22 September 2015
Iraqi, Syrian and Ukrainian Catholics join Athens’ small Byzantine Catholic community for the Divine Liturgy at the neo-Byzantine Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. (photo: Marilyn Raschka)
At least one legacy remains in modern Greece of the Crusaders’ sack of the city of Constantinople in 1204 and their subsequent occupation of Greece: Most Catholics in Greece — some 50,000 people — are Greek-speakers who worship following the Latin rite of the Catholic communion of churches. However, as many as 6,000 people share the Byzantine rites of the dominant Orthodox Church and are in full communion with the pope.
Overwhelmed by the needs of refugees flooding Constantinople in the early 1920’s, Greek Catholic Bishop George Calavassy appealed to his friend, Father Paul Wattson, S.A., to raise awareness and funds in the United States on their behalf. Together, they helped found CNEWA. (photo: CNEWA)
No larger than a typical North American suburban parish, this church is sui juris, or autonomous, within the Catholic communion and is led by two apostolic exarchs, based in Athens and Istanbul, respectively.
If not for the humanitarian and pastoral works of one of its leaders, Bishop George Calavassy (1920-57), this church would barely merit a footnote in the annals of church history. For after the horrors in Asia Minor after World War I, this church and its bishop figured prominently in the care of Armenian, Assyro-Chaldean, Greek and Russian refugees then flooding the Turkish capital of Istanbul, prompting the foundation of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
Read a full account of this fascinating history here.