The Maronite Catholic Church in the United States has ordained a married priest for the first time in nearly a century, after Pope Francis gave his permission, reports AP in The New Zealand Herald.
A ceremony at the ornate St Raymond's Maronite Cathedral in St Louis ordained Deacon Wissam Akiki last Thursday. Maronites are among more than a dozen Eastern Catholic Church groups in the United States. Eastern Catholics accept the authority of the Pope, but have many of their own rituals and liturgy.
Eastern Catholic Churches in the Middle East and Europe ordain married men. However, the Vatican banned the practice in America in the 1920s after Latin-rite bishops complained it was confusing for parishioners. But Pope John Paul II called for greater acceptance of Eastern Catholic traditions.
And over the years, popes have made exceptions on a case-by-case basis for married men to become Eastern Catholic priests in the US.
'Almost half of our priests in Lebanon are married, so it's not an unusual event in the life of the Maronite Church, though in the United States it is,' said Deacon Louis Peters, chancellor at St Raymond's.