By Paul Samasumo - Vatican City
The liturgy must touch the hearts of local Church members says Pope Francis in a preface he penned for a book that was launched on Tuesday afternoon and published with the title, in Italian, Pope Francis and the Roman Missal of the Dioceses of Zaire. The book is edited by Sr. Rita Mboshu Kongo, a Congolese religious sister based in Rome.
Pope Francis' celebration of Mass according to the Zairean Rite
The launch of the book comes exactly one year after Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for the Congolese community based in Rome, Italy. The Mass was celebrated according to the Zairean Rite used by Dioceses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on 1 December 2019, in the Basilica of St Peter. The Mass commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy in Rome.
Only Inculturated Rite of the Latin Church
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 Rite
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.
Cultural vibrancy and spirituality
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.”
A model for an Amazonian Rite
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.”
An invitation for Inculturated Liturgies
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.
The editor of the new book, Sr. Kongo, is a Religious of the Daughters of Mary, the Most Holy, Co-Redemptrix. She is a Professor of Spiritual Theology at the Pontificia Università Urbaniana in Rome. The book consists of contributions from Maurizio Gronchi, Jean-Pierre Sieme Lasoul, Oliver Ndondo and Silvina Perez.