Eastern Church: March 2011 Archives

For many moons now, some estimate 50 years in the asking, the question to the pope has been: when will the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church be given the title of Patriarch?

Currently, there are some people who use the title unofficially --even provocatively-- because they know better than the pope. Somehow the thinking is that if we just use that which is due to us then the rest of the world --and the Holy See-- will see they we're right and they are wrong. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church holds the title of "Major Archbishop." There are three other Major Archbishops in the Catholic Church: Romanian Greek Catholic Church, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malakar Churches (both in India).

This attitude is unhelpful, incorrect and obnoxius. It is acutally an attitude of entitlement AND no one is entitled to anything in the Catholic Church. While the title of patriarch may, in fact, be fitting and proper to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Church, it is a title and privilege that is given. It is bestowed, not taken.

You'll recall that Pope Paul VI made the designation of "Major Archbishop" in 1963 and gave it to the Ukrainian Greek Church. and his successors have said the Byzantine Ukrainian Church that it is an open question and that the Church has work toward getting the title of Patriarch. You see, this Church has been persecuted and "run out town" by the government and other ecclesial bodies and really only since the early 1990s has the Church gotten its proverbial sea-legs back. For a time, which may be current, there's been a fear jeopardizing ecumenical relations with the Orthodox sister-churches.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk is in Rome to pray at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul and to meet with Pope Benedict and the Roman Curia. It is the sharing of Communio between brothers in the Lord. He's travelling with the Metropolitan Archbishops and members of his staff.

So, while it may be important to have the title of "patriarch" it is not the first of the priorities of the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The brief story is here.
Sfeir & Rai March 25 2011.jpg
In his letter to the new Patriarch, granting "ecclesiastica communio", Pope Benedict prayed that Patriarch Béchara Peter would be assisted by the Lord in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the fervent in his teaching of the faith; the Pope also said "It is a motive of pride for your Church to be united from the beginning to the Successor of Peter. Peter was called by Jesus to preserver the unity of his one Church in truth and in love. Following a beautiful and ancient tradition, Peter's name is added to the patriarch's"

Pope Benedict's fraternal support was echoed in his hope that the Patriarch had "all the ardor, illumined by wisdom and tempered by prudence, to guide the Maronite Church."

The Maronite Church was established by Saint Maron having lived in the 4th and 5th centuries. Patriarch Béchara Peter is the 77th father of a Church of 3 million people worldwide. Besides the Middle East, Maronites are present in Western Europe, Argentina, Mexico, Australia, the United States of America, and Canada.

The video of Patriarch Béchara Peter Raï's enthronement Liturgy on March 25, 2011.

Digging back into TV history, Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN talks with the US Maronite Bishops Gregory Mansour and Robert Shaheen about the role of the Maronite Church in the overall unity of the Catholic Church. Father Pacwa gives a sense of Maronite spirituality. Watch the show.
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His Beatitude, Archbishop Sviatoslav's first homily as head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is noted below. It is a very good homily focusing on the Cross and our acceptance of that life-giving Cross today. We have no other option as Christians. Pay close attention to what the new archbishop says: live, witness, strive for holiness, move closer to Christ today.

Beloved in Christ, brothers and sisters!

Glory to Jesus Christ!

"We praise your Cross, Lord, and glorify Your holy resurrection!"

With these words today, the Church of Christ focuses on the Honest and True Cross. Today, as we pass the halfway point of our Lenten journey, the Life-Giving Tree is given to us, that we might find in it a source of strength and courage to go on to the Resurrection, to put the Sign of the Cross at the center of our lives.

In his Epistle to the Philippians, St Paul has left us a unique early Christian hymn that a young Church, newly enlivened by the Holy Spirit, solemnly sang in its Liturgy.

The Apostle calls to us this way:

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (2:6-11).

Sviatoslav Shevchuk4.jpgThe Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is facing new challenges in the coming years and the Church's Synod of Bishops (the Sobor) has decided to meet the challenge head-on: the Synod elected and the Pope confirmed communion with, a 40 year bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, a man who's been bishop for less than 2 years and a moral theologian.

Words that are on everyone's lips are words like "historic," "cataclysmic," "revolutionary," "high-minded," "a sign of hope," and "daring." The are others no doubt, but what the Synod of Ukrainian bishops did and Pope Benedict XVI confirmed is a paradigm shift in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, 40, is the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of 6 million people worldwide. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest Eastern Church in communion with the See of Rome. The election happened on March 23. In Canon Law he holds the title of Major Archbishop (that is, he has the responsibility that a patriarch would have but not the title, though many in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church unofficially use the title, see canon 151 of the CCEO). The election was done by 40 bishops from around the world.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, until now, is the Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of the Protection of the Theotokos, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Prior to his South American work, the Archbishop was the personal secretary of the former head of the Church, His Beatitude, Lubomyr, from 2002-05.

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At Shevchuk's election he had to write a letter in his own hand to the Pope requesting communion with the Apostolic See. In accordance with canon 153 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Church reads:

1. A major archbishop is elected according to the norm of cann. 63-74.
2. After acceptance of the election, the synod of bishop of the major archepiscopal Church must notify the Roman Pontiff through a synodal letter about the canonical conduct of the election; however, the one who of is elected, in a letter signed in his own hand, must petition the confirmation of his election from the Roman Pontiff.
3. After having obtained the confirmation, the one who is elected, in the presence of the synod of bishops of the major archepiscopal Church, must make a profession of faith and promise to carry out faithfully his office; afterwards his proclamation and enthronment are to be performed. If, however, the one who is elected is not yet an ordained bishop, the enthronment cannot validly be done before he receives episcopal ordination.
4. If however the confirmation is denied, a new election is to be conducted within the time established by the Roman Pontiff.
Beshara Rai.jpegOnly 20 years junior to the out-going patriarch, His Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Sfeir, the Maronite bishops elected today Bishop Béshara Raï, 71, as the new patriarch. He's  77th patriarch of the Maronites; Raï takes up the See of St Peter (Peter's first diocese before moving to Rome), adopting the name Peter. He will be known as "His Beatitude, Patriarch Béshara Peter Raï."

He succeeds Patriarch Sfeir after his 25 years of service. It is expected that Patriarch Béshara Peter will be enthroned on 25 March.

I am happy for His Beatitude's new opportunity to serve the Church. I met him a number of years ago and he's a wonderful person.

His Beatitude has been a priest for 43 years and a bishop for nearly 25 years and since 1990 he's been bishop of Jbeil (Byblos). In Lebanon, the Maronite Christians number about a third of the 4 million population.

Kurt Koch to meet Kyril I

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Patriarch Kyril.pngSwiss Cardinal Kurt Koch will be going to Moscow this weekend to meet Patriarch Kyril and Russian Orthodox Church leaders.

Cardinal Koch is the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, a position he's held since July 2010; he created a cardinal in November 2010. Patriarch Kyril I was elected head of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2009.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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This page is a archive of entries in the Eastern Church category from March 2011.

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