Pope John Paul II and the Animist Ritual in Togoville, 1985
In the Statement of Reservations concerning the Beatification of John Paul II* which was released earlier this year I was deeply distressed to read the following: 

"...upon his arrival at this place, “a sorcerer began to invoke the spirits: ‘Power of water, I invoke you. Ancestors, I invoke you.’” Following this invocation of “spirits,” the Pope was presented “with a receptacle full of water and flour. [He] first made a slight bow and then dispersed the mixture in all directions. In the morning he had performed the same action before Mass. That pagan rite [!] signifies that he who receives the water, symbol of prosperity, shares it with his ancestors by throwing it on the ground.” [L’Osservatore Romano, Italian edn., August 11, 1985, p. 5].

This has greatly troubled me since it seems directly contrary to the meritorious actions of the Martyrs when they chose torture and death rather than burn one grain of incense before a statue of Jupiter or the Numen of Caesar. I think in particular of the Roman Martyrology for the Nativity of Our Lord:

"At Nicomedia, many thousand martyrs, who had assembled for divine service on our Lord's Nativity.  When Emperor Diocletian ordered the doors of the church to be closed, fire to kindled here and there, a vessel with incense to be put before the entrance, and a man to cry out that those who wished to escape from the fire should come out and burn incense to Jupiter, all with one voice answered that they preferred to die for Christ.  They were consumed in the fire, and thus merited to be born in heaven on the day on which Christ vouchsafed to be born on earth for the salvation of the world".

In order to check that the event mentioned in the Statement really happened I contacted the archive office of L'Osservatore Romano to request a scanned copy of page 5 of the Italian Edition of the 11th of August 1985 (which is cited in the Statement). I have attached the scanned page.

[Image: 6208798311_97e5190c26_m.jpg]

It can be accessed here: http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6122/6208...0c26_b.jpg

About two-thirds through the article "una preghiera nella foresta sacra" I found the relevant paragraph:

Ed è stato proprio un omaggio agli antenati il primo gesto compiuto da Giovanni Paolo II appena giunto a Togoville. Gli è stata portata una zucca secca riempita con acqua e farina di mais. Il Papa l'ha presa tra le sue mani e dopo un leggero inchino ha sparso l'acqua tutto intorno. Lo stesso gesto aveva compiuto questa mattina a Kara, prima di celebrare la messa. Si tratta di un'usanza alla quale i togolesi tengono in modo particolare. L'ospite accetta l'acqua, simbolo della prosperita, e la condivide con gli antenato spargendola su quella stessa terra che ne custodisce le spoglie mortali e lo spirito. Le breve cerimonia si è svolta nel piu assolut silenzio.

My translation with the help of Google:

"The first gesture which was made by John Paul II after arriving in Togoville was an act of homage to the ancestors. A gourd was filled with water and dry corn flour. The Pope took it between his hands and bowed slightly after the water was scattered all around. The same gesture was made ​​this morning in Kara, before celebrating mass. This is a custom to which the Togolese are particularly attached. The guest accepts the water, a symbol of prosperity, and shares it with his ancestors by scattering it on the same ground that houses their mortal remains and their spirit. The brief ceremony was held in the most absolute silence."

Now, I understand that prayer with non-Catholics in their rites is forbidden by divine law. How much more, then, must active participation in a Voodoo (or Animist, to use the modern term) ritual be offensive to God? My problem is that so few Catholics seem to understand that something is very wrong here and appear to think that this action posed absolutely no obstacle to the Beatification of the late Holy Father.

My fear is that the late Pope will be canonised without any of these 'problematic' (to say the least) issues being addressed and explained to the faithful. If John Paul II is canonised and canonisation is indeed infallible what does this mean for the concept of holiness? Can God reward the refusal to participate outwardly even in the smallest degree in a pagan rite and at the same time (since there is no time in God) reward the contrary of that? My head is spinning as I feel as if the principle of non-contradiction has been trampled underfoot.


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Pope John Paul II and the Animist Ritual in Togoville, 1985 - by Scotus - 10-04-2011, 08:11 AM

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