Melkite rite see defends ordination of married man

Eastern catholic life

Sunday, June 26, 1977

Tradition Proper to Eastern Churches

NEWTON, MASS. (RNS) – The Melkite Rite Eparchy (diocese) of Newton has defended the ordination of a married priest within its jurisdiction as an appropriate interpretation of a «tradition proper to the Eastern Churches which dates back to apostolic times.»

Officials of the Melkite see responded to statements by a spokesman, for the Vatican’s Congregation on Eastern Rite Churches which challenged the lawfulness of the ordination of a married man by Patriarch Maximos V.Hakim in Canada. Patriarch Hakim later went to Rome where he defended his action.

The Vatican spokesmen had said that Patriarch Hakim had acted «illicitly in performing the ordination.

A statement issued by the eparchy suggested that the controversy should be considered in the light of the Eastern Churches’ traditions of a married clergy rather than juridical terms of the Western Church.

The complete text of the diocesan statement follows:

«The Second Vatican Council states in its decree on the Eastern Church, all Eastern Rite members should know and be convinced that they can and should preserve their liturgical rites and their established way of life. If they have improperly fallen away from them because of circumstance of time or personage, let them take pains to return to their ancestral ways.’ The Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which had just been contituted as the Diocese of Newton, is the natural and normal daughter of the Patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, and its bishop is a member with full rights of its Patriarchal Synod and is bound by its decisions. This vital link with the Mother Church cannot be invalidated by any other juridicial link whatsoever since the juridical follows life and does not make it.

«To place the problems first and only on the juridical plane rather than on that of life can certainly be advantageous, but can also be grossly inconvenient. However, if it governs things proximately it is also very quickly transgressed because it ceases to coincide with living reality which as priority over all the rest, it creates ambiguous situations and sows confusion in souls.

«The ordination of Father Romanus Russo, a married man and the father of two children, by Patriarch Maximos V. Hakim is of this order. Vatican II recognizes in the Patriarch the guardian of tradition and disciplin and the «Head of the Rite» everywhere. By ordaining a married man he has only interpreted this tradition proper to the Eastern Churches which dates from Apostolic times. Vatican II sanctioned by conciliar declaration the equality of rites and disciplines in the two Churches of East and West.

«We are in the period after Vatican II, and long after. All ecumenical problems must be placed beyond, and not on this side of the Council, in order to remain true. If ecumenism is not to become a vain expression but a living reality, it must be translated into practice by ecumenical attitudes and an ecumenical mentality. Will it ever be thinkable, in an ecumenical dialogue, to force Orthodoxy from which these Churches come to renounce an apostolic traditon? Certainly Not.

«Why not recognize it purely and simply among the Eastern Catholic Churches who did not renounce their identity when they reunited with Rome? Is it necessary to painfully recall the mass exodus of over one-half million oriental faithful from the Catholic Church to Orthodoxy in this county, a fact which is scarcely remembered and which has not provoked any tears?»

The Newton Eparchy (Diocese) was established last year to serve the Melkite Rite Catholics in the United States. Archbishop Joseph Tawil is Eparch of the See.

By. George Cornell
Star Ledger
No. 120