Religious Persecution Conference Will Feature Maronite Patriarch, Bishop
Mar Bechara Boutros (Peter) Cardinal Raï, Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, and A. Elias Zaidan, Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, will speak at a half-day conference on religious persecution July 1st in Cincinnati.
“One Church of Mercy” will be held at the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Clifton. A special Pontifical Divine Liturgy (Mass) celebrated by the cardinal with Archbishop Dennis Schnurr will follow that evening at St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Catholic Church in Walnut Hills.
Open to all, the conference sponsored by the Archdiocese and the two host parishes will focus on the Eastern Catholic Churches, persecution in the Middle East, and religious freedom. It will be the “crowning event in the Archdiocese’s Fortnight for Freedom” observance, according to the Archdiocese, as well as a featured event for the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis.
The Fortnight for Freedom is an observance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Each year dioceses around the country arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. The Fortnight for Freedom begins June 21, the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, and ends to July 4, Independence Day. This year’s theme is “Witnesses to Freedom.”
The sponsors urge all to come and learn about the Eastern Catholic Churches, the special challenges they face to religious liberty, and what American Catholics (Roman and Eastern) can do to help them.
About Eastern Catholics
The Maronite Church is one of almost two dozen Eastern Churches that are part of the universal Catholic Church. Each has its own ancient rite (set of liturgies) but all acknowledge the primacy of the Holy See. Based in Lebanon, the Maronite Church also includes individual churches in Syria, Cyprus, and Egypt, as well as in Christian Palestine. Their liturgy is celebrated in Arabic and Syriac. Because of earlier immigration and current persecution, the historic Church in Lebanon is in crisis and may not survive.
Two other Eastern Catholic Churches, the Syro-Malabar Church and Byzantine Catholic Church, also have churches or missions in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Originally based in India and tracing its roots to the Apostle Thomas, who was martyred there, the Syro-Malabar Church is s the second largest Eastern Catholic Church, with more than 3 million members around the world (about 200,000 in the United States). Over the centuries it has been influenced by Syrian and Portuguese Catholics, and has a distinctive structure as well as its own rite. Their American center is the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago, headed by Mar (Bishop) Jacob Angadiath. The St. Chavara Mission celebrates liturgies at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenhills (OH) for families from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
Fr. Siju Azhakath, Mission Director of St. Chavara Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission, will be a featured speaker at the conference.
The Byzantine Catholic Church traces its roots to the Apostles and, later, to Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. Although the Greek Orthodox and Roman Churches mutually split nearly 1000 years ago, the Byzantine Catholics (who also consider themselves Orthodox) remain in union with Rome. Locally, Byzantine Catholics worship at St. Barbara Church in Dayton (OH). It is part of the Eparchy of Parma (OH), under the authority Bishop John Kudrick.
9:00-9:30 Morning Prayer in Annunciation Church
9:30-10:00 Gathering (includes light refreshments and table discussions)
10:00-11:15 Introductions to the Eastern rite Catholic communities and issues of religious freedom
- Archbishop Dennis Schnurr
- Fr. Todd Grogan, pastor, Annunciation
- Tony Stieritz, Director, Archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office
- Fr. George Hajj, Pastor, St. Anthony of Padua
- Fr. Siju Azhakath, Mission Director, St. Chavara Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission
- One Church of Mercy Committee Members
- Bishop A. Elias Zaidan
11:15-Noon Presentation by His Beatitude Mar Béechara Peter Cardinal Raï
Noon-12:30 Questions and Answers
Tickets to the conference are $10. To register, go to catholiccincinnati.org/event/one-church-of-mercy-2/.
Following the conference, all area Catholics are invited to celebrate at a Pontifical Divine Liturgy (the Eastern term for the Eucharist) service at St. Anthony of Padua. Bishop Zaidan and Archbishop Schnurr will celebrate. The parish asks people who plan to attend to notify them at staparish.org
“Our Maronite Patriarch is visiting our parish — we want you to participate in this once in a lifetime event!” says Fr. Hajj.
For more about the event, see the links above. For more about international Christian persecution and the Church’s response, see Annunciation’s online compilation of information and resources.
For more Catholic events, see our Events page.
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