Category Archives: Eastern Church

Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Syrian Patriach

IwasHis Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. His Holiness passed away on March 21, 2014. after suffering a massive heart attack while in Germany working on health concerns.

His Holiness was the 122st patriarch having been elected in 1980. He was a successor to Saint Peter.

May God be merciful and memory be eternal.

A vocation to family, and a vocation to priesthood

Wissam-AkikiWhen people start asking about the possibility of a married priesthood usually detail escapes them. The  fact is, the Catholic Church has had a priesthood for millennia. However, in the Latin Church the priesthood has been celibate for the most part since the 11th century (or thereabouts) and Eastern Christianity has retained to a unity of marriage/family and the ministerial priesthood. Only since the late 1980s has the Latin Church started to admit married men to the priesthood in small numbers and now with the Anglican Ordinariates more married men have been ordained. Bishops are never married according to the discipline of the Church.

Among many things, the Eastern Christians in the USA have had to suffer without a married priesthood, something that is very connected to their traditions. In part, the plight of Eastern Christians in the USA has a lot to do with inadequate episcopal leadership which had dire consequences for all sorts of issues ranging from the Liturgy to canonical matters and identity.

One of the problems surrounded the time of Archbishop John Ireland (r. 1888-1918) of Minneapolis, who specifically in 1891, questioned the Catholicity of the Byzantines in Minneapolis. Acrimony ensured. And open hostility became common among various of the Latin Church’s bishops. As consequence of the argument Ireland told the Byzantine Catholic priests to become more Latin and that they were banned from being married in the USA.  Ireland obtuseness ultimately gave rise to a 1929 Vatican decree called Cum Data Fuerit, which imposed a requirement of celibacy on Eastern Catholic clergy in the West.

Archbishop Ireland is credited, hence, with the creation, in 1892, of the Reuthenian (Russian) Orthodox Church in America which gave rise to the Orthodox Church in America with Father (now saint) Alexis Toth and others breaking from the Catholic Church by uniting with Orthodoxy.

If you fast-forward a bit, we have to recognize that certain Eastern Catholic bishops in the USA have ordained married men since the 1990s, namely in the Byzantine tradition, and there have been a few married priests in the Maronite Church in the West but usually this  is kept quiet. That is, until the Maronite Bishop Robert Shaheen requested of Pope Benedict –prior to the famed resignation– for permission to ordain a married deacon a priest. A new Pope, a new openness to an old question. Not long ago Bishop Shaheen retired and his successor received word that Deacon Akiki could be priested. What we’ve seen with the ordination of Father Wissam Akiki there is finally a living of an ancient tradition held by Catholic theology and supported by canon law.

Jennifer Brinker wrote a great article that’s paired with Lisa Johnston’s photos for the St Louis Review, “A Vocation to Family.” I highly recommend the article AND viewing the images.

Best wishes and abundant blessings for Father Wissam Akiki and his beautiful family.

Bartholomew convokes Orthodox Primates

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the point of unity among Eastern Chrsitians, has called the patriarchs and archbishops of the world’s Orthodox Churches to a meeting in Istanbul in March. This meeting is a precursor to a Pan-Orthodox Synod slated for 2015. Orthodox Primates last me in Constantinople in 2008. carries one of the stories. For more on the event and for Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon’s comments read, “Bartholomew convokes the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch is 74 and has served the Church as a priest since 1969 and in this present capacity since 1991. He is the 27oth successor of Saint Andrew the Apostle. His Holiness’ biography is here.

This is terrific news!!!

All the holy Apostles, pray for the Primates!

Melkite Patriarch lists church damage

damaged church Im Al-Zinar in Bustan al Diwan, HomsAccording to the Melkite Patriarch Gregory the Great 88 Christian churches have been destroyed or damaged in some way as a result of the civil war in Syria. The majority of the damage is within the Melkite community, but numbers do not matter as this civil war affects all Christians. War is a failure for entire world.

Words of empathy are fine but deeds of love really matter.

This is not merely a local problem but a matter of concern with the rise of radical Islamic groups working to re-establish the ancient caliphate.

As of December 21 this the breakdown:

  • Armenian Catholic 3
  • Armenian Orthodox 9
  • Evangelical 1
  • Greek Orthodox 16
  • Melkite 37
  • Maronite 2
  • Latin 10
  • Syriac Catholic 3
  • Syriac Orthodox 7

We pray that the newborn Prince of Peace makes his Presence felt.

Coptic contribution to Christianity, don’t forget

Coptic of Christ and evangelistsSignificant roots of Christianity exist with the Coptic Church. Liturgy, theological reflection, the monastic witness, culture and education are gifts to the entire worldwide Christian community. These desert Christians are living testimonies to a vital faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior and victor over sin and death. It is difficult to exaggerate the contributions of Coptic Christians.

It is estimated that at there about 8.5 million Copts but that equals about 10% of the Egyptian population. It is not just fear that’s running through the hearts and minds of the Coptic about Islamic persecution of Coptic Christians, it is a reality. There are documented attacks on Coptic people but just there are on the Coptic institutions of church, monastic life, school, economy and culture.

The 60 Minutes news organization made this presentation, The Coptic Christians of Egypt. This presentation is OK. It lacks some substance and nuance, and it is slanted toward the Coptic Orthodox Church while there are Coptic Catholics who face similar struggles and aspirations. But the report of 60 Minutes ought to open for you an interest to know more, and to pray for Christians in Egypt. One of the unique pieces about the Coptic Orthodox Church is the manner in which the Pope is elected (you’ll have to watch the presentation).

May the Holy Family bless the Coptic Christians, Catholic and Orthodox.

Saint Anthony and Saint Mary of Egypt, pray for us.

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]
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