Featured Image
Mayan altar on the floor of a churchSeminario Conciliar De San Cristóbal/Facebook

(LifeSiteNews) — A draft of the new Mayan rite of Mass, obtained by LifeSiteNews, confirms the introduction of Mayan elements into the Catholic liturgy that appear to be idolatrous and increase lay leadership.

As LifeSiteNews initially reported, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (now Dicastery) had sent, on February 27–28, a high-ranking official to Mexico in order to discuss this new rite with the local diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, thereby showing how advanced this project already is.

Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, Bishop emeritus of the San Cristobal de Las Casas diocese in Mexico and one of the leading promoters of this new rite, kindly provided LifeSite with the official draft of the new Mayan rite of Mass that will be first presented to the Mexican bishops’ conference in April and then to the Vatican in May.

The document, which is entitled “Adaptations to the Ordinary of the Mass among the Indigenous Peoples of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas” and dated April 2023, is 31 pages long and explains in detail every change that is to be made to the ordinary rite of Mass of the Roman missal. It also proposes specific changes to the rubrics of the ordinary Mass. A commission of nearly 20 people – two bishops, many priests and some women – prepared this document.

The Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas had been disciplined under the pontificate of Benedict XVI for having introduced a new indigenous married permanent diaconate in which the wives of the married deacons were included in the ministry, thus giving hopes for a married priesthood. Rome even ordered in 2005 then-Bishop Arizmendi to stop such ordinations. Very quickly after Pope Francis’ election to the papal throne, however,  this situation was completely reversed, and the Pope is actively encouraging the liturgical “inculturation” that is being pursued in Southern Mexico.

As we shall see, the official document about this new Mayan rite of Mass is following this path of strengthening the role of the male and female laity at Mass and including many Mayan rituals that have idolatrous meaning in the Mayan religion.

READ: The new Mayan rite of Mass encouraged by Pope Francis is replete with pagan idolatry and symbolism

Among the key changes of the official draft of the new indigenous Mass are named the following three: incensing administered throughout the Mass by lay male or female persons; prayers led by a male or female lay person with a new liturgical office called “principal” throughout the Mass; and Mayan liturgical dances. In addition, the inclusion of a Mayan altar is presented without calling it by its proper name.

Cardinal Arizmendi, in his message to LifeSite, wrote, on March 18, when sending the draft of this new Mayan rite: “I am sending you the PROPOSAL of indigenous adaptations in the Mass, which are subject to the approval of the Mexican episcopate, which will review them in its ordinary assembly next April. Therefore, they are not yet definitive.” He then also mentioned the Mayan altar, adding that the “content of the so-called Mayan altar is preserved, but with the name MAYAN OFFERING.”

The Mexican prelate, who was the bishop of the San Cristobal Diocese for 17 years, also sent LifeSite the new Directory of the Permanent Diaconate as it has been approved by the Vatican in 2013 under Pope Francis. We thank Cardinal Arizmendi for his transparency and generosity.

In the following, we wish to present to our readers some of the concerning elements of this new rite, for a proper debate about these reforms within the Universal Church.

New liturgical office of a ‘principal’

The diocese wishes to establish two new liturgical offices, held by a male or female layperson not chosen by the Church hierarchy, but by the community of the parish itself and then merely confirmed by the bishop.

One of the two offices is being called a “principal,” the second one an “incensor.” The principal is being placed side by side with the priest, playing a dominant role in praying communal prayers with the congregation at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of Mass. This new role of principal greatly diminishes the importance of the priest at Mass. The draft, for example, states:

After the initial greeting, the person presiding over the celebration [the priest] invites the principal, male or female, to exhort the community to open their hearts and express their intentions in a loud voice to God the Father.

This new office seems to be given a high importance. The draft explains that “the liturgical office of principal is  conferred on the person, male or female, who is a moral authority in the community, who guides his people in prayer and faith. He is the one who guides and gives advice on the life of faith, religious traditions and also takes care of the good performance of the work of those who have a ministry of service in the Christian community. Within the liturgical celebrations its function is to guide the people, at the invitation of the one who presides over the celebration, in moments of community prayer.”

This description seems to indicate that this principal is even guiding the priest, while he certainly is considered a guide for all the other people involved in the pastoral and liturgical care of that community.

