Skip to comments.The Only Eastern Church Never to Break Communion With Rome
Posted on 06/07/2010 7:31:39 PM PDT by marshmallow
Those familiar with the churches of the East know that many Orthodox churches have an Eastern Catholic counterpart. This usually occurred because at some point in history a segment of that particular Orthodox Church decided to enter into communion with Rome and thus broke away from the larger Orthodox church of which they belonged. These Eastern Catholic churches are quite controversial among many Orthodox, who believe that they are Trojan horse churches attempting to lure Orthodox believers into the Catholic fold (in fact, their existence at one point caused the disruption of Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical talks).
But there is an Eastern Catholic church which has no Orthodox counterpart, because it never left communion with Rome: the Maronite Catholic Church. The history of the Lebanese Maronites is a fascinating one. They trace their church to St. Maron, a monk who lived in the 4th century. They vigorously supported the teachings of the Council of Chalcedon at a time when many in the East rejected it and formed their own communions, but due to a variety of reasons, the Maronites ended up going into seclusion in the mountains of Lebanon in the 8th century.
Then, in the 12th century, Latin Crusaders encountered them. Amazingly, they immediately declared that they were in communion with Rome and always had been! Since that time, they have been faithful Catholics, never wavering from their support of the Pope.
This past week while in Cyprus, the current Pope offered them his greetings and his blessing:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am very pleased to make this visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Graces. I thank Archbishop Youssef Soueif for his kind words of welcome on behalf of the Maronite community in Cyprus, and I cordially greet all of you with the words of the Apostle: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:3)!
As I visit this building, in my heart I make a spiritual pilgrimage to every Maronite church of the island. Be assured that, moved by a fathers care, I am close to all the faithful of those ancient communities.
This Cathedral church in some way represents the very long and rich and sometimes turbulent history of the Maronite community in Cyprus. Maronites came to these shores at various times throughout the centuries and were often hard-pressed to remain faithful to their distinct Christian heritage. Nevertheless, in spite of their faith being tested like gold in a fire (cf. 1 Pet 1:7), they remained constant in the faith of their fathers, a faith which has now been passed on to you, the Maronite Cypriots of today. I urge you to treasure this great inheritance, this precious gift.
This Cathedral building also reminds us of an important spiritual truth. Saint Peter tells us that we Christians are the living stones which are being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:4-5). Together with Christians throughout the world, we are part of that great temple which is the Mystical Body of Christ. Our spiritual worship, offered in many tongues, in many places and in a beautiful variety of liturgies, is an expression of the one voice of the People of God, united in praise and thanksgiving to him and in enduring communion with each other. This communion, which we hold so dear, impels us to carry the Good News of our new life in Christ to all mankind.
This is the charge I leave with you today: I pray that your Church, in union with all your pastors and with the Bishop of Rome, may grow in holiness, in fidelity to the Gospel and in love for the Lord and for one another.
Commending you and your families, and especially your beloved children to the intercession of Saint Maron, I willingly impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
The Maronites are a beautiful witness to the Church breathing with both lungs may they continue to grow and prosper!
Update: I have been informed that the Italo-Albanian church has also never broken communion with Rome. They have a somewhat confusing history, so I was under the impression that they did have a period in which they were out of communion with Rome, but I was mistaken. My apologies!
May God continue to bless their faithfulness to the true church built on st peter.
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The Melkites (updated 03/10/2007)
The Melkites, or Byzantine rite Catholics of Middle Eastern origin, are the descendants of the early Christians of Antioch (Syria). Christianity was established in this area of the Middle East by St. Peter before he traveled on to the imperial city of Rome. In the 5th century, there arose some teachers who said that Christ was not truly God and truly man as well. They would not accept the teaching of the Catholic Church as defined by the Council of Chalcedon (451A.D.) Those in the Middle East who did accept the decision of Chalcedon followed the lead of the Byzantine emperor and were dubbed Melkites or King's Men from the Aramaic word "melek" meaning King.
So Melkites are the present day Catholics who follow the Byzantine worship, theology, and spirituality whose tradition is in the Middle East.
The Melkites are not members of the Orthodox Church.
Melkites are members of the Catholic Church.
