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Following the footsteps of our Lord: the Eastern Catholic churches
Posted By Eric Sammons On October 12, 2010 @ 7:58 am In Eastern Christianity | Comments Disabled
This week a synod of Middle Eastern bishops  commenced at the Vatican. The majority of Catholics in the Middle East are members of one of the 22 Eastern Catholic churches*, so most of the representatives at the Synod are Eastern Catholics. As regular readers of this blog know, I have a special affinity for the Eastern Catholic churches, even though I am a member of the Latin church.
Over the past forty years, the Church’s magisterium has made clear that the Eastern Catholic churches are to maintain their Eastern traditions, something that Pope Benedict reiterated this week . This is something that most Western Catholics are willing to give lip service to, but often choke on the details. To many of us, traditions like infant communion (and confirmation), married priests, and self-ruling churches appear to be non-Catholic. But we should not judge the practices of the East in light of our historic battles with Protestantism and secularism, but instead in light of their own ancient traditions. For example, the East does not allow married priests because they despise celibacy (as many anti-Catholics in the West do), but because they live out the celibate lifestyle in monasteries and in the episcopate. The traditions of the East are as venerable as those in the West, and they can – and should – coexist in the Church without preference being given to one over the other.
The Eastern Catholic churches have a role in the Church that is remarkable and in many areas, rejected and even reviled. They are a witness for Eastern Christianity to the West, and a witness for communion with Rome to the East. As such, they are usually held in suspicion on both sides. Western Catholics suspect that they are not “Catholic” enough, and the Orthodox do not believe them to be truly Eastern. They must live out their vocation in the midst of a world which does not support them. Furthermore, their mission is to eventually no longer exist, for once reunion occurs, most would simply be subsumed into their sister Orthodox churches.
In other words, they have a mission which leads them to be rejected by this world and eventually to die. Who does that sound like? The Eastern Catholic churches follow in the footsteps of our Lord, who was rejected by men and was put to death. But just as the death of Christ led to resurrection, so too will the “death” of the Eastern Catholic churches lead to the Church’s resurrection as a reunited Church. All Catholics should pray fervently that the Eastern Catholic churches continue to grow and to be the special witness for a Church that breathes with both lungs again.
* The Catholic Near East Welfare Association has a wonderful overview of these churches in their latest ONE magazine, which can be found online here .
Article printed from Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons: http://ericsammons.com/blog
URL to article: http://ericsammons.com/blog/2010/10/12/following-the-footsteps-of-our-lord-the-eastern-catholic-churches/
URLs in this post:
 a synod of Middle Eastern bishops: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=7879
 Pope Benedict reiterated this week: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-encourages-eastern-catholics-to-maintain-traditions/
 here: http://www.cnewa.org/default.aspx?ID=201&pagetypeID=3&sitecode=HQ&pageno=1
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