This principal, states the document, “is recognized as a spiritual guide.” His function “became even more relevant during the period of absence of the clergy in our diocese,” the document adds. The question arises here, however, why the diocese does not make more attempts at increasing priestly vocations among the indigenous, rather than fostering the religious leadership of lay people.

The draft of the Mayan Mass puts these principals – or “elders” – above the ordained permanent deacon and his wife:

The principals or elders, representatives of the  indigenous ecclesial community, are  very important agents for formation. They are to accompany with their advice, experience and wisdom the Indigenous Permanent Deacon and his wife, ensuring their firm roots in the community, according to their culture.

As we have previously reported, the office of the Indigenous Married Permanent Deacon in the diocese has the characteristic of including the deacon’s wife in the form of a quasi-ministry. The wife is involved on the sanctuary, as well, by being the incensor, a role often taken by women in the Mayan religion.

New liturgical office of ‘incensor’

The second newly invented liturgical office is that of the “incensor” who incenses the altar, the priest, holy images, and the congregation at different moments of Holy Mass, starting right at the beginning of Mass and thereby again seemingly diminishing the role of the priest.

The draft speaks about the “incensation of the cross and the altar and, if applicable, the images of Mary and the saints, performed by the person entrusted to the community with the liturgical office of incensation. Once the censation is over, the ministers approach the altar to venerate it.” This new liturgical office can also be held either by a man or by a woman, as the document explains:

For this reason, it is proposed that among the original peoples of the diocese the liturgical office of incensation for all the liturgical actions of the Church should remain in the hands of the persons, male or female, designated by the community and approved by the Ordinary.

These two new offices are already being held by indigenous people in the Chiapas region, as LifeSite has shown earlier. There is at times a strong presence of laity on the sanctuary. In this example of an indigenous Mass at the parish of the Mission of Bachajon in Chiapas, there are four adult women serving Mass, making the liturgical event appear to be run more by laity than by the priest.

Inclusion of Mayan elements of prayer

Most concerning is, as reported previously and now seen to be confirmed in the official draft document, the inclusion of explicitly Mayan religious practices into the Catholic liturgy.

Before we go into the details, we need to point out that nowhere in the official draft do the authors of the new Mayan rite explain how they will avoid an idolatrous interpretation of the use of ritual elements stemming from the Mayan religion and permeated by polytheism, animism, ancestor worship and even human sacrifice. The authors do not appear to be concerned about such profanity, despite Arizmendi, in a reply to LifeSite, insisting that these elements are not used in the old, idolatrous way.

“In the Mayan rites that we propose in the Mass,” the prelate told LifeSite, “there is nothing of animism, polytheism, etc., of the ancient Mayas. The rites that we propose have a Catholic base, but developed by these new peoples, who have Mayan origins, but who have distanced themselves from the ancient Maya.”

However, in the draft itself are to be found expressions and explanations that do not seem compatible with a Catholic understanding. And the draft goes so far as to state that the Mayan practices are indispensable for the indigenous for getting into a relationship with God, thereby implying that the old pagan way of prayer is even more effective than the prayers of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Communal Prayer more important than the Sacrifice of the Mass?

The official draft of the Mayan rite of Mass, for example, speaks of the importance of the communal prayer led by the principal and accompanied by a ceremony of lighting candles and playing music. This ritual, the document states, is essential for the indigenous to be able to encounter God, thereby seeming to place it on a higher level than the Sacrifice of the Mass itself. Here we quote at length:

Prayer aloud and done communally guided by a principal is the way in which one opens one’s heart to God, enters into direct relationship with Him, dialogues with Him. Without this element, one is not willing to have the heart to participate, to listen to His word. For this reason, community prayer guided by the principal is an essential element that must be included in the ordinary of the Mass celebrated with the original peoples of this diocese. Without this element, one would not be entering adequately into a personal relationship with God as is intended in the celebration of the Eucharist with the initial rites.

That is to say, without the ancient way of praying aloud, with the ancient ritual of lighting candles that are standing on the ground in front of the altar – a practice that stems from the pagan rituals of the Mayan people – the weight of the Sacrifice of the Mass appears to be diminished. Here once more we quote from the draft:

We also have the historical element, since this has been the proper way of these cultures to live the relationship with God. In this way the celebration of the Eucharist and the proper way of praying of these peoples do not remain as something alien or separate, but are done together, all in harmony, including creation.

