Friday, February 28, 2014

Married Deacon To Be Ordained a Priest

Eastern Catholic churches in the Middle East and Europe ordain married men. However, the Vatican banned the practice in America in the 1920s after Latin-rite bishops complained it was confusing for parishioners.  I love that word “confusing” which is often used by the hierarchy when trying to explain something that one has trouble explaining.
Well for the first time in nearly a century, the Maronite Catholic Church in the United States is ordaining a married man into the priesthood in a ceremony at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral near downtown St. Louis.  Maronites are among more than a dozen Eastern Catholic church groups in the United States. Eastern Catholics accept the authority of the pope, but have many of their own rituals and liturgy.
Pope Francis recently gave permission for the ordination of Deacon Wissam Akiki who has been a married deacon at St. Raymond's since 2009 and has worked as the assistant to the bishop.  But it was noted that the pope's action does not lift the ban on married priests in the U.S. It is simply an exception. Celibacy in the priesthood has been required in the Latin Rite since the 12th century.
Will his decision open the door for more married priests? It is not clear, but experts cautioned against reading too much into it. But in the most recent Maronite Patriarchal Synod, the church reaffirmed its position in support of allowing married priests, a tradition that, worldwide, dates back centuries.  
Perhaps it is time for the Latin Rite Church to review, once again, at its upcoming Synod, the rule of mandatory celibacy.

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