Tag Archives: Eastern Christianity

Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, C.SS.R., RIP

Varkey Vithayathil.jpgVarkey Vithayathil, 84, a Redemptorist, bishop, cardinal and Major Archbishop for the Syro-Malabar Church (in India) died suddenly today of a heart attack at 2pm Ernakulam time.

Cardinal Vithayathil was ordained a priest in 1954 and ordained a bishop in 1996. In 1999, he appointed the Major Archbishop by Pope John Paul II. The same pope created Vithayathil a cardinal in 2001 giving him the title of San Bernardo alle Terme.
Trained in Canon Law at the Angelicum, Vithayathil taught the subject in the Redemptorist seminary. For a term he served as the Father Provincial of the Redemptorists of India and Sri Lanka and later serving as the Apostolic Administrator of a Benedictine abbey of monks.
Cardinal Vithayathil was a supporter of the 5th Marian doctrine, that of Mary’s role in salvation history as the co-redemptrix.
This will mean the Church will have a third election of a Major Archbishop in 2011. The Maronite and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches have just recently elected new heads.

Shevchuk talks about his election, chosen to lead a Church

Shevchuk & Pope Benedict Mar 31 2011.jpg

Cindy Wooden’s CNS article, “Ukrainian archbishop says he was chosen ‘despite age to promote unity” on Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk gives a clearer sense of the man and some of priorities. Wooden and Shevchuk met in Rome this week on the latter’s visit to Pope Benedict.

Archbishop Sviatoslav described the nature of his church in this way: “We are an Eastern Church with its tradition and inheritance, … a synodal Church is governed by the synod of bishops together with the major archbishop. But, we are also a Catholic Church that lives its identity in a full, visible and real communion with the Holy Father.”

What are Archbishop Sviatoslav’s priorities?
  • to strengthen the proclamation of the Gospel (kērgma) and the teaching of the faith (didachē)
  • to work on the Church’s liturgical theology and praxis; to make the liturgical patrimony intelligible in all the countries where the Ukrainian Catholic Church exists
  • to develop programs that attack secularism and engages the positive secularity
  • to strengthen the service of justice (diakonia)
  • to promote unity in the Church and among the other churches
  • to develop better social communications strategies for the Church
  • to identify ways in which to inculturate the Gospel and Byzantine tradition
  • to work with the Ukrainian people to heal from past injuries viz. the Russian Orthodox Church; to work on the fears that are paralyzing some members of the Church
  • to dialogue and work with the Orthodox Churches in the Ukraine (and where the Church is present) on matters of theology and mutual human interest
  • to promote healthy celibate and married vocations to religious life and priesthood.
Read the CNA story on the archbishop.
The Archeparchy of Philadelphia’s newsletter The Way also gives another sense of the recent events in the Church: The Way March 2011.pdf

Patriarch’s title for the Ukrainians?

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.

Patriarch Béshara Raï begins new ministry as the Maronite head and father working on unity

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.

Sviatoslav Shevchuck: TODAY put the honest & True Cross in the center of life

Sviasolav Shevchuk preaching March 27 2011.jpg

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.

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).

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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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