Rorate Caeli

Animists in the Cathedral:
a look at interreligious "services" in the Benedictine age

We have to thank one of our most diligent South American readers for this piece of news from the largest city in South America, Sao Paulo (home to a man considered a "papabile" in the last conclave, Cardinal Hummes -- it seems the cities named after Saint Paul have some remarkable archbishops!).

Last week, an "ecumenical [actually, interreligious] service" was held at the Metropolitan Cathedral, one of the largest Neo-gothic structures in the Western Hemisphere, as a homage to the remains of a Marxist guerrilla leader killed by the Brazilian military régime in the 1970s.

We will not comment upon the political aspects of the episode, which are not clear, but purely on some religious curiosities of the ceremony. The report (in Portuguese) linked by our reader includes this passage:

"An atheist by conviction, as a Communist militant, 'Comandante Crioulo' [his alias] received the homage of religious [leaders] of African persuasion, such as Pai Francisco de Oxum, Pai Persio and the ogans [some kind of 'divinized' drum players, see here] of the orishas Ogum and Oxossi [African gods, see here] and ebomi Conceição Reis de Ogum, vice-president of the National Institute of African-Brazilian Tradition and Culture (Intecab). Tata Nkisi Taua, president of the Confederation of Angola Kongo Traditions in Brazil (Cobantu) also took part in the ceremony, with his mametus and makotas [as far as we can tell, other kinds of followers of African gods]. They sang chants from the altar of the Cathedral to the dead militant. ... Representatives of the Jewish and of the Muslim communities of Sao Paulo also took part in the celebration."

The article also says that "the solemn service... was presided by Father Julio Lancelotti" and that, in the end, the "Internationale" [the international Socialist-Communist anthem] was played.

Our reader, who was present at the service, tells us that, during the performance of the African-Brazilian priests and priestesses, a dead black chicken was placed on the altar, though he could not ascertain if it had been sacrificed beforehand.

P.S. The warnings of Pope Benedict regarding what should be avoided in interreligious meetings are somewhat clear -- yet, it does not seem that his words are truly heard.