But in 1632, Catholic missions were founded in Algeria, and two hundred years later, France's invasion of the country and eventual conquest allowed the Church greater liberty to operate. Algiers was named a diocese in 1838.
The idea of reviving the ancient African patrimony can already be seen in the work of the first two bishops of Algiers: Antoine-Adolphe Dupuch and his successor Louis-Antoine-Augustine Pavy. They produced for the new diocese a liturgical calendar that drew heavily from the African saints mentioned in the Roman Martyrology, though until then seldom actually commemorated at Mass:
The great Charles-Martial-Allemand Lavigerie became the third bishop of Algiers in 1867, and in 1884 he realized a lifelong dream of restoring the ancient See of Carthage. Continuing the work of his predecessors, he directed the development of a new Office that gave greater place to African saints, which was approved by Rome in 1883.
To this day, the liturgical calendar of North Africa bears the legacy of this restoration, though many of the dates have now been brought into line with the only ancient African liturgical document that survives: the Calendar of the Church of Carthage.
We sometimes come across the idea that these kinds of restoration projects outside of living memory are improper. That once a longstanding liturgical rite is dead, it ought to stay dead.
To be sure, at this point we've had our fill of archaeologism and the spectacularly bad manner in which supposed "ancient rituals" were yanked still warm from scholarly discussion and forcefully imposed on the entirety of Christendom with shockingly little humility. Never mind whether, like the canon of Hippolytus that went into Eucharistic Prayer #2, there were serious questions about accuracy and application, and let's not even get into the ways in which such restorations were merely a pretext for advancing the cause of modernism.
But however badly such revivals were carried out in the creation of the Novus Ordo Missae, I keep coming back to Benedict's language in the letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum:
“What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”I can't help but thinking that if the Babylonian Captivity of the ancient Roman Mass had endured much longer, and if, as almost happened, it was truly and completely extinguished from the face of the earth for a time, it would nonetheless be our solemn duty to revive it as best we can. The case of North Africa's liturgical calendar shows that even after centuries of obsolescence, restoration can be done, and done well.
What was sacred, is sacred. No generation has any right to rob another of its liturgical patrimony, and we would be fools to simply accede to an illegitimate suppression of external or internal forces.
And it would be well to remember Whom exactly we serve: a God of an empty tomb.