he Diocese of San Cristóbal, in southern Mexico, will send Pope Francis a proposal to include indigenous Mayan rites such as dance, music, and the participation of women in Catholic Masses.
This is the second proposal of these characteristics that arises from the Catholic ecclesial community; the first on native peoples came from the Republic of Zaire , in Africa.
Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel , who coordinates the work, explained this Wednesday that the initiative will be presented in April to the assembly of the Mexican Episcopal Conference (CEM) and in May it will be delivered in Rome, by the Archbishop of Puebla, Víctor Sánchez , President of the Liturgy Pastoral Commission.
These liturgical adaptations are aimed at uniting the communities “respecting their value, taking into account the culture of the native peoples,” said the Bishop of San Cristóbal, Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez.
The religious leaders concluded a meeting this week in Chiapas, which was also attended by Monsignor Aurelio García Macías , undersecretary of the Vatican’s department for divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments, as well as indigenous priests and catechists.
“We are working on a meeting that is important for the Diocese, the country, the Church of Mexico and the universal Church in terms of liturgical adaptations,” said Aguilar Martínez.
The Diocese of San Cristóbal has admitted to being very proud, since they have taken another important leap after the translation of the Bible into four indigenous languages of the country: Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Chol and Tojolabal. Aguilar Martínez added that even “these celebrations are already taking place in Tzeltal and Tzotzil.”
A few years back, NBC News reported on the unusual blending of Catholic and Mayan religious traditions during Holy Week in Guatemala:
During Holy Week, this fusion of Maya and Catholic traditions becomes even stronger, as townsfolk prepare the statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus for their ceremonial processions that take place on Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
“Jesus in the Mayan religion is very special,” said Dolores Ratzan Pablo, a trilingual Maya T’zutujil woman active in the community who has also lived in the United States.
“The Mayans really take good care of (Jesus),” Ratzan told NBC Latino. She described how the caretakers of the ancient and valued statue of Christ meticulously change his clothing and the sheets in which he is wrapped while hanging on the Cross.
“When they change the sheets, they wash them and they use that water as holy water.” According to the Maya way of thinking, Jesus is associated with the corn god.
“We save a piece of the Corn and then we plant it and then it grows again…and that is like Jesus and his resurrection,” affirms Ratzan, who is known internationally as an expert guide to tourists visiting this lakeside community.
The Maya of Santiago believe that when a person dies and is buried, he/she is transformed into flowers.
When the statue of Jesus is taken down from the cross on Good Friday, it will be installed inside an elaborate six-foot long casket of glass and metal and paraded around the village. His head will be decorated not with a crown of thorns, but with one of colorful flowers.
Good Friday is the most solemn moment of days of intense sacred ritual and the statue of Christ is brought down the pyramid-like stairs of the centuries-old Church of Santiago Apostol. It is carried on the shoulders of dozens of Atiteco men dressed in traditional costume— another extraordinary manifestation of the amalgamation of Maya and Catholic traditions taking place.
At almost the same time, the statue of the indigenous Maya demi-god Maximon is carried on the shoulders of a member of his cofradía, or brotherhood. This person, known as the telinel, carries the revered statue of the Mayan deity Maximon from his chapel in the courtyard below the Catholic Church and follows the statue of Jesus with almost dance-like movements. The telinel serves as Maximon’s symbolic horse.