Share this story


Embracing other rites

Our Church is one and many

The typical American Catholic professes belief in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” every Sunday; and what he or she has in mind almost invariably is the Latin Western Church of the Roman Rite to which she or he belongs. Because history is regarded as “old, dead stuff,” be it world history, American history, or church history, most American Catholics have little if any idea that the worldwide Catholic communion embraces quite a number of Eastern Churches that are neither Latin nor Roman. They are, nevertheless, truly Catholic, our sisters and brothers in the faith, and in union with the Church of Rome.

Here’s how it came about.

The first Christian Emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great, gave the persecuted Church her freedom in 313 and moved the capital of the Empire to Byzantium in Greece in 330. He called Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople) “the New Rome.” Its liturgy, customs and symbols (called “Byzantine”) began to rival the rites observed in Rome and Western Europe and to spread throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

After holding eight ecumenical councils together over a period of 700 years, Rome and Constantinople split in 1054, the western Church becoming the Roman Church and the eastern Church becoming the Orthodox (meaning “the-correct-way”) Church. Each side called the other one schismatic, and the split exists to this day.

Beginning with the Crusades (1095-1291), continuing through the Council of Trent period which began in 1563, and until more recent times, different groups of these Eastern Christians entered into or renewed their union with Rome. The Orthodox use the derogatory term “uniates” with reference to them.

The Maronites of Lebanon were the first Easterners to come over to Rome, and they did so in the time of the Crusades. Slavic Eastern Orthodox were the next to return to union with Rome in the 1600s. They constitute the largest groups of the returnees, coming mostly from the lands bordering on Catholic Poland and Catholic Austria-Hungary. They are the Ukrainian and Ruthenian Catholics of today. Melkites from Lebanon and Syria, Chaldeans from Iraq, and Armenians from Turkey are among the later Eastern Christians who reunited with the Roman Church. The Maronites and Chaldeans have their own liturgies, but the Melkites and all the reunited Slavic branches retained the Byzantine liturgy and customs that are in use in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Four Catholic parishes within the territory of the Diocese of Lansing are East- ern Catholic with their own liturgy, customs, bishops and traditions. They are:

1. Our Lady of Lebanon (Maronite), 4133 Calkins Road in Flint Township. It is part of the Maronite Diocese of Los Angeles.

2. St. Vladimir (Ukrainian), G-3464 W. Pasadena Avenue in Flint. The parish belongs to the Diocese of Chicago for Ukrainians.

3. St. Michael (Ruthenian), 2333 N. Elms Road, south of Flushing. It is a parish of the Byzantine Diocese of Parma, Ohio.

4. St. Joseph (Melkite), 725 W. Mt. Hope Avenue, Lansing. Its bishop and diocesan see are in Newton, Mass.

We Western Catholics of the Roman Rite should get to know them better. Their parish festivals serve tasty ethnic foods. And we ought certainly embrace them as brothers and sisters in the one true faith. Our Church is truly one and many at the same time.