Sunday, May 12, 2024

Australian bishops decide on Mass rite for indigenous people

Bishops and representatives of the Council of Catholic Indigenous Australians present the Mass "Land of the Holy Spirit"

The Australian bishops have decided on a rite for a mass celebration with elements of the culture of indigenous Australians. 

The specifications for the Mass "Land of the Holy Spirit" (Missa Terra Spiritus Sancti) for the celebration in the diocese of Broome were approved by the plenary assembly on Tuesday, announced the Australian Bishops' Conference

Masses with traditional elements and in the languages of the indigenous people have been celebrated in Western Australia for over 50 years. 

This celebration is now to be officially recognised on a permanent basis. 

This still requires the approval ("recognitio") of the Liturgical Dicastery is required.

The mass was first authorised "ad experimentum" in 1973 by the then Bishop of Broome. 

It is celebrated in various local languages and originally comes from Bidyadanga in the Kimberley region, which is why it is also known as Missa Bidyadanga and Missa Kimberley. 

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council describes the liturgy as a "distinctive Mass that beautifully blends Catholic tradition with Aboriginal culture, creating a unique celebration of faith that has served the diocese for over five decades". 

The Mass is not just a liturgical practice, he said, but "a witness to the deep-rooted connection between our faith and the rich culture of Native peoples." 

It is a bridge that connects spiritual beliefs with the ancient wisdom of the original custodians of the land, according to a letter from the Council to the Bishops' Conference. "It is a concrete expression of the Church's commitment to recognising and honouring the spiritual and cultural dimension of the lives of indigenous peoples, thereby fostering an environment of inclusion and respect," the Council continued.

Inculturation of the liturgy on several continents

"We must walk together with the indigenous peoples. I am delighted that the Missa Terrae Spiritus Sancti has been officially recognised by the bishops of Australia after such a long period of use," said the Apostolic Administrator of Broome, Michael Morrissey. 

"We recognise that there are many Indigenous cultures in Australia and we pray that they will all be guided by the Holy Spirit to develop the best way to celebrate the Eucharist in the most appropriate way with their people and in the life of the Church."

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), in its liturgical constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium" that, while maintaining unity, "room should be left for legitimate diversity and adaptation to the various communities, regions and peoples, especially in the missions". This included the revision of the liturgical books. 

After the Council, the Zairian Rite of Mass an inculturated liturgical rite was recognised by the Church. 

As a follow-up to the Amazon Synod (2019), the Amazon Church Conference CEAMA is currently working on an Amazonian rite of the liturgy.