Antioch was one of the first cities to become a center of the Christian faith. It was in Antioch that St. Paul started his first apostolic journey, and before Peter was in Rome, he was the head of the Church of Antioch.. One of the most important Antiocheans of the earlier church was St. John Chrystostom
In 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea the patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch were established. Like the patriarchate of Jerusalem (Council of Chalcedon 451 A.D.) Antioch was both a territorial and juridical entity. The government of the church was held by the Sees of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The bishops of these sees were given the title of Patriarch. After the capitol of the Roman empire was moved to Constantinople, that city was also elevated to a Patriarchal see (381A.D.) and given the ranking of "second only to the See of Peter" (Rome).
With the seventh century onslaught of the Islamic conquest of the Middle East, the Melkites found themselves under non-Christian domination. During most of this first Islamic period the Melkites were well treated as a "protected people, but they were frequently denied all civic and social responsibilities. When the Byzantine Empire re-conquered the Middle East, the fashions of Constantinople were incorporated into the liturgical life of the Melkite Church. Between 960 and 1085 A.D. much of the imperial style of Constantinople became a part of the Melkite ritual. Despite the now close ties to Constantinople, the Melkite peoples never broke off relations with Rome and with the Pope.
The great strain between the Melkite Church and Rome happened because of the Crusader. When the Western Catholics came into the Holy Land they did not recognize the legitimacy of the Eastern methods of worship. In the worst cases marauding Crusaders ransacked orthodox churches, and at best cases they simply installed Latin patriarchs and bishops usurping the local control of the church. By the end of the Crusades there was an estrangement between the churches, but the Melkites never actually broke off relations with Rome.
Melkites serve as a witness to the Roman Catholic Church. We have, for centuries, maintained such practices as a married clergy, the election of bishops by the Church as a whole, collegial government and so forth. Many of these features are unknown to Roman Catholics and many Catholics feel that our practices may be more suited to today's world than their Roman counterpoint. Our presence is a witness to the universality of the Catholic Church.
Melkites also serve as a witness to the Eastern Orthodox Churches. To the extent that we are true to ourselves, we exist as a living example that one can be true to a different heritage and yet be truly Catholic, i.e. in communion with Rome. Thus we exist as an example, for good or bad, of what other Churches can expect if and when they too achieve a union with the Church of Rome. Melkites also provide a different option for people searching for Christ. Any church exists to bring its people to Christ. There are many for who the 'style of Christian living' practiced in our Church is more compatible than contemporary Western forms. For these people the Melkite Church can serve a very important function; it can be their way to God. www.melkite.org
I worshiped at a Melkite Church of St. George in Sacramento for a while. The service is almost all in English, with a few prayers said by the priest in Greek, and the Gospel reading is both in Greek and in Arabic. The iconographic tradition of the Byzantine Church is very well kept, -- in fact, Fr. Mark is also an iconographer. The church had a string tradition of fasting. The congregation is very friendly. The liturgical calendar differs from that of the Latin Church, therefore I recommend picking one complete season and attend throughout. Of course, a Roman Catholic completes his Sunday obligation in any Catholic Church, such as Melkite or Maronite.
On Sunday, June 6, St. Mary's RC Church in Troy celebrated its last Mass and closed its doors forever. Across the river in the City of Watervliet, the RC bishop has closed 5 of their 6 parishes. To compound matters, the remaining church has proved too costly to maintain and the diocese will soon tear it down.
In the midst of this decimation, a beacon of light continues to shine. By the grace of God, the small community at St. Ann's Catholic Church (Maronite Rite), is flourishing. Like the loaves and fishes, our pastor was able to multiply a few dollars and acquire an abandoned Methodist/Episcopal church and rectory (the RC diocese would not sell him one of their closed churches). After 5 years of intensive labor, much of which was done by 5 parishioners, the Maronite bishop 2 months ago, announced that he needed our pastor in a different parish. With 40% to go on the restoration of the old church, we wondered how this would be accomplished. The bishop sent us a new pastor, a deeply spiritual priest who wants to welcome the lost sheep into this church. He is now offering daily Mass and will soon begin Eucharistic Adoration.
The following blog article was written on the day when the two pastors concelebrated Mass. A follow up article will appear in the print edition this week.
