In a confluence of events apparently without precedent, this coming weekend will dsicover both largest Eastern Catholic churches formally install new heads. Chosen yesterday, tomorrow brings the enthronement of Lebanon’s newly-elected Maronite patriarch of Antioch, 71 year-old Beshara Peter Rai (above), whose worldwide fold includes some 4 million members. Given its concentration in the home, the Maronite church may be the largest Catholic body in the centre East. A surprise choice with the Antioch chair — its roots deriving from St Peter’s brief time there before the First Apostle’s settlement in Rome — Rai’s elevation is thought to cast a far more moderate direction to the Maronite leadership from his predecessor, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, who led the church for just a quarter-century ahead of his retirement at 91 late last month. Hailed as a “pioneer of unity,” the 77th patriarch of Antioch and the complete Levant — who, commensurate with the tradition of his predecessors, has added “Peter” to his name — has chosen “Communion and Charity” because the leitmotif of his ministry with the church’s helm.
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On Sunday in Ukraine, meanwhile, the 6 million-member Ukrainian Greek Catholic church will inaugurate the successor to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar which has a liturgy in its still-rising new cathedral (below) inside the historic cradle of Russian Christianity, Kiev. Lacking the patriarchal designation — at the very least, formally — as the next major-archbishop of this UGCC was reportedly elected earlier today, the choice’s identity will not be revealed until his ascent is confirmed with the Holy See. Notably, the 40 bishops from the Ukrainian Synod took all days of these gathering — the full total time allotted beneath the UGCC’s particular law — to choose the church’s new head. In accordance with a brief in the Kiev-based curia after Day Three closed with out a winner, on the ultimate day of balloting the mandatory threshold for election switches from the two-thirds margin to a straightforward majority between your two leading candidates from the prior vote, the scenario indicating that no contender could garner overly broad support from another eparchs.
Either way, another Ukrainian chief will probably mark a generational shift and much more from your 77 year-old Husar, who’s led the worldwide fold since 2001 until retiring last month amid many years of poor health. Along with the church persecuted severely on its home-turf, because the last three generations of UGCC hierarchs have either governed from exile or spent at the very least section of their ministry underground, Husar’s potential successors have already been in a position to function openly in a free of charge Ukraine — not just one without its challenges, needless to say, but a markedly different landscape from the knowledge of these predecessors. Husar likewise voiced his want the election of the considerably younger successor. For all your divergences of custom and challenges between their two churches, a very important factor both Rai and another UGCC head both inherit may be the reality of complex, high-stakes political situations. Within a religiously-divided Lebanon — where, for legal reasons, the president should be a Maronite — the patriarch plays a substantial role within the national discourse, a prerogative Sfeir prominently exercised often.
Accordingly, the country’s political establishment flocked for the patriarchal seat at Bkirki within the wake of Rai’s election, representatives from Hezbollah included. Among other significant gestures first of his tenure, the brand new Maronite chief has indicated his desire to go to the church’s membership in Syria — a big tone-shift from his predecessor, who rapped Damascus’ “interference” in Lebanese politics during his reign. During his 25 year patriarchate, Sfeir never journeyed to find out his Syrian fold. In Ukraine, meanwhile, Husar’s successor could have the intimidating task of following cleric deemed the country’s “esteemed moral voice,” alongside stepping in to the leadership of the flock that’s repeatedly clashed with the neighborhood Russian Orthodox church, which includes received a growing level of support from hawaii on the UGCC’s protests. Also, based on his leanings, the Synod’s choice could either further pave just how toward Pope Benedict’s much-cherished ambition of the unprecedented ending up in the patriarch of Moscow, or galvanize the Russian church’s hard-liners, whose suspicion of Rome has made progress toward a summit between B16 and Patriarch Kirill I a plodding, often-halting path. Beyond their respective situations in the home, the Maronite patriarch along with the Ukrainian major-archbishop share a substantial distinction in the church’s universal stage: going back half-century, theirs will be the only two Eastern seats whose occupants have consistently been elevated to the faculty of cardinals as papal electors. As patriarchates are lifetime posts, most Oriental chiefs that are given the red hat receive it following their 80th birthdays. Prior to the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, Antonios Naguib, was inducted in to the college finally November’s consistory at age 75 — and this only after an outcry in the delegates to last year’s Synod of Bishops for the center East — the final resident Eastern leader turn into a Roman elector was Husar, hours after his 2001 election as head from the Ukrainian church.