It is not clear, in light of the Catholic faith, how Catholics participate in the Mass with a sense of “harmony with creation.”

Interestingly, it is here that the document quotes Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the deceased archbishop of Milan who headed the modernist Sankt Gallen group and who is said to have asked Pope Benedict, a year before his resignation, to resign from his papal office. The draft says:

Cardinal Martini’s reflection on the triple confession makes us understand more deeply the meaning of this mode of prayer. We see that in this type of prayer this triple confessio is exercised: the confessio laudis (the  confession of praise), confessio vitae (confession of life), confessio fidei (confession of  faith).

The Jesuit angle

One might not have expected a quote from this modernist prelate in a document written by Mexican bishops and priests. However, when looking at the draft and seeing the name of its author, it becomes more understandable.

The draft’s author is Father Felipe Jaled Ali Modad Aguilar, a Jesuit priest, just as Cardinal Martini and Pope Francis – who right from the beginning of his papacy in 2013 was in full support of this process of inculturation in the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas – are Jesuits. (See here an important study on the modernist Jesuit influence on Pope Francis’s theological formation, and here the general explanation of the gnostic influence on modernist (and often Jesuit) Catholic thinking.)

This same Jesuit priest was already involved in the preparation of the 2019 Amazon Synod. In June of 2019, LifeSite published a list of participants of a secret meeting near Rome in preparation for that synod, including Aguilar. He is also named as the coordinator of the diocesan commission for the new indigenous rite in Chiapas.

This Jesuit priest is a member of the Society of Jesus’ Interreligious Relations group, and as such is responsible for indigenous religions in the Americas. In this capacity, when Pope Francis came to San Cristobal de las Casas in 2016, Aguilar translated the papal homily during Mass into one of the indigenous languages.

Since he is playing such an important role with regard to this newly developed Mayan rite of the Mass, it might be worth quoting him directly. In a 2021 post on the Synod on Synodality, Aguilar wrote about the indigenous spirituality in positive terms:

Specifically for me, the elements that have attracted the most attention in the sense of discernment in the religious traditions of indigenous peoples is the importance they give to ensuring that the decisions taken are in harmony with nature, with creation. In many cases it is necessary to consult with the Ancestors (the forefathers who have died but who continue to be part of the community,) to ensure that the decisions taken are also in harmony with them. Harmony as a result of the decision that is made is an essential element in any discernment process.

Priest of the syncretistic San Juan Chamula parish as commission member

Another indication that the Mexican commission for this new Mayan rite might be positively inclined toward the acceptance of the Mayan meaning of the symbols and rituals they plan to include into the rite of Holy Mass is the fact that one priestly member of the diocesan commission is presiding over a parish that is replete with pagan worship: Father Víctor Manuel Pérez Hernández of the San Juan Chamula parish (see here a video of the inside of that church, which has no altar and no pews).

San Juan Chamula is known for its animal sacrifice and other non-Catholic – or pagan – worship practices. Even a secular travel website describes this parish as something unusual. While the church is “picoresque” on the outside, the website states, inside, “however, worshipers engage in unique rituals that involve Catholic saints, moonshine, outpourings of emotion, and animal sacrifice.” The text continues:

Upon entering visitors are overwhelmed by the aroma of copal resin incense and smoke from thousands of candles. The walls are lined with statues of saints adorned with mirrors to ward off evil. There are no pews; fresh pine needles carpet the otherwise empty floor from front to back. Worshipers spread themselves out in small groups. Each family sweeps a space clear for themselves and adheres an assortment of candles directly to the tiles. They allow the candles to burn completely during and after their personal ceremonies, leaving behind puddles of multicolored wax. Worshipers pray aloud in Tzotzil [an indigenous language], sometimes weeping and repeatedly making the sign of the cross. They drink Coca-Cola and ‘pox’ – the regional distillate – and burp with the intention of evacuating malicious spirits. Sometimes the family is joined by a curandero [shaman] who may lay their hands upon the afflicted, absorb their maladies into a chicken egg or cure them by waving a live hen overhead. In extreme cases they then kill the chicken right there.

Just this description makes it clear that pagan ceremonies have taken over this formerly Catholic church, yet this parish still has a Catholic priest in Hernández. He is listed in the official diocesan document that we are in our hands as one of the members of this commission working on a new Mayan rite of Mass, and as his parish San Juan Chamula is given.

