Zaire Rite in Mexico

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.


Cover art:San Andrés Xecul church, Guatemala, from Wikimedia Commons







13 responses to “Zaire Rite in Mexico”

  1. Fergus Ryan Avatar
    Fergus Ryan

    The extent to which the Zairean rite is really a separate rite is seriously debatable. I’ve copies of the books involved, in the French version, and there are really just a few little changes to the Roman rite.
    There is greater emphasis upon the village cultures being oral cultures – and the bishops’ introductory text mentions this – so, rather like ancient cultures introducing a king before he speaks, the deacon picks up the Gospel book and announces Christ is about to speak…the Alleluia then continues. It reminds me to Game of Thrones and “Mother of Dragons” being presented in court before she speaks. The pre-Gospel moment is clear in the Masses celebrated by Pope Francis, both in Saint Peter’s and more recently during his trip to Africa. To be honest, while I appreciate the (what seems to me) indigenous chanting of the deacon on raising the book of the Gospels, I wonder whether the rite is somewhat of a duplication, or rather too late in the celebration….Christ speaks to us and is present in (all) the scriptures, surely? The Gospel passage does have a unique place and the Gospel procession is a parousia and preparation, with Alleluia, for proclaiming the paschal mystery, but all the readings can be said to concern Christ, the Word of God.
    There is a trend in the ritual pattern offered for the Eucharist Prayer to prefer greater simplicity, e.g. using only the Second Eucharistic Prayer and in the post consecration acclamation.
    I am told by priests from Congo, etc. that the Zairean rite is rarely used among the peoples for whom it is intended. Since it is consituted of just a few elements added to or substituting elements of the typical Roman rite, I’m rather underwhelmed by it.

  2. Charles Kramer Avatar
    Charles Kramer

    The proposals for various communities in Latin American to have their own variant missals undermines the recent push to have a single expression of the Roman Rite.

  3. Alan Griffiths Avatar
    Alan Griffiths

    It is most regrettable that EP 2 sems in many places to have completely ousted, not merely the native Anaphora of the Roman Rite (EP1 for Generation Z) but the other modern EP’s also.

    I am a regular visitor to Italy, where I know of only 1 priest who uses EP3 on Sundays. Everywhere else I have been to Sunday Mass there seems to use EP2. In Italy it has a special insert for sundays, so that sort of ‘legitimises’ it, I guess.

    EP3 is a fine and beautiful text. It is such a pity to see it slipping into oblivion, to say nothing of EP4.


    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar
      Todd Flowerday

      My pastor prayed 4 this past weekend, for about the third time in the last six or seven months. It struck me as very appropriate for the Second Sunday of Lent, especially this year. Perhaps we are training too many clergy in canon law and not enough in liturgy.

      1. Alan Griffiths Avatar
        Alan Griffiths

        That’s reassuring. I can’t remember the last time I heard EP4 in a parish church (except for the times I used it in my last Parish).

        As to your comment on training, I think the Holy See needs to do something drastic in the light of Desiderio Desideravi about liturgical formation in seminaries.


    2. Devin Rice Avatar
      Devin Rice

      I agree with you. But the realist in me thinks that if EP2 is going to be the default, perhaps we could edit the prayer to make it more suitable for regular use. Perhaps incorporate more of the original source material? Still keep it significantly shorter than EP3 though, since that seems to be main factor favoring its use.

  4. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    We alternate between 2 and 3 on Sundays. We get 1 on Maundy Thursday. 4 never appears, nor the alternative EPs for reconciliation etc.
    I miss the pre 2011 translation of 4.

    1. Alan Griffiths Avatar
      Alan Griffiths

      Hear! Hear!

      I miss it too.


      1. John Page Avatar
        John Page

        And more!

      2. Fergus Ryan Avatar
        Fergus Ryan

        It was heretical! “unus es Deus”, addressing God the Father, was translated as “you alone are God”, which I used to change when using it for the brief period I had to use the 1974 Missal after ordination. At least now it says “you are the one God”.

      3. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        FWIW, the “alone” was removed in the 1975 Missal.

  5. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    I was always under the impression that the extended Gathering Rites were the most significant difference between the Zairean Rite and the Roman Rite, but as I have not personally attended one I cannot say for sure. There are YouTube videos around, so they might repay watching.

    I’ve often thought that the Gathering Rites are make-or-break time. If we don’t get these right, what follows will not have its full effect. It takes time for us to “prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries”, and that time can vary. What mostly happens at the moment is that we seem to go through the motions because it’s what’s in the book; but by the time we get to the end of it are we really prepared to listen to the Word and respond to it in Eucharist?

  6. Alan Griffiths Avatar
    Alan Griffiths

    Watching (I think) the ‘Zaireean’ Rite from St. Peter’s Basilica, it seemed to me that Paul is right. The opening rites, and also the preparation of the gifts, were elaborated somewhat.

    They are the points in the Mass where such elaboration seems appropriate, and also, I would add, where too much elaboration can be too much of a good thing.

    In Orthodox Liturgy, there are plenty of ‘gathering’ rites before we get to the Readings, and those sections are the descendants of processional and other liturgies that preceded the Liturgy of the Word. Also of course the Proskomide of the bread and wine forms a lengthy and elaborate preparation.


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