Synod in Rome affirms an Amazonian Rite

The final document of the Amazon synod, after voting this afternoon on each individual paragraph, was passed in its entirety. A 2/3 majority was required for passage. Pray Tell offers a quick, unofficial translation from the Spanish of articles 116-119 which treats inculturation of the liturgy. (Corrections and improvements from readers are welcome.) The text is noteworthy for being carefully written and based upon the prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council and the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This document now goes to Pope Francis, who has final authority to accept or adopt any of its recommendations.

D. Rite for Native Peoples

116. The Second Vatican Council opened spaces for liturgical pluralism “for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples” (SC 38). In this sense, the liturgy must respond to culture in order to be the source and summit of the Christian life (cf. SC 10) and be experienced as linked to the sufferings and joys of the people. We must give an authentically Catholic response to the request of the Amazonian communities to adapt the liturgy by valuing their native worldview, traditions, symbols and rites that include transcendent, communitarian, and ecological dimensions.  [Passed 147-22]

117. In the Catholic Church there are 23 different rites, a clear sign of a tradition which, since the earliest centuries, has sought to inculturate the contents of faith and its celebration through a language as coherent as possible with the mystery to be expressed. All these traditions have their origin in the function of the mission of the Church: “Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture: in the tradition of the ‘deposit of faith,’ in liturgical symbolism, in the organization of fraternal communion, in the theological understanding of the mysteries, and in various forms of holiness.”  (CCC 1202; cf. also CCC 1200-1206). [Passed 140 to 27]

118. It is necessary that the Church, in its tireless labor of evangelization, work so that the process of inculturation of the faith be expressed in the most coherent ways, so that it can also be celebrated and lived according to the languages of the Amazonian peoples. It is urgent to form committees for translation and writing for biblical and liturgical texts in the unique languages of different locales, with the necessary resources, preserving the matter of the sacraments and adapting them in form, without losing sight of what is essential. In this sense it is necessary to encourage music and singing, all of which is accepted into and encouraged by the liturgy. [Passed 156 to 12]

119. The new organization of the Church in the Amazon must form a competent commission for studying and dialoguing, according to uses and customs of ancestral peoples, on the development of an Amazonian rite which expresses the Amazonian liturgical, theological, disciplinary, and spiritual patrimony, with special reference to what the Lumen Gentium affirms for Oriental churches (cf. LG 23). This would add to the rites already present in the Church, enriching the work of evangelization, the ability to express the faith in one’s own culture, and the sense of decentralization and collegiality which are able to express the catholicity of the Church. There could also be study of and proposals for how to enrich church rites with the ways in which these peoples care for their territory and relate to their waters. [Passed 140 to 29]







22 responses to “Synod in Rome affirms an Amazonian Rite”

  1. Austin Fleming Avatar

    Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

  2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
    Anthony Ruff, OSB

    I see that 27 voted against article 117, which first describes the existing rites of the church, and then quotes at length from the Catechism. What do you suppose they were voting against? The last 2000 years which developed a variety of rites, or the Church’s official catechism??

    1. Jack Wayne Avatar
      Jack Wayne

      That’s kind of a silly question coming from you considering your own positions, but maybe they’re affraid it will open a sort of Pandora’s Box for the whole Church in regards to local rites or are worried the rites won’t actually accomplish what they are intended to and don’t want history used to legitimize it. Did they vote against 117 only, or againt the whole group?

    2. Joshua Vas Avatar
      Joshua Vas

      It is possible they were against the citation of the historic liturgical traditions as a justification for the introduction of a newer rite, or wished more clarity. Or maybe they wanted an expanded paragraph.

      In any case, if they were voting against the introduction of an inculturated liturgy, it would be rather silly to pass this paragraph and vote against the rest. There would be no point in this paragraph by itself other than being used to justify/introduce an inculturated liturgy.

    3. Carl r. Opat Avatar
      Carl r. Opat

      Sadly I think the church as a whole is divided between progressive and traditional. Both sides ignore what they want of the past and documents to further their cause at all costs.

    4. Adam Booth, CSC Avatar

      This isn’t how language works. When I cut a paragraph from a document I’m writing, it’s not necessarily because I think the contents are false, but because I no longer consider the paragraph to support the rhetorical impact I want to have on my reader. I’m not saying that I would have voted against this paragraph, just that I don’t think you can read a “no” vote as a positive vote for the negation of a paragraph. Rather, it represents a rejection of the claim that this paragraph would be literarily / rhetorically helpful.

      One possible reason for a no vote is that someone might find the analogy between the recognition and creation of a rite to be strained.

    5. Pete Williamson Avatar
      Pete Williamson

      Fr. Ruff,

      Are you not opposed to multiple rites in certain situations by the very fact that you oppose “Summorum Pontificum” which makes allowance for the celebration of the Tridentine rite?

      1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        I follow Vatican II. That’s why I oppose Summorum Pontificum – it allows a rite which the Second Vatican Council decided would not remain in use any more except in its revised form.

        I also follow Vatican II on ritual diversity, which is affirmed in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

        As I’ve said many times: the ritual diversity of Roman, Ambrosian, Zaire, etc. rites is of a totally different type of diversity than allowing the done-away-with Tridentine rite alongside its replacement. None of the legitimate cases of ritual diversity in the church concern two very different historical versions of one and the same rite being in use at the same time. None.


    6. Sebastian Walter Avatar
      Sebastian Walter

      I could imagine they were not okay with describing the 23 established rites as “mere” inculturations.

    7. Alex Sheffield Avatar
      Alex Sheffield

      I’m curious Anthony, have you ever actually read Ratzinger on this? I’ve looked at your comments across the years on this issue and I’ve come to the conclusion that you seem ignorant of the justifications that Ratzinger provides for Summorum Pontifium.

