Oct 15, 2006

Report on the Congress for the Promotion of Liturgy in Africa and Madagascar

Online Edition – October 2006
Vol. XII, No. 7

Report on the Congress for the Promotion of Liturgy in Africa and Madagascar


The Congress for the promotion of the Liturgy in Africa and Madagascar organized by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, Vatican City, took off at the Christian Village, Kumasi, Ghana on July 4, 2006. The host was the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The Congress drew the participation of most of the countries of Africa and Madagascar under the presidency of His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The participants set out to explore how to celebrate the Liturgy and live it as truly the source and summit of Christian life in Africa. The procedure of the Congress included daily celebration of the Eucharist, common celebration of the Lauds, Midday Prayer and Vespers. There were plenary sessions in which commissioned papers, reports from National Episcopal Conferences and interventions were given. Workshops were also done in four Anglophone groups and three Francophone groups and their reports given in plenary sessions. The major themes of the Congress were: General overview of the work of the Congregation and of the state of the Liturgy in Africa and Madagascar 40 years after Vatican II, Translations, Inculturation and Liturgical Formation.

Overview of the Work of the Congregation
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation, gave the overview of the Congregation charged with responsibility to look after all about divine worship on behalf of the Roman Pontiff. He explained the various functions of the Congregation. The Congregation has four Sections. Two of them handle liturgical questions, such as editing or revision of liturgical books, recognitio of translations, approval of particular and proper calendars and liturgical vigilance and promotion. The other two deal with juridical matters concerning dispensations for clerics and married people. He stressed the need for the acceptance of the aspects of the sacred and the mystery in liturgical celebrations.

Formal Opening Ceremony
The official opening ceremony was attended by the participants and a cross- section of government representatives and the Christ’s faithful of the Archdiocese of Kumasi. Representatives of other Christian groups and Islam were also present. The President of Ghana was represented by a senior Minister, Mr. J. H. Mensah.

The highlight of the opening ceremony was the message of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, encouraging the Congress “to ensure that the praise of God in your beloved country is proclaimed in authentic African voice expressing the exuberance and the faith in life that are so characteristic of your peoples and which make of Africa ‘a new homeland for Christ’ (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 6)”. Our Holy Father added, “When due care is taken to preserve all the essential elements, a sensitive inculturation of the Liturgy enables the faithful to enter more deeply into the mysteries that they celebrate, to proclaim them with confidence and to live with joy.” The Congress participants received the Apostolic Blessing of His Holiness.

Visit to Asantehene
A special event of the Congress was the visit to Otumfo Osei Tutu Il Asantehene (the King of Asante), who accorded the participants a special warm and lavish reception in his palace. He praised the role of the Catholic Church in Ghana in the fields of education, health and social development and was full of praises for the openness of the Catholic Church to cultures.

Commissioned Papers
The following presenters gave commissioned papers: Abbe Martin Bahati, “L’Avenir de la Liturgie en Afrique”; Abbe Jean Pierre Kwambamba Masi, “La traduction des textes liturgiques dans les langues vernaculaires: De l’admissions de la langue dans la liturgie a la Recognitio du Siege Apostolique”; His Eminence, Peter Cardinal Turkson, “The African Vision of Inculturation in the Light of Vatican Council II”; Monsignor Gerard Njen, “Criteres et Directives de l’inculturation de la liturgie”; Archbishop Norbert W. Mtega, “The Work of Translation as carried out by the National Liturgy Commission of Episcopal Conferences”; Abbe Antoine Essomba Foudd, “La formation liturgique du peuple de Dieu (Eveques, Pretres, Seminaristes et religieux, catechistes et autres fideles. L’organisation de la liturgie au niveau paroissial, diocesan regional et national)”; and Monsignor Richard Kayondo “Liturgical Formation as an Integral Part of Liturgical Renewal”.

Reports from the Episcopal Conferences
Reports from the various countries showed that the renewed Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council was well- received, even though it has still to impact the Christian life and spirituality. Structures for the implementation of the reformed Liturgy are in place but their impact is not fully felt in the life of Church in some of the countries — much work has been done on the translation of liturgical texts but some reported the existence of many local languages and shortage of experts for professionally acceptable translation. It was also observed that liturgical texts in the editio typica were not easily available either because of cost or ignorance of their existence and importance. There is notable development of local music for the Liturgy but there remain also musical texts translated into local languages but retaining the European tunes. Inculturation is taking place but there is need for further clarification and direction so that the initiatives are backed with serious study and due process of discussion in the National Bishops’ Conference followed by voting and forwarding to the Roman Congregation for the necessary recognitio.

