African Zairian Rite celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica – UPATED: Meanwhile, Down Under….

In Rome, Francis “presided” at a Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the “Zaire Use” of the Roman Rite (“Zairian Rite” according to the announcer), so far the only “inculturated” Rite approved, in 1988, since the Second Vatican Council. Apparently, the Zairian Rite was put together in 1961.  Congolese bishops asked for approval in 1969.  Congo was Belgian colony and there was a strong influence in one strain of the 20th century Liturgical Movement in Belgium.

Francis decided not to go to Congo, so they did something in St. Peter’s Basilica. He “presided”: sat there and preached. Another Archbishop was at the altar.

(There is, according to the broadcast announcer, another approved African Rite, the Ge’ez Rite, an adaptation which I understand is based on the ancient class of Alexandrian rites (which includes the Rites of St. Mark, St. Basil, etc.). It is used in Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, I think this is something else. It is an adaptation of something ancient whereas the Zairian Rite was put together.)

Do you suppose that in Congo, where the “Zaire Use” is, that Use is used faithfully according to the rubrics of that Use whenever it is used?   That’s what Francis said he wants in Desiderio desideravi, right?  The document he signed says, “50. … [T}he art of celebration is not something that can be improvised.” Of course when the Vetus Ordo is used, it use is so consistent that you can go anywhere in the world and it will in almost all liturgical respects be as if you were at home.

In any event, in St. Peter’s there was all sorts of spontaneous clapping and dancing and singing and shouting, as one would expect in the Zairian Rite.

BUT… the Vetus Ordo must be suppressed.

There was some jabber about the Zairian Rite during the Pachamama Synod (“walking together”) about the Amazon. If Zairian, why not Amazonian? The same thing was attempted by early Jesuit missionaries in China. The were fairly quickly suppressed. Common thread: they were illicit experimentations, but one got approval.

In the document after the Pachamama Amazon Synod (“walking together”) Francis said that the Second Vatican Council called for such liturgies, inculturated, and that, decades out from the Council we have a long way to go.  (Querida Amazonia 82)

The implication of the proliferation of “inculturated rites” makes the head spin, especially in view of the hatred and fear shown by many in power for the Roman Rite.

There is only so much fragmentation that can occur before, because of differences in Rites, there are effectively different religions. We are our Rites.

So, the Zairian Rite is celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s, Francis presiding.

Will he preside at the Roman Rite celebrated in October for the annual “Summorum Pontificum” celebration? Come to think of it, will there have to be a new name for the Summorum Pontificum meeting in Rome? How about the Traditionis custodes pilgrimage?


If it is okay, even desirable, that there should be efforts in the Roman Catholic Church to minister to people who, being in different cultures, want to express themselves in those cultures as Catholics, then isn’t in okay, even desirable, that there should be efforts in the Church to minister to people who want to be Roman Catholic?


A reader sent:

Below is a link to the opening Mass for the Second Assembly of the Plenary Council in Australia. In the video (the beginning, in particular) you will find invocations of the ancestral spirits (for a bit of irony, the plenary motto is taken from Rev 2:7 et al), coals from the smoking ceremony placed in the thurible, and an anticolonial Catholic-critical rant.

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  1. redneckpride4ever says:

    I’d have to check again, but I believe Zaire Use is a variation of the Roman Rite.

    I believe you’re correct about Ge’ez being a form of Alexandrian. I do know it is the rite of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church and is the used liturgy. I am pretty sure the Ethiopian Catholic Church uses both Ge’ez and Novus ordo Roman.

    Personally I am a huge opponent of Latinizations in the Eastern Churches. I think the liturgies should be identical to their Orthodox counterparts. Likewise, the Novus ordo is in some ways an Easternization of the Roman Rite (i.e. standing for communion representing the risen Christ).

    As for this post…I’m happy to see a defunct Rite (or Use) brought back. I just wish this would apply to all liturgical practice. For me this goes beyond the Tridentine Mass. I’d love to see a widespread revival of various Latin Rites as we’re approved in Quo Primum (older than 200 years at the time).

    And when I day revival, I mean in their most Traditional form.

  2. redneckpride4ever says:

    Please forgive the typos in my first post. Fat fingers and spell check don’t always mix on a phone.

  3. summorumpontificum777 says:

    The Vetus Ordo must suppressed because of the people who like the Vetus Ordo, i.e., the bete noire of this papacy: conservative, restorationist Americans. No enemies to the left, no friends to the right. The Spirit of Vatican Two will never be until the last right-wing American trad is strangled with the entrails of the last Ecclesia Dei priest.

