For the Africans, man is not just homo religiosus in the classical sense. He eats, drinks, sleeps, works and does practically every thing religiously.
The Catholic presence in Africa was re-shaped by the twin events of decolonization and Vatican Council 2 between 1962-65 (Hastings, 1989). In Vatican's aim to evangelize, priests and missionaries were encouraged to use the vernacular in worship called vernacular liturgy as well as the development of African hymnody and instrumentation "...The most important single effect in Africa in popular terms of the Council has been the change in singing, in hymns, in music, in the use of musical instruments," (Hastings, 1989). It was also noted that Vatican II also encouraged African Catholics to read Protestant vernacular translations of the Bible.
But the "westernization" of Catholicism, particularly reduction of approval on healing shrines, holy water, statues and candles, resisted by African Catholics. Likewise, by 1994, ninety percent (90%) of the hierarchy was African as symbolized by the African Synod. Catechists mostly married lay men also became instrumental in the spread of Catholicism in the 20th century.
In the African Synod led by the late pope John Paul II, emphasized marriage to be in-cultured for it had been a problem within the African Catholic community having irregular marriages. Since traditional African marriage was not recognized, African priests were encouraged to incorporate the sacramental blessings of the church to the traditional marriage ceremony.
Problems arose when traditional African marriages is not finalized until a woman proved her fertility through childbirth, which did not fit into Catholic practices. Intermarriages of religions, with Protestants, likewise, banned children from committing communion and this further widen the gap. One particular incident in Rwanda was the inciting of racial hatred and genocidal violence between Tutsis and Hutu between both Catholics and the church was not able to contain nor control the violence, although today, confession, repentance and reconciliation are being worked out (Lettinga, 2000).
By the time the Pope John Paul II died, there were already about 100 million Catholics in Africa and nearly 30 million are Congolese (Quist-Arcton, 2005). Interestingly, Lamin Sanneh reported that Senegal, a Muslim majority with about 90 percent of its population as Islam believers, include Catholic holidays as national holiday (Suarez, 2005) that include the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
Cardinal Thiandoum, the Relator-General for the African Synod remarked (qtd, Isizoh (1996):
Many Christians, at "breaking points of life", have recourse to practices of the traditional religion, or to prayer houses, healing homes, "prophets", witchcraft or fortune-tellers. Some turn to African Independent Churches (sometimes considered a syncretistic Christian cum African Traditional Religion) where they feel that certain elements of their culture are more respected. Few of them return to African Traditional Religion. All these movements indicate that the spiritual yearning of these people for an authentic expression of the African spirituality