The Zaire Rite is a favorite of liturgists. It seems that everybody from Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis thinks it is a good idea and a valuable fruit of the Second Vatican Council and a good example of the liturgical renewal that it promoted.
However, the reality is that very few have personally participated in a celebration of this liturgy. The few examples that Pope Francis has presided in the Vatican or on his recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo are the closest that most of us have come to participating in a Eucharist celebrated according to this edition of the Roman Missal.
During the Amazonian Synod, the possibility of similar adaptations that could be used in the regions of the Amazon was proposed. Not many specifics have emerged yet from these proposals. But this week several stories (here, here and here) have appeared from the Dioceses of San Cristóbal de Las Casas in the South of Mexico. The news stories report that Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, the emeritus bishop of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, is coordinating an effort to provide something similar to the Zaire Rite that will “incorporate in the Catholic Eucharistic celebration indigenous Mayan rites, such as dance, music and the participation of women.” This will be presented to the Mexican bishops’ Conference in April and then in May it is scheduled to be delivered to Rome by Bishop Víctor Sánchez, the head of the Mexican Bishops’ Pastoral liturgy commission.
Cardinal Arizmendi Esquivel’s interview took place at the end of a meeting in Chiapas that was also attended by Bishop Aurelio García Macías, undersecretary of the Dicastery for Divine Worship. The current bishop of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez, was also in attendance and said how
Estamos trabajando en una reunión que es importante para la Diócesis, el país, la Iglesia de México y la Iglesia universal en cuanto a adaptaciones litúrgicas.
(We are working in this meeting on liturgical adaptations that are important for the Dioceses, the country, the Church in Mexico and the Universal Church).
Unfortunately, none of the news reports contain any specific details. PrayTell already reported in 2014 that Pope Francis authorized the celebration of the liturgy in Tzotzil and Tzeltal, two languages used in the State of Chiapas. The incorporation of dance, song and the vernacular are nothing new. Likewise, the “participation of women” is not something novel, particularly in light of Pope Francis’ opening of the Ministries of Lector, Acolyte and Catechist to women.
I know that not all readers on PrayTell agree with me (see here), but I don’t think that there is such a great need for inculturation that goes beyond the current liturgical books and norms (while I do acknowledge that not every attempt at the implementation of these reforms has been successful). Basically everything that these recent reports focused on is already permitted. The vernacular, local music, local art and architecture are all fully permitted and examples abound. Maybe I am a throwback to some Tridentine past, but I think that what is needed both in areas of traditional Catholic heritage and in regions where the Faith is more recent, is a proper implementation of the current Roman Rite. So much remains to be done in implementing the reform we already have and fostering a coherent ars celebrandi. But I do acknowledge that I am probably in the minority here and the presence of Bishop García Macías at the meeting is significant. Hopefully more will be revealed by the Mexican bishops in April or when they make their proposal to the Dicastery in May. But in the meantime, readers can point out in the comments what they think and enlighten me as to what I am missing in the Inculturation area.