Liturgical Inculturation: A Theological Appraisal of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in the Context of Selected African Initiation Rites

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 1-1-2007


Campus Only

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Jean Donovan

Committee Member

George S. Worgul

Committee Member

Sean P. Kealy


Creative Assimilation, Dynamic Equivalence, Inculturation, Initiation Rites, Root Metaphors, Sacraments, Symbols


This dissertation argues that the validity, meaning, the ritual efficacy and identity formation which are achieved by means of the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) can be truly substantiated and verified in an African context when the African Traditional Initiation Rites (ATIR {puberty rites}) are creatively assimilated or engrafted into the RCIA by means of liturgical inculturation. The position taken by this study is that the experience of African Traditional Initiation Rites (ATIR) as rites of passage and ritual transition interpreted from the concept of dying and rising as a major metaphor offers us a fundamental axis for a dynamic encounter between African and Christian initiation rites that eventually emerges as an authentic African Christian Initiation Rite (ACIR). The major symbols which are inherent in these African Traditional Initiation Rites, the basic spirituality, their characteristics and effects, which are actualized through the ritual drama, are the fundamental basis for any liturgical inculturation of the RCIA. In view of this, the study explored five models of African Traditional Initiation Rites by five different anthropologists who were engaged in the detailed analysis of these initiation rites in five different African communities. This study also reviewed the historical, theological and liturgical development of the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults beginning with its biblical foundations to the contemporary practice. The result of these explorations is that they opened the avenue for an anthropological, theological, liturgical and critical reflection that helped to create a liturgical framework for an authentic African Christian Initiation Rites that is not only truly Christian but also truly African. By means of a truly African Christian Initiation Rite, an African Catechumen can become a new being and the glorified grain like Christ without having to abandon his cultural identity and worldview.





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