In May of last year Hernández announced, for example, on Facebook a Mass said in that same church. He also posted at the beginning of this month a video of a pastoral visit of the local bishop, Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez, who is seen participating in an outdoor Mass in a ritual dance with rattles. In another video of the same pastoral visit, the bishop can be seen in front of that same parish church.

Hernandez also posted once, in 2018, the moment of consecration during Mass, where a priest is seen using as an altar a table that is at the same time a Mayan altar, and indigenous horns are blown instead of the sacred bells.

Now that we have given our readers some glimpses into the mindset of two members of the commission who wrote the new Mayan rite, let us return to several troubling Mayan ritual elements that are being introduced into this Mass.

Candle lighting

The explanation of why the parishioners should be involved in lighting candles in front of the altar during Mass is explained by the official draft as follows:

Community prayer with candle lighting has been one of the modes of prayer that are most frequently used in indigenous peoples, with which they express all the requests that the community has in its heart. Apart from the Eucharistic celebration, this form of prayer is used to ask for God’s help in the most diverse circumstances of his life: prayers in the field, at the beginning of sowing, to ask for a good harvest, to offer the first fruits of the crops, at the birth of children, in prayers at the springs of water,  to pray for their animals, in the blessing of a house, in prayers for the dead… This mode of prayer is one of the ways that these peoples have to express more strongly their trust in God, because it is a gesture of placing in their hands the most important moments of their lives.

With this commentary, the authors of the draft seem to imply that the ancient rite of candle lighting is a more powerful tool for the indigenous than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Mother Earth and idolatrous worship?

But there is more. This ceremony, which is accompanied by people bowing their heads and touching the ground and singing soft tunes, is meant to not only get in touch with God, but also with one’s ancestors and Mother Earth, thereby placing God on the same level with these other entities.

“This prayer,” states the draft of the new Mass, “also expresses the four senses of relationship: the relationship with the triune God, the relationship with other living or deceased people (which includes the saints and all the deceased who have gone before us in faith), the relationship with me, and the relationship with sister mother earth.”

Again, we see here how the worship of God appears to be placed on the same level as the worship of idols. This is as if Satan is saying that he has the same place as God, which is also expressed in prominent occult symbols such as the Yin and Yang symbol, or the six-pointed star.

The famous psychiatrist and gnostic author, Carl Gustav Jung, once summed up this idea of God and Satan being on the same level, or of complementing each other, as follows (and as quoted by the now-deceased Catholic artist and expert on occultism, H. Reed Armstrong):

In our diagram, Christ and the devil appear as equal and opposite, thus conforming to the idea of the ‘adversary.’ This opposition means conflict to the last; and it is the task of humanity to endure this conflict until the time or turning-point is reached where good and evil begin to relativise themselves, to doubt themselves, and the cry is roused for a morality ‘beyond good and evil.’

On October, 27, 2019, when Pope Francis officially placed, during his papal Mass at the end of the Amazon Synod, a Pachamama bowl on the altar at St. Peter’s, H. Reed Armstrong explained to LifeSite that this event appeared to him like a liturgical ceremony by which Satan (here by way of a false god, Pachamama) was symbolically introduced into the Church as being on the same level as God (Jesus Christ).

Armstrong could detect that symbolism immediately. He also explained that the use of rattles during the Pachamama worship in the Vatican gardens at the time had an occult meaning in itself. This background explanation might help us Catholics to see the dangers of this new rite of Mass and would draw us to resist and oppose it more firmly.

LifeSite presented Cardinal Arizmendi with a few objectionable elements of this new Mass (praying to the four directions, the use of the Mayan shell, ancestor worship, Mayan altar, how to avoid confusion with the original Mayan meaning of the elements used at Mass), inviting him to a dialogue, but so far he has not yet replied.

Let us return to the Mayan elements that are being introduced into the new Mass, according to the official draft of the diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Mayan altar

Connected with the candle-lighting ceremony is the setting up of a Mayan altar, which is described in the draft of the commission without calling it by its proper name. The document describes this altar that is to be placed inside the church, close to the real altar, and also mentions again the Mayan symbolic colors of red, black, white, and yellow, as well as the four cardinal points, or orientations:

Next to the altar are placed plants, flowers, fruits and seeds of the region, along with candles of various colors (red, black, white, yellow, green and blue). In the place that marks the course of the east a red candle and fruits and flowers of the same color will be placed; towards the course of the west a black candle will be placed together with fruits and flowers close to this tonality; towards the course of the north a white candle and fruits and flowers of the same color will be placed; towards the direction of the south a yellow vein will be placed together with fruits and flowers of that color. Finally in the center of that space, where the four orientations intersect, a crucifix, a Bible and on its sides a blue candle and a green candle will be placed, along with water, earth and the snail.

