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By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol January 22,2016 - 12:15 AM

Altar boys lead a procession at the start of a Mass in a church in Panglao, Bohol in this photo by Nathaniel Luperte that won third prize in the IEC Photo Contest. The eucharistic congress opens on Sunday in Cebu City.

Altar boys lead a procession at the start of a Mass in a church in Panglao, Bohol in this photo by Nathaniel Luperte that won third prize in the IEC Photo Contest. The eucharistic congress opens on Sunday in Cebu City.

Kissing of priest’s  hand among Filipino traditions sought by CBCP when celebrating Mass

Aside from having the Mass celebrated in Filipino and other regional languages, how about “kissing” the priest’s hand – the traditional  gesture of touching one’s forehead to the outstretched hand of an elder – before  a lector reads aloud sacred scripture?

Proposed changes like this are meant to combine  local culture in public worship and have more people participate because it’s more meaningful.

Speakers during the second day of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress theological symposium in Mandaue City discussed the need to  “inculturate” or adapt the liturgy in accordance with a country’s culture.

“Human culture needs to be taken into account in both understanding and celebrating the liturgy. Inculturation involves a double movement that enriches both the liturgical tradition of the church and local cultures,” Fr. Mark Francis told 1,500 people gathered at the Cebu Doctors’ University auditorium in Mandaue City yesterday.

Liturgy refers to the words and ceremonies used in public worship of religion.

The celebration of the Mass in native tongues instead of Latin was a major reform in the Catholic Church during Vatican II in the 1960s.

In the Philippines, a move to adapt a  “Misa ng Bayang Pilipino (Mass of the Filipino People) was introduced several years ago in the  Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which submitted it to the Vatican.   It remains pending.

The proposed changes included the gesture of “mano po”  or kissing the hand of the priest by  touching one’s forehead, a popular Filipino gesture of respect, when the lecter greets the priest before reading selected passages of the Bible.

Not just personal

Another proposal is to let the priest first  distribute  holy communion to everyone before he receives the sacred host.

This echoes  another Filipino tradition of hospitality in which the host of the meal waits until his guests have eaten before partaking of the food.

Until now the Vatican’s Congregation of Divine Worship has yet to send a response, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said in an interview.

Fr. Francis, one of two forum speakers yesterday,  holds a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome.

He said there must be a dialogue between the Church and human culture in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Unfortunately, more than 50 years after the reform of the liturgy was approved by the Second Vatican Council, Fr. Francis said the Church is still in the process of implementing the changes.


Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the IEC Pontifical Committee and the long time liturgist of St. Pope John Paul II, said openness to dialogue and adaptation to the various cultures is an important aspect of the liturgy.

“As an activity of the entire people, the liturgy has an intrinsic need for adaptation,” he said during his speech he originally delivered in Italian and was translated to the participants in English.

Marini said even Pope John Paul II called for the adaptation of local cultures in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

“Dialogue with culture was for him (John Paul II) a necessity for advancing God’s kingdom,” he said.

Fr. Francis said the Catholic Church, for a long time, has been identified with  European culture.

Rigid uniformity

However, statistics released by Georgestown’s Center for Advanced Research in the Apostolate in 2014 revealed that only 300 million of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics are European or North American.

The overwhelming majority of Catholics, the research said, come from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Fr. Francis said it is important for the Church to continue to reflect on its relationship to human cultures, particularly in the field of liturgy.

While some people resist inculturation of the liturgy, Fr. Francis explained that the Church should be reminded that it is sent to “all ages and nations,” and “not tied exclusively and indissolubly to any race, or nation.”

Even in the liturgy, Fr. Francis said the Catholic Church has no intention to impose rigid uniformity on matters that do not affect the faith or the good of the whole community.


Instead, it respects and fosters the talents of the various races and peoples, he said.

Fr. Francis said the authority of translating liturgical books into vernacular used to be the responsibility of the bishop’s conferences of every country.

However, he said the Roman congregation for divine worship eventually placed the translations under its own authority.

Pope Francis called for the decentralization which would, in effect, return to the responsibility of translating the liturgical books and inculturation of liturgy back to the bishops’ conferences of every nation.

Among those which got Vatican’s approval to add cultural considerations in the Eucharistic celebrations are Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) and India.

In Zaire, Francis said, prayers and ritual elements flow directly from African sensibility, spirituality, and cultural values.

They invoke saints and ancestors at the beginning of the Mass, place the penitential rite as a preparation for the exchange of peace, and use dance as well as African images and metaphors in prayer texts.


Despite some structural differences and the use of African symbols, Fr. Francis said Masses in Zaire are sill patterned on the Roman rite.

In the Philippines, Fr. Anscar Chupungco proposed what he called “Misa ng Bayang Pilipino” several years before he died in January 2013.

Theologians, pastors, sociologists, cultural anthropologists, and experts in linguistis worked hand in hand for the project.

The Misa ng Bayang Pilipino was reviewed by an ad-hoc committee of bishops and in 1976 was unanimously approved by the CBCP.

It was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation of Divine Worship in 1991 for approval. To date, no response was received by Filipinos.

“The urgency present at the beginning of the liturgical reform to inculturate the liturgy seems to have dissipated,” Fr. Francis said.

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TAGS: 51st International Eucharistic Congress, Cebu, faith, IEC

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