresh in the minds of the whole Ecclesial Community,” said the Pope. He would go on to add, “From the opening Solemn Eucharistic Liturgy which on, 10 April 1994, I celebrated in Saint Peter’s Basilica … Africa was present there, in its various rites, with the entire People of God: It rejoiced, expressing its faith in life to the sound of drums and other African musical instruments … That is why I myself greeted that moment of grace in the words of the Psalmist: ‘This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’”
It was a particularly powerful endorsement from Pope Saint John Paul II.
The joy of the Congolese community in Rome
In a vote of thanks after last Sunday’s Mass, Sister Rita Mboshu Kongo, a Theologian and University Professor, expressed the joy of the Congolese community and jokingly told the assembly of how Pope Francis had baulked at the idea of celebrating the extended form of the Congolese Rite.
“On behalf of the whole Congolese community, we wish to express to you what comes from the depths of our hearts: Our joy is great to see that today, our dreams and our desires have become a reality. To our request to you, to be with us on 1 December to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our chaplaincy; the 25th anniversary of the beatification of Isidore Bakanja, Catechist and martyr, and also to celebrate with us the feast of Blessed Anuarite, this was your answer to us: ‘Yes, I will be with you and I will pray for you, but not for a long four-hour Holy Mass as you normally do,’” Sr Kongo revealed, as the congregation chuckled.
The canonisation of Blessed Anuarite and Blessed Bakanja
The Congolese community had a special request: The canonisation of Blessed Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta and Blessed Isidore Bakanja. Both are Congolese martyrs.
“Holy Father, like a father in a family, we ask you not to tire of us. We are your children. Our dream is to see these two Blesseds, Anuarite and Bakanja, both martyred for their faith and fidelity to the Church; our hope is to see them enrolled in the canon of other Catholic martyrs. We wish to see them held up as models of faith for the universal Church,” said Sr. Kongo.
A silent genocide is happening the DRC
The religious sister also made a passionate plea for peace in the DRC.
“In the space of only 20 years, the DRC has recorded an unprecedented number never before known in human history, and yet nobody talks about it … it is a genocide that is not recognised, and one that we strongly denounce. The genocide is taking place in total silence worldwide. From our point of view (as Congolese), this is not right, and it is offensive to us.” She continued, “Pope Francis … some of us here in the Basilica do not know where their relatives are, they do not even know if they are still alive or dead,” the religious said as the Holy Father listened attentively.
The Congolese Rite
Africa has two rites that are particular to Africa. There is the Ge’ez Rite approved by the Vatican for use by Catholics of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Then there is also the Zairean or the Congolese Rite.
The Congolese Rite is a variation of the Roman Rite. This liturgical rite fits into Congolese culture and takes into account African life and culture.
The Rite encourages the participation and engagement of the congregation. Among other liturgical rituals and gestures, this engagement of the faithful takes the form of liturgical dance. Congregants move gracefully in Church as an expression both of their faith and joy.