Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, is currently hosting the inaugural international Congress of African Liturgists from December 4 to 8. The congress, themed “The state of the liturgical question in Africa: achievements, challenges, and prospects,” aims to revisit Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 60 years after its promulgation.
During the opening Mass on December 4, Robert Cardinal Sarah, the Guinean Cardinal and former Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, emphasized the significance of liturgy to Christians. He expressed concern over the distortion of the Paschal mystery by placing excessive emphasis on African and Asian cultural elements during liturgical celebrations.
Cardinal Sarah lamented the prolonged Eucharistic celebrations, stating, “We place so much emphasis on these cultural elements that our celebrations sometimes last six hours.” He criticized the liturgies for being “too banal and too noisy, too African and less Christian,” cautioning against viewing liturgy merely as a matter of pastoral efficiency.
Reflecting on the Diamond Jubilee of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Cardinal Sarah decried the increased “improvisation of creativity” over the past sixty years. He warned against the liturgical reform turning into a “liturgical desolation” rather than a renewal of the church and ecclesial life.
Looking beyond Africa, Cardinal Sarah expressed concern about the dismantling of faith and piety values in the West. He called for a rediscovery of the Trinitarian origin of the liturgy and urged attendees to pray for this rediscovery.
The Cardinal praised the Congress of African Liturgists as a “historic” event of vital importance for the future of the Church in Africa. He emphasized the need for liturgical specialists to help the faithful live their faith and Christian religion fully.
As the Congress unfolds, participants will explore the journey of the people of God in Africa in relation to the Sacrosanctum Concilium Constitution. Fr. Josaphat Wasukindi Mbindule, the Secretary of the Scientific Committee of the Congress, highlighted that discussions would also focus on “the liturgical practice and fidelity of the ecclesial communities of Africa in relation to the Christian tradition and the authentic values of African cultures.”
The Congress is poised to conclude on Friday, December 8, coinciding with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It stands as a milestone in the exploration of liturgical practices, marking a significant moment for the Christian religion on the African continent.