Too much mixing between Catholicism and traditional faith

Too much mixing between Catholicism and traditional faith

We need to focus on catechism for adults !

Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, reported by Agenzia Fides, Johannesburg 20/9/2021

Some ten years ago, I was the Parish Priest of a rural Zulu Parish near Pietermaritzburg. The people were having many ancestral ceremonies, alongside but not integrated in their Catholic faith and practice. As I insisted in being invited, as Parish Priest, to these events, I started being more and more interested in trying to evangelise those practices. Unfortunately, I left South Africa too early. (signed: Philippe Docq)

Poverty, racism and the influence of ancestral cults are among the greatest challenges to evangelization in South Africa. This is what the Archbishop of Johannesburg, His Exc. Mgr. Buti Tlhagale said to a group of new missionaries.

“There is still a lot of racism in South Africa, it is always under the carpet, below the surface”, said Tlhagale, adding that this translates into economic inequality where a minority is fine and the majority is ill. The Archbishop said he sees a lot of young people in Johannesburg going mad because of the dire situation they are facing due to realities like unemployment. “They sleep on the streets, they lose their dignity, they beg for food, and eventually you can see that there’s something abnormal about their behaviour”, said Archbishop Tlhagale. He pointed out that apart from material problems there’s a lot of brokenness amongst the people of South Africa which results in a loss of hope.

The Archbishop questioned the role of the laity in the society at large wondering whether they go out to make in impact on the society, motivated by their faith to try and change society and its expectation.

Archbishop Tlhagale believes that the major obstacle to total conversion is the ancestral cult, noting that people believe in the ubiquitous presence of ancestors. To make the missionaries understand something concrete with regard the ancentral cult Archbishop Tlhagale showed them a video of a trainee sangoma (Traditional diviner/healer). The video was of a Catholic who became a sangoma recently and the Archbishop was trying to show them that everyone is into this even Catholics of all walks of life. He said this traditional religion is mixed with Christianity even by Catholics including some priests and nuns.

The Archbishop made missionaries aware that there are cases where one goes to two funeral services of the same person on the same day because there has to be a service for the ancestors and a service for the Church. He said people do these things sometimes as a way of double insurance. For this reason Mgr. Tlhagale urged to place more emphasis on adult catechism which is almost non-existent, because after confirmation, the Catholic faithful stop studying and deepening the teachings of the Church.

After the “Catholic” celebration of the marriage on Saturday afternoon, the “real traditional Zulu” marriage took place on Sunday. It was very colourful and meaningful. I found my way to the ceremony, wondering how could we make of the two ceremonies one big feast, celebrating the beginning of a Christian covenant between two persons, between two families.

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