Resumé of Points From Presentations, Workshop Reports and Discussions

The following points emerged from the presentations, reports and discussions:

1. The Liturgy is the source and summit of the Christian life and the life of the Church. The Church and Liturgy are so intertwined that one cannot be without the other; hence the importance of the Liturgy and the need for due attention to it by all in the Church.

2. It came out clearly that Liturgy is about the worship of God in adoration, praise, thanksgiving, contrition and petition but true and authentic Liturgy must flow into the lives of the people to make them love one another and be better persons. Liturgy is a life-transforming experience. Lex orandi, lex vivendi.

3. Liturgy is not just about celebration. It is also an opportunity for catechesis. Lex orandi, lex credendi. The Ecclesia celebrans is at the same time Ecclesia docens. Our faith manifests itself in the Liturgy and the Liturgy celebrates the mysteries of our faith.

4. Liturgy must be relevant and meaningful to the people, hence, the absolute necessity of inculturation of the Liturgy so that the people will not only hear the marvels of God proclaimed in their own tongues but also praise God with their own voices. Therefore, faith and worship that are not inculturated have still a long way to go.

5. One of the first steps in inculturation is translation through which the rich heritage of the Church’s liturgical texts is rendered in the languages of the people. Language is a primary vehicle of culture. Translation of the liturgical text is important. lt has to be done diligently following the norms and regulations given by the Apostolic See, especially in the document Liturgiam authenticam.

6. Liturgy is not merely a local affair and certainly not a private matter. It links the local community through the particular church to the Universal Church in affective and effective ecclesial communion. Therefore the Apostolic See wisely regulates the liturgical texts and their translations. Even when a language is not known at the universal level, the Apostolic See exercises vigilance and coordination through recognitio of the text duly translated and approved by the Bishops’ Conference of the place where the translation comes from. Each Conference should have one of its bishops as its link with the Congregation in discussion of translated texts.

7. There are evident problems in Africa because of the multiplicity of local languages. While accepting the advantages of worshipping in one’s own language, it may not be feasible to translate the liturgical texts into all local languages. It is for the diocesan bishop and the bishops’ conference to determine the languages into which liturgical texts will be translated. In doing this, they have to bear in mind the availability of personnel and resources to carry out the work of translation.

8. Translation has to be faithful to the editio typica that is, the officially promulgated Latin text. One is not free to invent or create a new text under the guise of translation. For the translation to be faithful to the text in the editio typica the translator has to be well-versed in the original language of the text. Deep knowledge of Latin is therefore required.

9. The participants acknowledged that in general the knowledge of Latin is poor in Africa and, recommended strongly that a serious study of Latin and Greek in the seminaries and higher theological institutes be undertaken.

10. Also required for faithful translation is expertise in the target local language, linguistics, theology, anthropology, and other cognate disciplines. Translation requires interdisciplinary cooperation. Where one language is spoken in many countries, it is advisable that the Bishops’ Conferences of the countries in question set up an International Translating Commission, for example, as in the case of Swahili.

11. The centrality of the Word of God in the Liturgy is evident. There is therefore need to have the Bible translated into the local language. The text used in the Lectionary and Divine Office has to receive the recognitio of the Congregation.

12. Provision of liturgical texts and their translation demands a lot of resources which are not readily available in Africa. However, we need to make their provision a priority. Funds for this project should be sourced both locally and externally. Efforts should be made to get liturgical books published locally at affordable costs. Organizations like the Paulines can be of help.

13. The dignity of the Liturgy demands that everything used in the celebration be decent and of good quality. The use of proper liturgical books such as Missals, Lectionaries and the Book of the Gospel is seriously urged. The use of leaflets and brochures, to replace such liturgical books especially on the altar and ambo, is to be discouraged.

14. To underscore the importance of Liturgy in the Church in Africa, there is need to send more priests, religious and also lay people for training in liturgy. These people will be animators of liturgy in the various particular churches. Courses for liturgical officials (Masters of Ceremonies, Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Communion, Mass servers, etc), should be organized at the diocesan level or by episcopal conferences.

15. The importance of culture was highlighted: “The future of man depends on culture”. There must be a synthesis of faith and culture. Similarly worship has to be made relevant and intelligible by making use of elements of the people’s culture. Inculturation belongs to the very process of evangelization. Inculturation has a Trinitarian dimension. It takes its inspiration from the incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In inculturation, we seek to incarnate, plant, insert the Christian message and Christian life in a given cultural situation using the elements proper to that culture, as Christ did. The Church accepts all that is noble and good in the culture of the people and welcomes them subject to the double criteria of compatibility to the Gospel and openness to the universality of the Church.

