Let Africans Honor Ancestors with Blood Libations in Mass Says Bishop

'Is there a way to integrate this custom with their Christian belief as a step towards meaningful inculturation?'

A Roman Catholic archbishop in South Africa has suggested that a libation of blood—a ritual pouring as a symbolic sacrifice honoring the ancestors of black Africans—should be incorporated into local Catholic liturgies such as the Mass. Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, of Bloemfontein, recently raised the issue in an article in South Africa's Catholic weekly publication, The Southern Cross."Sacrifice to the ancestors continues to be a very common practice among Africans," Archbishop Tlhagale said. "The slaughtering of an animal—cow or sheep—takes place wherever there is a funeral or a marriage feast, or in times of illness, unemployment, family feuds or the birth of a child."The practice should be considered within the context of inculturation, according to which local, indigenous culture and values are a means of presenting, reformulating and living the Christian faith, he suggested. In an interview with Ecumenical News International (ENI), Archbishop Tlhagale said that white Christians who balked at the idea of blood libations "are not talking from the same experiences" as black Africans. "There is a clashing of cultures. All I'm trying to argue is that even sophisticated black Christians slaughter animals as part of their tradition of communing with their ancestors at important occasions in their lives."Is there a way to integrate this custom with their Christian belief as a step towards meaningful inculturation?" he asked.The archbishop told The Southern Cross that he was not suggesting reverting to Old Testament times (when the Jewish people sometimes performed animal sacrifices), but the custom of spilling blood "is alive [in Africa], and cannot be ignored in the context of inculturation.""The ritual and the language of ancestors ...

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