      As to earlier and later versions of the same rite, you’ve already been informed that the Dominican rite was an earlier version of the Roman rite that coexisted with later versions of the Roman rite (also its use was not just limited to the Dominican order). So I don’t understand why you keep repeating that two historical versions of one rite never coexisted.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        There are no justifications for Summorum Pontificum.

        The document was circulated to the French and English bishops before publication. Both conferences begged Benedict not to publish it, knowing the problems it would cause. He ignored them, and indeed they were proved correct.

        A provision for a tiny remnant who wished to continue in their old ways has been used as a springboard for overt proselytising, something that was never envisaged. Benedict himself said that those benefiting from the provision would die out in the fullness of time, not that they should actively try to increase their numbers. This was not helped by the fact that Benedict lied when he tried to claim that Paul VI had never actually abrogated the previous rite, when he knew full well that he had.

        The fact that EF followers continue to claim that theirs is the only true rite and that the OF isn’t, and even that they are the only true Catholics while the rest of us aren’t, is nothing less than scandalous. Benedict should be ashamed of this divisive legacy to the Church.

  3. Brian Culley Avatar
    Brian Culley

    This is very exciting!
    As Anthony says it’s a little mind boggling that 27 voted against… HISTORY?

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      They prefer fake news?

  4. William Fredereick deHaas Avatar
    William Fredereick deHaas

    Human nature – afraid of change and a church that changes (note the votes on married priests and women deacons also ran around 30-40 negative votes.

  5. Chip Stalter Avatar
    Chip Stalter

    is no one concerned about this statement?

    “In this sense, the liturgy must respond to culture in order to be the source and summit of the Christian life”

    So we are to embrace culture, undefined as a tribal culture or just the cultural norms of the time, rather than stand against it? And liturgy must do this to be the source and summit? I know I’ll get blasted on here but wow.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      There’s a significant difference between responding to culture and embracing it. When I see the verb “respond,” I think of it as part of a conversation. That seems different from a sellout to some scary perception of the Amazon region. People who live and serve there are best placed to discern. That’s not me, and it’s probably not anybody else on this thread.

      Speaking as an outsider, I think some elements of racism/colonialism in Liturgiam Authenticam probably need to be addressed. Cultural expressions of music and art, most likely.

      Let’s keep in mind that Thomas Aquinas was responsible for a significant theological inculturation from pagan ancient Greece. We did okay with that. Maybe the Amazon will produce a few doctors of the Church over the next century or two. Wouldn’t that be a good thing rather than a stalled evangelization ceded to evangelicals, the LDS, or pagans?

      1. Gerard Flynn Avatar
        Gerard Flynn

        Considering that it is language which is the primary vehicle of culture, there are more elements in Liturgiam authenticam than racism/enculturation which need to be addressed.

      2. Chip Stalter Avatar
        Chip Stalter

        If culture was better defined in the document in ways that limited it to your examples I might become convinced. I’m concerned by the ambiguity in the document’s statement on culture, and the notion that culture allows liturgy to be the source and summit, rather than the sacrament.

      3. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        Chip, I think it’s important to remember that Vatican II, and any synod like this one, are not the last word, but the first. The great virtue of ambiguity in discernment is to allow for the movement of God among people and their thoughts and imagination. Nearly every person on a pilgrimage experiences ambiguity: should I marry? should I serve in ministry? should I go to the cloister? should I get this job or that? should I marry this person or another? The list can be long and daunting. Ambiguity is the experience of having good choices and seeking the best of them all. I don’t think it’s anything to fear.

        As for which comes first, liturgy or culture, we have a touchstone, the Roman Rite. Given that, if large numbers of people aren’t finding source and summit there, it isn’t likely to be their fault. More likely, the problem lies with clergy and liturgy people. That would be the time to adopt the approach of St Paul.

    2. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

      I think the statement about responding to culture could certainly be given a benign sense, and I suspect it was meant benignly. But I think Chip has a point. I find references to “culture” in Church documents in general to be sloppy and theoretically naive. This is one of my chief complaints about much of what gets said about “inculturation,” liturgical and otherwise. It seems to presume that we all know what “culture” is, when this is in fact a highly contested notion. It is difficult to tell whether this statement about liturgy and culture is merely anodyne or calling for radical liturgical change.

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        I think radical changes were the unfounded fears of 1978-2013. In fact, the period of wild experimentation was over, and the Roman Rite had settled down into adapting scholarship, consultation, and a better degree of artistry into the liturgy. What we got instead certainly hasn’t advanced the cause of evangelization or even good liturgy.

        As for culture, perhaps a focus on the arts: language, movement, sights, sounds–human aspects that touch the senses. It would seem the widest definition to be able to accomplish the mission in the best ways with the most people.

        Despite my feeling I’ve encountered some unexpected dawn in the Church, my sense is that I’m in some alternate 1950. Hope is here, but on-the-ground reform and the verve that goes with it is still a generation away, and the level-headed scholarship another ten years beyond. I will likely be dead by then–not what I had imagined when I was studying in the 1980s. But at least we have hope.

  6. jsc Avatar

    When Paul wrote that we are “slaves to sin…slaves to Christ..” he was “speaking humanly”; that is, using terms from the immediate culture around him. And what else might he do? He couldn’t spread the Gospel using mathematics. Hermeneutics requires good faith dialogue between texts and readers, one person and another–even one culture and another. Fritz, perhaps you could suggest another way for the document to convey its point without using the term ‘culture’?

    Todd’s point about Aquinas’ theological inculturation is apt.

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