16. Inculturation is not the fruit of hasty undertaking or solo effort but an organic process of assimilation that involves the whole community under the action of God’s spirit and the guidance of the Church’s hierarchy. Three processes must be distinguished: accommodation, adaptation and inculturation. While “accommodation” involves choices from already approved rites, adaptation goes beyond the boundaries of one diocese and calls for some decisions by the bishops’ conference, as specified by the liturgical books. Inculturation puts heavier demands on the bishops’ conference: deeper study of chosen cultural elements, discussion, voting and submission to be approved by the Apostolic See by way of recognitio.

17. It is important to follow the norms issued in this matter by the Apostolic See so that inculturation will bear lasting fruit of faith and holiness. It is therefore important that the Church does not follow momentary impulses and effervescent emotions of enthusiasts in this matter, under the notion that the Spirit blows where He wills. There is the duty of the Church to discern the manifestation of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of order.

18. In selecting elements for inculturation care must be taken to keep to the genuine sense of the liturgy, so as not to introduce elements that distract from the liturgy or that do not agree with the genuine spirit of the liturgy.

19. The introduction of dances in the Liturgy in Africa does require careful discernment. There are many types of dances in Africa. Only a dance which meets one of the reasons for the liturgy (adoration, praise, thanksgiving, repentance, petition) need be considered. People do not come to Mass in order to be entertained. Diocesan or regional liturgical commissions and monasteries can help in discerning dances that are prayerful and fit for worship.

20. Bishops have the duty to see to it that only properly approved Catholic hymns are used in our churches. Music commissions and theological experts have an important role. Each Catholic hymn book should have at least one bishop’s approval.

21. The place of silence in the liturgy was highlighted. Silence as a form of interior reflection and deep reverential adoration as well as creating space for an intimate conversation with the Eucharistic Lord is to be promoted. It is important that silence be observed when it is indicated in the liturgical books.

22. In all, efforts at inculturation will respect the substantial unity of the Roman Rite. The Roman Rite is flexible enough to accommodate particular modes of worship that have been organically developed in accordance with the norms especially in the document Varietates Legitimae.

23. The Church in Africa is encouraged to do all that is possible to see to it that the places of worship are properly constructed and fittingly furnished according to local needs and taste but also respecting proven liturgical tradition. Similarly, the sacred vessels and vestments used in divine worship are to be decent and of good material. They can at the same time reflect indigenous designs.

24. There is a crying need for adequate initial and ongoing formation of all the members of Christ’s faithful in Liturgy. The formation is for every member of the Church: bishops, priests, seminarians, consecrated men and women, catechists and other lay members of Christ’s faithful. More emphasis and attention are to be paid to liturgy in the seminaries, other houses of formation and theological institutes in Africa.

25. Bishops’ conferences are to organize seminars/workshops on liturgy. Similarly, diocesan bishops are to do the same in their various jurisdictions. There should be more emphasis on liturgical catechesis to inculcate not only the love of the liturgy and sense of the liturgy but also to increase the understanding of the people about the mysteries that they celebrate and the rites and symbols used in the celebrations.

Other Significant Events
An aspect of the Congress that deserves mention was the visit by the participants to the cathedrals and parishes in Kumasi Archdiocese and Obuasi Diocese. The participants celebrated the Holy Eucharist with the communities and were warmly received by them. The participants were able to see for themselves the lively participation in the liturgy by the members of Christ’s faithful in the places where they visited.

The Congress came to an end with the closing Eucharistic Celebration with the clergy, consecrated men and women and lay members of Christ’s faithful of the Archdiocese of Kumasi on Sunday, 9th July 2006 at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Kumasi.

Appreciation and Gratitude
The participants were impressed with the organization of the Congress and the smooth running of the program. They expressed their gratitude to His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith and all the officials of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Vatican City.

They also appreciated the support given by the Apostolic Nuncio in Ghana, His Excellency, Most Reverend George Kocherry. They also expressed their appreciation to Ghana Bishops’ Conference for ably hosting the Congress at a great cost to the conference, Archbishop Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Archbishop of Kumasi, Most Reverend Gabriel Anokye, Auxiliary Bishop of Kumasi and the clergy, consecrated men and women and lay faithful of Kumasi Archdiocese performed excellently in their organization and hospitality.

May God bless them and all who collaborated with them to make the Congress comfortable and successful.

Laus Deo Semper!
Kumasi, 9th July 2006

Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary



The Editors