Tag Archives: Eastern Christianity

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.

Asianews.it 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!

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.

Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk offers Liturgy at St Peter’s

Sviatoslav offering Divine LiturgyPatriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainians offered the Divine Liturgy on 25 November with the special permission of Pope Francis at the altar of the Vatican Basilica. The Ukrainian Church is observing the 50th anniversary of the laying of the relics of Saint Josaphat, martyr for Church unity.

The praying of the Liturgy in Saint Peter’s is a terrific sign of diversity and unity of the Catholic Church. The Byzantine Church exists in Rome, Catholic and Orthodox. The beauty of the faith in all its specificities.

This week another group of Byzantine Catholics are meeting in Rome with their Patriarch and some bishops, that of the Melkites. A delegation from the USA just arrived in Rome today. The eternal city is being overrun with the Eastern Church.

Sviatoslav offering Liturgy at St Peter'sTwo notes: 1) it is a rare circumstance that a bishop other than the Bishop of Rome offer Mass on the altar of Saint Peter’s because it is a reserved altar. When John Paul was ailing we saw designated cardinals offering Mass at this altar. Recall that Major Basilicas belong to the Pope and have certain privileges; 2) In Church law and ecclesiastical custom (at the moment) the Ukrainian Church has a leader who does not officially carry the title of “Patriarch”; he holds the title of Major Archbishop —and there is no canonical difference in titles, but…— yet in a variety of places the Ukrainian faithful rightly use the term Patriarch as a few Vatican news agencies did today to relate the event. I hope that Sviatoslav will be granted the official use of the title of Patriarch, as he ought to have.

Saint Josaphat, pray for us.

Ecumenism from the bottom up, Svjatoslav Shevchuk advocates

Svjatoslav ShevchukYou will think I am silly for saying this, but who cares: I think that Archbishop Svjatoslav Shevchuk is a good man for Christ’s Church.

Who is Archbishop Svjatoslav Shevchuk you ask? Please recall that he is the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (a major archbishop is the equivalent of a patriarch in church law without the title of patriarch).

He’s now 43 and he’s been a priest for nearly 20 years, a bishop for nearly 5 years and he’s been the head of the largest Eastern Catholic Church for the since March 2011. Shevchuk is a man to watch. I just hope he’s not going to cave the to bourgeois mentality which afflicts many ecclesiastics.

The archbishop is in Rome now for a month for a series of meeting, not least was the recent meeting of the Plenary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and a meeting with the Holy Father and other Eastern Catholic Patriarchs. Using his time wisely, the archbishop spoke with Andrea Tornielli of the Vatican Insider (who is a friend of Pope Francis); Tornielli’s interview, “Ecumenism from the bottom up: Now Vatican II is coming into effect.”

In the Tornielli interview you’ll read about his connection with Pope Francis, the desire of the faithful for a deeper unity (a ecumenism that’s full & visible) and note of contrast on marriage between the churches. Perhaps you’ll learn something. I did. You don’t have to agree with everything the interview reveals, but you would be wise to read carefully and between the lines.

To get a flavor of this young Father of the Church, please read and watch the following:

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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