  4. rtjleblanc says:

    Wait! Are you saying that the Novus Ordo is NOT the exclusive and unique expression of the Roman Rite?

  5. Longinus says:

    This Mass was supposedly for the DRC. One wonders why they did not use the music of the Congo which was that country’s first (and very fine) example of inculturalization: The Missa Luba. Composed and recorded in 1958. (
    I suppose that because it was composed using the hated Latin language the Roman “powers that be” considered it beneath the dignity of a celebration in St Peter’s basilica.

  6. Lurker 59 says:

    Much of this stems from a Protestant understanding of liturgy as man’s response to the saving actions of Christ. If that which is done on Sunday is man’s praise of God for what has been done in the past, then of course it makes perfect sense that what be done be an expression of the culture of man and his works as an offering in response to a past historical act of God. It makes perfect sense that the liturgy must be an expression of the local community, its particular voice, its particular talents, etc. Even when we look at the less liturgical and more, shall we say “spirit-filled” communities, what is celebrated on Sunday is still man’s response to the continued outpouring of the newness of the spirit in a plethora of charismatic gifts.

    It makes sense if you see the liturgy as man’s egotistical response of a community’s particular personality, culture, and gifts. Even if this is couched in terms of offering to God the first fruits of what He has given, it still is something that is rooted in the self and an anthropocentric view of the cosmos for what is celebrated is the grandure of man or man’s use of the gifts of God rather than a celebration of God for who He is alone.

    The Apostolic Liturgies (TLM, the NO as far as it is connected to TLM, and the Eastern Rites) are not these things. What they are is the action of God, not a remembrance of a past event but the making present and an eschatalization of the present. It is something that God does that man has a privilege to participate in. The action exists independently of man’s participation. As such, the cultural and cultic elements that are particular to a Rite are not the primary focus of what is done or offered but are accidentals by which the substance of Christ’s action is made manifest. Just as the Eucharist is the very person of Christ but comes to use in bread and wine, the liturgy the very divine action of Christ as High Priest made present to us in “the accidents” of the particular Rite. It is the same mistake to think that what is there is, in substance, bread and wine, as it is to think that the substance of the action be the particular individualism, personality, and culture of a local people.

    TLM is hated for the same reason as it is in Protestantism: because it rejects the personality of the individual and the local community as fundamental, because it says that God’s action is fundamental, because it dares to say that man participates and cooperates in the very action of God, because it says that man is to be conformed to God rather than to be liberated by the spirit to whatever end he might so choose so long as he might praise God for that end.

    /There is also the issue that TLM sort of says that the heathen culture of the new world is sort of rubbish and needs to be redeemed. What is often overlooked is that TLM (as well as the eastern rites) also say that the modern culture is rubbish, and not just the modern modern culture but the liturgy has always done that — it has always been a glimpse into a better culture because the culture comes from God not from man. TLM/Eastern Rites rub people who are attached to their culture and their egoism the wrong way.

  7. Mike says:

    . . . isn’t it okay, even desirable, that there should be efforts in the Church to minister to people who want to be Roman Catholic?

    Even preferable? Even obligatory?

  8. Jennifer says:

    This item reminded me of the ‘Missa Luba’, a setting of the old Latin Mass using traditional Congolese styles of music recorded in 1958. I have always loved it & it is available on youtube.

  9. TWF says:

    The Ge’ez rite would have evolved organically in Ethiopia from the Coptic/Alexandrian rite. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was under the Coptic Pope until 1950 or so… and the Ethiopian Catholic Church is derived from the EOC.

  10. Francisco12 says:

    I find all this fascinating. I would be very interested in seeing video of the Mass.

    “(There is, according to the broadcast announcer, another approved African Rite, the Ge’ez Rite, an adaptation which I understand is based on the ancient class of Alexandrian rites (which includes the Rites of St. Mark, St. Basil, etc.). It is used in Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, I think this is something else. It is an adaptation of something ancient whereas the Zairian Rite was put together.)”

    You are basically correct, Father. The Ge’ez Rite is, one could say, a local usage of the Alexandrian Rite. There are three Eastern Catholic Churches that worship according to the Alexandrian Rite: Coptic, Ethiopian and Eritrean. The latter two particular Churches worship according to the Ge’ez Rite, and really the only difference I’m aware of as it pertains to worship between those two particular Churches and the Coptic Catholic Church is the language.