Restored windows and exterior masonry
The long vacant Methodist Episcopal Church at 1921 Third Avenue in Watervliet, will soon become the home of Saint Ann Maronite Catholic Church.
The parish, which is currently located at 184 Fourth Street in Troy, acquired the historic church in 2005 for 80,000 dollars. Over the past five years, they have invested over 700,000 dollars in renovating the building and adjacent parish house.
Funding for the rennovation has come from parish donations and a grant from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund. The majority of the labor has come from the hands of parishioners.
To date, a new roof has been installed as well as an elevator. The stained glass windows have been restored along with the buildings brick exterior.
Still to come is the installation of the heating and air conditioning, along with the restoration of the interior worship space. We are trying to keep everything original, says Organist Douglas Franke.
Franke says that the parish was able to receive items from churches in the area that have recently closed. The solid marble baptismal font for example, came from Saint Joseph’s Church in Cohoes.
The structure, built in 1850, is on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
According to Pastor Elie Kairouz, who will be moving to a new parish in Buffalo, the congregation has simply outgrown their current building. We have been blessed, Gods hand has touched our parish, he said.
Parishioner Florence Hayes of Troy, says that they plan to reach out to the Catholic population of Watervliet who have recently had their church closed. We hope they will come, she said. We are looking forward to meeting new people.
Rev. George Bouchaaya, who will be taking over at Saint Ann, says that they hope to be in their new building sometime this year. Our new building is a landmark and will once again be a witness to the worship of God.
For more information about Saint Ann, go to their website at www.sainteann.com
Phase two is the interior. With very limited resources, we are hoping to complete the work with grant money, but that will take a long time. Meanwhile, whenever Father is outside, passersby ask him "When will the church open?" Father smiles and assures them that it will happen in God's time.
Please pray for the lost sheep in the RC Diocese of Albany and the successful completion of this church. If you find it in your heart to do so, we accept donations, no matter how small, at our web site Donations to St. Ann's
God's blessings on all of you and your families!
I think your new pastor's name is a good omen.
Indeed :-) Love that painting!
The change in administration has naturally been received with mixed feelings. Personally, I see the great wisdom of God in this, right down to the timing of the above article. The reporter came unsollicited. As a result of his article, several area catholics have called inquiring about Daily Mass. Where the one pastor was a masterful business man, the other wants to expand the spiritual aspects of the parish. He has only been here one week and already introduced Daily Mass, beginning this week which coincides with the closing of St. Mary's. Several people have apparently called inquiring about the Mass Schedule and whether the church is open to non-Lebanese. In Watervliet, the Executive Director of the local Housing Authority emailed the pastor to offer free marketing.
Truly, when one window closes, God opens another! As St. Paul reminds us: "If God is for you, who can be against you!". What has been accomplished in this small parish is nothing short of a miracle. And, it's not over yet.
I love that St. George icon! I’ll have to look for one to get for my b-i-l, George, who is a priest, and collects icons.
If you consider proclaiming the truth since 33AD,”breaking communion with Rome”, then Rome has much to learn. However, being infallible means Rome knows all there is to know about God and His Church.
Observe that both St. George and the horse seem to be a bit surprised that it had to come to this.
bumpus ad summum
thanks for the nice post, proud maronite here.
The new parish administrator and so-called pastor at St Ann Maronite Catholic Church in Troy, New York, has so far been a disappointment. He has no pastoral experience, his English is terrible and he can’t preach. He’s very secretive and doesn’t share parish information (perhaps because of his poor English). Caused a lot of problems so far.
The so-called “new church” is an absolute disaster in terms of planning. There are simply not enough parishioners to maintain the old church (there are perhaps only 40 or so families in the parish and only a fraction attend liturgy regularly or contribute). The hope of occupying the new church or even finishing it, much less maintaining it, is a farce.
I noted that the link to the St Ann Donations on line link is not working and goes to an old web page; this is typical of the micromanagement style there; control everything, do nothing right. Nice work! Way to go if you’re looking for donations.
More on these issues at: http://maronites.wordpress.com/
???? query re this revival of an old thread. Hope things are not as bleak as this post seems to indicate.
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