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The only Eastern church never to break communion with Rome
Posted By Eric Sammons On June 7, 2010 @ 8:18 am In Eastern Christianity,Pope Benedict | Comments Disabled
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 father’s 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!
Article printed from Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons: http://ericsammons.com/blog
URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2010/06/07/the-only-eastern-church-never-to-break-communion-with-rome/
URLs in this post:
 Maronite Catholic Church: http://www.bkerke.org.lb/
 the current Pope offered them his greetings and his blessing: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/cyprus10/resource.php?res_id=1432
 Italo-Albanian church: http://byzcath.org/ourladyofgrace/article.htm
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