    The Ge’ez language, like Latin and Church Slavonic are not the vernacular but are now sacral languages. Fancy that, eh? However, at least from my experience, there are some latinizations in the Eritrean and Ethiopian Catholic Churches (as has been seen, for instance, in the Chaldean Catholic Church) which includes the Divine Liturgy said versus populism in some places and the vernacular used, namely Amharic and Tigrigna. One article detailing this found below:

    But yes, Father, this liturgy for “Ge’ez Catholics” is very ancient and very beautiful. Certainly, organic development was allowed to play out here as was done in the Latin and Byzantine Rites.

    It saddens me that one such venerable Liturgy is allowed, and another in the ancient Roman Rite is all but suppressed. It also saddens me that and adaptation like the Zairian Use is allowed so faithful Catholics can express themselves in their culture, and yet faithful Catholics who also want to worship our Lord according to the culture of their ancestors are disallowed in many places. This reminds me to pray evermore.

  11. Uniaux says:

    Boy does Australia look like it’s in sorry shape. Sounds like the church needed an exorcism before that Mass. Whatever was being attempted will undoubtedly not convert pagans to Catholicism, but end up corrupting the hope of those who are lukewarm.

    On the flip side, maybe the didgeridoo could be used for the addition of droning under Gregorian chant? “Missa Digeridu”

  12. Kathleen10 says:

    There is a saying we don’t hear much anymore in the states. “He’s treated like a red-headed stepchild.” This is when your new step-parent treats you badly because you’re not his and, you have red hair to boot. In the church today, Francis and his bishop allies openly treat Catholics who love the ancient Mass as red-headed step-children. As in the dysfunctional family where some children are favored and treated better than others, Vetus Ordo Catholics are ostracized, punished, singled out for bad treatment, and on top of that, called names for not liking it. Just like the red-headed step-children, Latin Rite Catholics are told they deserve the bad treatment, they brought it about by causing “division”. Just like telling red-headed step-children they brought about their mistreatment by not finishing their dinner, it’s all a ruse, a pretense. That abusive treatment was coming whether or not Johnny ate that potato or Vetus Ordo Catholics saluted the VII flag to a sufficient degree.
    Obviously, anyone who would single out children or faithful groups to punish them has a moral and psychological screw loose. There is something seriously wrong with anyone who would do this type of thing. It’s the cruelty often born out of unlimited power given over to a malevolent personality. When the entity in power holds all the cards but continues to beat and flog the lower, continues to deny them dinner (Mass) and tries to get others to join them in their cruelty, what can be said of that, it originates from a black heart and black soul. There is no love of God there. No one who truly loved God could act in such a vicious way toward the one they were charged to care for. Real, deep sickness of the soul and personality is made manifest for all to see.

  13. Ceile De says:

    What are we to make of a motu proprio that directly contradicts Pope Benedict’s teaching that the traditional liturgy was never abrogated and of an apostolic letter that never once even mentions him or his teaching? I think the explanation lies in the fact that reason is now as deprecated as tradition. It stands in the way of enforcing one’s will. Also, the message of submission to raw power is more readily assimilated than persuading somebody by the power of fully researched argument. They want tou to know they do not rely on reason. Remember, 2+2=5…

  14. Irish Timothy says:

    Let’s call it what it is: bloody stupid and disrespectful to do that before mass.

    I wonder if the same thing goes on in mosques? Me thinks not!

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: the imagined “Missa Didgeridu” — Many drone instruments were used in medieval/Renaissance/early modern sacred music, IIRC.

  16. Blog Goliard says:

    The talks that needed to be given before the Australian Mass could proceed were telling in two ways.

    First, in that people felt prefatory speechifying of any sort was needed (much less at such length). Ours is such a relentlessly, flatfootedly didactic age; as the Holy Father just noted, we’ve been losing our grasp of symbolic action, so of course liturgy gets bracketed and squeezed and invaded by the imperative to lecture, working hand-in-hand with the exasperating creativity.

    Second, in that representatives of two groups of people, two heritages, were brought forward to do two very different things: one to express pride in and rhapsodize on the sacredness of her heritage, the other to recount and wallow in the shame of her heritage.

    I bet those responsible congratulated themselves afterwards for going to such lengths to ensure everyone felt welcomed, valued, accepted, respected, and equal in God’s eyes.

  17. OzReader says:

    Bp Costelloe from Perth is meant to be in charge of the Plenary Council. He is typically quite vocally supportive about pro-life causes, and traditional marriage. Not sure on liturgical matters, but the diocese had at least some 3 TLMs before the motu proprio (pop 2mil or so).

    The Aboriginal country stuff has gone too far… Or maybe I’m just a cynic having seen real “culture” at work.
    It’s perpetuated by burned-out hippies come Bishops who seem to make up their own Eucharistic Prayers, which I think I experienced once (who knows though, with so many options in the NO!).

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