As to the use of shells, LifeSite has shown in our first report on this topic that they are being used by the indigenous in order to communicate with their ancestors, which is part of their ancestor worship.

Image of a Mayan altar, displaying the the fusion of the Eucharist with the Mayan religion (Parroquia Misión de Bachajón/Facebook)

Praying into the four directions of the earth

The draft proposes that the communal prayers led by the “principal” might well be directed at the four directions of the earth: “On special occasions,” the draft says, “this prayer can be realigned by invoking God from the four cardinal points.” To invoke God from the four cardinal points implies in the Mayan tradition polytheism: the four directions of the earth – north, west, south, east – are traditionally connected with gods.

Archeology scholar and expert of the Mayan religion, Dr. Diane Davies of University College London, states that “Maya gods could simultaneously exist in several forms or aspects. Pawahtuun, for example, was a quadripartite divinity who stood at the four corners (cardinal directions) of the universe.”

Each of the four “Pawahtuns,” named “Cantzicnal,” “Hosanek,” “Hobnil,” and “Saccimi,” presided over one of the four cardinal directions. They had one associated color:

  • Cantzicnal: North, white
  • Hosanek: South, yellow
  • Hobnil: East, red
  • Saccimi: West, black

As can be seen here, the colors black, white, yellow, and red, too, have a religious meaning stemming from the polytheistic religion. These colors are proposed for usage by the draft of the new rite of Mass, as we shall see later.

The praying to the four directions of the earth is being described by the diocesan commission for the new rite in a way that places God on the same level as ancestors. Here we quote at length the document which combines once more the four directions with this ritual:

After the invitation to prayer, the red candle is lit and everyone goes to the East, an inclination is made and a principal directs a prayer to God, giving thanks for the light of the sun, which is the principle of life. Then the black candle is lit and everyone goes to the West, an inclination is made and a principal directs a prayer to God presenting the darkness of life, the problems, the night, with the hope that He will not give a new life, after the night. Then the white candle is lit and everyone goes north, an inclination is made and a principal leads a prayer to God remembering the ancestors, the history of the community, but also the dangers of ice and cold that threaten the people. Then the yellow candle is lit and everyone goes south, an inclination is made and a principal directs a prayer to God, giving thanks for the fruitfulness of the earth, for the gift of women as generators of life.

Then the green and blue candles are lit in the center; all go to that point and a principal addresses to God a prayer, to acclaim Jesus Christ, heart of heaven and heart of earth, in whom the human hand is united with the divine, heaven and earth, and is the center of our Christian life, the heart of our Eucharistic celebration.

Liturgical dance: ‘The feet caress the face of Mother Earth’

According to the official draft of the new Mayan rite, “instead of the song of praise,” as recommended by the Church, “thanksgiving can be expressed with a dance.” It is called a “collective thank you.”

According to the draft:

In the dance, the feet caress the face of Mother Earth, making light movements. The face of God is greeted by moving to the four directions of the universe. It is danced with the heart to the rhythm of the instrumental music proper to these peoples and dialoguing with God personally. It is a moment of joy or tears, of feeling God’s mercy, his peace and his love. It is time to feel the closeness of our brothers and sisters, dancing together, to the same being.

God dances in our midst, we look up to see the faces of the brothers and we smile at each other. But it is also to feel the presence of Jesus, of the saints, of our ancestors, who are dancing with us, not as a forced imagination, but as a real spiritual presence, in joint harmony.

How rightly St. Augustine said that ‘he who sings prays twice,’ and from this experience we can say: he who dances prays three times.

Noteworthy in this text is the claim that the ancestors are “really spiritually” present at this ritual dance, something that seems to be at odds with a Catholic understanding. For the draft document, however, this liturgical dance is “an integral part of the liturgical action. It is danced liturgy, not merely dance in the liturgy.”

LifeSite has reached out to both the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas and the Vatican Press Office but has yet to receive a reply.

Featured Image

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli,, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana,, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.