By Justin McLellan | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Indigenous communities in Colombia are calling for a new rite in the church that reflects their varied spiritualities and lifestyles, Colombia’s bishops said.
About half of the country’s bishops met with Pope Francis March 24 to end their ad limina visit to the Vatican, the first for Colombia’s bishops since 2012.
Bishop Omar de Jesús Mejía Giraldo of Florencia, whose diocese sits along the border of the Amazon rainforest, told journalists that the pope is encouraging Colombia’s bishops to continue researching an Amazonian rite and remain close to the region’s Indigenous communities.
“In this moment the church is asking CEAMA, the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon Region, to reflect deeply and thoroughly to see how we can make inroads toward an Amazonian rite,” he said.
The bishop said that Pope Francis told them the Vatican would not “shut down” the development of an Amazonian rite and that “there will arrive a moment where (the church) will discern it thoroughly.”
Bishop Mejía said the prospect of Amazonian rite was the main point of discussion in the bishops’ hour-long meeting with Cardinal Roche, prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, March 23.
“The bishops that work in these areas had the opportunity to tell (the Vatican) the cultural variety and richness of these original peoples in terms of languages and spiritualities,” he said. “Indigenous communities are not monolithic, they are so many.”
Bishop Mejía said one practice CEAMA is looking into is the purification rituals of the Amazon’s Indigenous communities, which involve stepping into the smoke produced by burning branches and aromatic plants.
Yet he noted that any conclusions still remain distant. The bishop referenced the creation of the Zairean Rite used in Congo and approved by the Vatican in 1988. Priests celebrating Mass in the Zairean Rite dress in traditional African priestly vestments and dancing is permitted among the congregants, among other liturgical differences from the Roman Rite.
“The bishops that worked in that region said they took 27 years of research and being close to the different cultures to decide on the formation of a rite,” he said, so for bishops in the Amazon, “it’s about at least starting the process.”
In September 2022, a delegation from CEAMA submitted a proposal for the institution of the Amazonian rite to the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Bishop Mejía said that while there remains a “very long process of prayer and reflection” before any action is taken, the Amazon’s bishops are buoyed by the support from Pope Francis.
“The pope is telling us: Dive in, be creative, be in communion with the church but have some creativity, too,” he said.