THE Christian Church in Africa has been much in the news lately: murders, ambushes, raids, exiling, they are all going on.
M the recent Requiem for the Jesuits and nuns killed in a raid on
their Rhodesian mission, a black priest preached and, with some bitterness, blamed the white government of Rhodesia rather than the guerrillas (or whatever you want t0 call there) who actually pulled the triggers. Some angry whites walked away from the Mass with the usual racial expletives on their lips.
The Church faces the accusation of representing disguised colonialism, of being a form of religious aggression in Africa. It is now trying hard and bravely to make any such accusation meaningless.
The Church has the problem of suiting itself to the culture as well as the politics of Africa. Not to do this is to be left high and dry as an alien intrusion.
Perhaps the greatest missionary the Church produced was Fr Ricci in the 16th century, He went to China and went native. Indeed he thought the Chinese his superiors in everything except the religion that he had to offer, He made himself into a Chinese scholar, and his calligraphy was treasured as the work of a master. He died in Peking.
His work. and the work of the Jesuits who followed, were ruined by the friars who came later to the harvest and persuaded Rome to impose a dreadful uniformity. espeCially in the matters of the right term to use for God in Chinese, and the pious veneration (not worship) of ancestors.
It left the Church appearing to be stupid and vulgar to sophisticated Oriental eyes.
The danger in Africa lies again in insisting on uniformity and in following Helloes sad remark he did not mean it quite as it lies on the paper: "Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe," It certainly is not, At present the Church in the Far East has adapted itself a good deal. In India. in Korea, in Japan, unmistakable national traits have crept into the liturgy and prayers.
In parts of India the Mass still the Mass has a vague, slightly
Hindu air. In parts of Africa they have already adopted some of the African ceremonials and use African drums in choir.
But there are fewer and fewer white missionaries, nor are they always welcome, 'Numbers increase, but it is hard for so poor a people to educate their own clergy to the accepted standard. In The Clergy Review a missionary in Uganda suggests parttime priests based upon the present use of catechists. Fr Paul Crowley, M I I M, describes a time when he had to go away and leave behind a visiting priest who did not know the language. The local catechist preached and said all the prayers during Mass except those at the Consecration. He also helped give communion to the huge congregation,
suggests, should he auxiliary priests in rural parishes which arc sometimes as big as English counties. They cannot stay Catholic wit hout the Eucharist.
In the country, millions are lucky to hear Mass once a month, and the numbers are s increasing. People "live in sin" and die without priests.
Such auxiliary priests would raise the question not only of educational standards but of celibacy as well. The culture of Africa expects marriage and families.
After all, the Greeks have married priests of a high-school level of education in their parishes. They are one with their people and their Church has lasted out the centuries in a real holiness.
It would he good if in Africa the Church dared to take the initiative before zi ruin to match that of the Orient is made.
Mass absolution in Memphis
THERE are a large number and a wide variety of alienated Catholics. Some of them, after a rigid Catholic upbringing, have been separated by a sense of sin which they have rationalised or learnt to live with. An American bishop has
used the new Rite of Absolution as an act of reconciliation for such people.
Bishop Dozier of Memphis, Tennessee, held two acts of public and general absolution and, on one occasion, in a sports arena. conferred this sacrament on nearly 12,000 people out of a technical 43,000 Catholics in his diocese.
The act was carefully prepared with publicity in the secular and religious Press. It was made quite clear that people in serious sin should go to private confession within the year.
It was also explained that in cases of irregular marriages and the Press rightly latched on to these here remained, after the absolution, an obligation to regularise such marriages.
If this was impossible the local churches had to take on responsibility for the wellbeing of the parties who sought reconciliation. I take this to mean that they had to be told what's presently what in as loving and helpful a way as possible.
Such general absolutions are about as old as Christian participation in formalised fighting, By tradition these acts are confined to far-flung missions, to battlefields and to unmanageable disaster areas. In effect, they have only been used in emergencies.
But Bishop Dozier considered that the apparently unbridgeable gulf between alienated Catholics and the Institutional Church constituted an emergency.
A number of public people held up their hands in conventional horror at what he did, but no official condemnation or criticism was made.
The Bishop said he thought that the new rite provided "a beautiful way for the Church to reach out and invite these inactive Catholics back." He also said he had been overwhelmed by the number of people who came to the Mid-South Coliseum for this sacrament of reconciliation and by the change of attitude of the people.
Priests reported a marked