Kenya: Card. Arinze on inculturation

Our friend Fr. Blake has a good piece about Card. Arinze, Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni (oh yah… and also Prefect of the CDWDS) about inculturation.

Be sure to check out Fr. Blake’s page.

Emphases and comments mine.


Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Church’s head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments recently made a speech in Kenya in which he criticized liturgical abuses and protested Masses where the recklessly innovative priests act as “Reverend Showman”.

The Nigerian-born Cardinal Arinze, who is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, was in Kenya to conduct a workshop and a retreat on liturgy for the bishops, according to CISA. While he was at the Catholic University of East Africa, the cardinal delivered a public lecture in which he discussed the importance of following liturgical rubrics and the proper place of inculturation in the liturgy.

The cardinal discussed sentiments that cause errors in worship, such as

  • regarding everyone as an expert in liturgy,
  • extolling spontaneity and creativity to the detriment of approved rites and prayers,
  • seeking immediate popular applause or enjoyment,
  • ignoring approved liturgical texts.

He said that liturgical abuses were often due to an ignorance that rejects elements of worship whose deeper meaning is not understood or whose antiquity is not recognized.

Cardinal Arinze clarified the nature of the reforms of Vatican II, saying they must be seen as continuous with the past rather than as a dramatic break. “The Catholic Church is the same before and after Vatican II. It isn’t another Church,” he said.

Some aspects of liturgical rites can be modified according to pastoral needs. “The Church does not live in the Vatican Museum,” [Excellent!  I usually say "Jurrasic Park", but this is good!] the cardinal said. However, he said that incorporating local traditions into the practice of the faith, which is known as inculturation, should be compatible with the Christian message and in communion with the universal Church.

Inculturation, he said, “should make people part of a Church which is universal but also local.”

Cardinal Arinze attacked distortions of inculturation, saying, “It is a caricature of inculturation to understand it as the invention of the fertile imagination of some enthusiastic priest, who concocts an idea on Saturday night and tries it on the innocent congregation the following morning. He may have good will, but good will is not enough.”

The cardinal also condemned individualistic experimentation, saying, “the person who of his own authority adds or subtracts from the laid down liturgical rites is doing harm to the Church.”  [For example….. washing the feet of women on Holy Thursday?]

Proper inculturation, the cardinal said, required bishops to guide the introduction of new elements into worship. Innovations should take place only after careful consideration, after bishops have set up a multi-disciplinary group of experts to study a cultural element to be included in the liturgy.

The group of experts should then make their recommendation to their bishops’ conference. If both the bishops’ conference and the Holy See approve the innovation, after limited experiment and “due preparation” of the clergy and the people, the new element may be incorporated. “Otherwise it is wild liturgy,” said Cardinal Arinze.

Cardinal Arinze characterized a successful celebration of the Mass as one that “manifests the Catholic faith powerfully, encourages those who have the faith already, shakes up those who are slumbering and those who are at the edge, and makes curious those who are not Catholics at all.”

The Mass must send Catholics home “full of joy, ready to come back again, ready to live it and to share it.”

The cardinal encouraged future priests’ proper formation in liturgy and the ongoing liturgical formation of both clergy and lay people.

I would only add that in the necessary and inevitable process of inculturation, going on all the time, what the Church has to contribute to the dynamic exchange must be logically prior to what the world (local culture) has to contribute. 

Otherwise… disaster.

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16 Responses to Kenya: Card. Arinze on inculturation

  1. Mark M says:

    He criticized liturgical abuses and protested Masses where the recklessly innovative priests act as “Reverend Showman”.

    Amen. But tell that to these folks, particularly here.

  2. Tom Lanter says:

    I have seen more than my share of liturgical abuse and I know some of it is sinful when is it a mortal sin?

  3. Kradcliffe says:

    Mark, that was really disturbing. I couldn’t watch the whole thing. Did I see a family get up and leave?

    Do teenagers really need to be talked down to?

    I love me some Cardinal Arinze. He is the bomb-diggity! God bless him and all our priests.

  4. Mark M says:

    I couldn’t watch all of it either. I watched the first one (grimacing, with veins ticking in my head), then gave up during the second one. I wanted to weep, and it would be tears of anger.

    A friend of mine is in such a tizz about it she is writing to the Bishop in Peoria, Illinois.

  5. Kradcliffe says:

    Have you shown her Father Z’s tips on how to write a bishop? They’re on the left side of this page, below the calendar.

  6. Deborah says:

    That is fine and good that the CDW says that legitimate inculturation is permitted however what does that mean?

    The CDW needs to give people at least some real examples of inculturation or most will make it into just about anything. It is comparable to telling someone to eat a healthy diet and then never giving them a list of foods that are actually healthy for the body.

  7. David Kubiak says:

    What a great thing His Eminence feels sufficiently inculturated to
    the European traditions of the Church that he is wearing the ferraiolo.
    I hope we see this more with major prelates.

  8. Guy Power says:

    Deborah: … legitimate inculturation is permitted however what does that mean?

    I would think something like the Chinese art depicting the Stations of the Cross would be a good example. The paintings are in a style familiar to Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese; yet, the message is strongly Catholic.

    http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2008/documents/ns_lit_doc_20080321_via-crucis_it.html

    However, borrowing from Haight-Ashbury tie-dye culture in SF to “update” the Mass, or dancing in the aisles during an African Mass would seem to me to be malfeasance, not “inculturation.”

    Regards,
    –Guy

  9. Melody says:

    Those stations are beautiful Guy.

    To cite an example from my parish:
    We have a large group of Vietnamese. Now, in the Buddhist religion, Lunar New Year is a time when atonement is made for the previous year in addition to festivities.
    So on their New Year’s, my parish offers extra confession on that day as well as a special mass of thanksgiving and prayers for the coming year.

  10. TNCath says:

    Is His Eminence scheduled to the U.S. Bishops anytime soon? The “Reverend Showmen” of the U.S. could certainly use a curtain call.

  11. TNCath says:

    Is His Eminence scheduled to give this workshop to the U.S. Bishops anytime soon? The “Reverend Showmen” of the U.S. could certainly use a curtain call.

  12. schoolman says:

    I think a proper inculturation could also include things such as using locally available olive branches rather than palm leaves for Palm Sunday.

  13. Mike says:

    Father Z,

    2 questions about this: 1) at the beginning of Palm Sunday Mass, the Pastor spilled Holy Water on his vestments in front of the congregation…he yelled out “OOPS… I just want you to know that I spilled Holy Water. I didn’t want to get to the front and ya’ll thinking it was something else…(nervous laughter).” THis completely ruined the solemnity of the Mass for many of us. Was this liturgical abuse? 2) also, during Agnus Dei, the guitar choir leads it “Jesus Lamb of God, you take away….”. Can they do this or must they follow the words of the prayer exactly…I may be picky on this, but it does bug me that this choir can do this.

  14. Mike: No that wasn’t a liturgical abuse. Poor guy was just flustered, I think. Too bad, but understandable perhaps.

    Your second point is a trick question, I think. Guitar is always a liturgical abuse. o{];¬)

    But I think there is some leeway for the Agnus Dei when it is repeated during the fractio panis.  Others will no doubt chime in.

  15. Card. Arinze, unless sick or dead before Pope’s death, will be the next Pope for sure.

  16. Mark M says:

    See that’s what I heard too, Luís!