Africa Needs More Catechesis on Eucharist, Says Cardinal Turkson

Ghanaian Notes That Some Catholics Don’t Marry in the Church

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico, OCT. 14, 2004 ( Some Catholics in Africa decide not to marry in the Church because of a preference for traditional rites or simple civil ceremonies, and this keeps them away from the Eucharist.

So says Cardinal Peter Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, in Ghana. He adds, however, that traditional African cultures have elements that have made conversion possible as well as the spread of love of the Eucharist.

The 56-year-old cardinal of west Africa described the Eucharistic devotion among his people in a catechesis he delivered in the Expo Guadalajara hall, at the International Eucharistic Congress.

Archbishop Turkson pointed out that «the Eucharist as celebration of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ … resounds» or is linked in the imagination «with the sacrifices of the ‘salvific figures’ in different African cultures and communities.»

The cardinal gave some examples of how the traditional cultures, stemming from their own mythology, recognize the presentation of the Eucharist. This should lead to further reflection on the theology proper to the Eucharist of the Church, so that it is not confused, for instance, with Ghana’s ritual community suppers, he said.

One would have to start with the community suppers to inculcate the life of communion called for by Jesus’ sacrifice, Cardinal Turkson added.

At the same time, he stressed that there are aspects of the Eucharistic sacrament that Ghanaians understand very well, for example, faith in the «real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist,» because of their «understanding of the value of sacrifice,» which is proper to their culture.

Thus one can understand the great increase in perpetual adoration, especially thanks to groups devoted to the Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart, Cardinal Turkson said.

«The greatest manifestation of popular belief in the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist occurs during the Corpus Christ celebrations and the feast of Christ the King,» he observed.

«The moment of the consecration in Eucharistic celebrations is received with festive acclamations, the beating of drums and sometimes with dances,» he explained.

Later in his talk, Cardinal Turkson mentioned the attacks that belief in the Real Presence is suffering at the hands of evangelical Protestantism, which accuses Catholics of idolatry.

In response to this, the cardinal stressed the need to intensify catechesis and apologetics in Africa.

Regarding marriage, Cardinal Turkson was especially concerned about Catholic young people who «resist the celebration of the sacrament in the Church,» preferring traditional rites or marriage in a civil court.

As a result, there are «many faithful who do not go to Communion,» he said.

Yet, «young adults who begin to discover the strength of living as Christians through prayer and openness to the Holy Spirit are celebrating their marriages in the Church, and there are some who decide to live every day in the Eucharist,» he added.

About 63% of Ghana’s 20 million inhabitants are Christians; 11.1% are Catholics. About 16% are Muslims, and some 20% are believers in traditional religions.

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