Maronite Catholics ordain married man in USA
Normally conservative faith makes surprising move with papal consent
Picture: Religion News Service
Wissam Akiki is a Catholic priest and a married man.
The pews were packed Thursday (Feb. 27) as Akiki became the first married man in the Maronite Catholic Church ordained into the priesthood in the United States with the blessing of the pope.
Bishop Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, which is based in St. Louis, led the ordination ceremony held at St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral.
Manal Kassab, who has been married to Akiki for about a decade, and their daughter, Perla, 8, were also present.
Akiki had been a deacon at St. Raymond’s since 2009 and worked as the assistant to the bishop.
The Maronite Catholic Church, with roots in Lebanon and the Middle East, is part of a larger group of 22 Catholic churches belonging to the Eastern rite. Unlike the Orthodox Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic churches recognize the authority of the pope and are in communion with Rome.
In Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, many Eastern Catholic priests are married, but since the 1920s the practice has generally been banned in the U.S.
Eastern Catholic churches that have sought to ordain a married man for priestly ministry in the U.S. have typically petitioned Rome for permission, though until recently, the Vatican response has usually been a resounding “no.”
Some wonder whether opening up priestly ordination to married men in the Eastern rite will swing the doors open for Roman Catholic men.
Adam Deville, a professor at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., who focuses on the Christian East, said the Maronite Church has traditionally taken a conservative stance on the issue of married priests in the U.S. and sees Akiki’s ordination as momentous.
It’s like conservative Republican politician Rick Santorum’s coming out in favor of gay marriage, Deville said.
The Maronite Church is “the most conservative and the least willing to rock the boat on this question,” said Deville. “If they can do it, anyone can do it.”
Source: Religion News Service
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