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U.S. Eastern Catholic Bishops

Syriac Bishop Yousif Habash of Newark, N.J., Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Richard S. Seminack of Chicago and Romanian Bishop John M. Botean of Canton, Ohio, concelebrate a Maronite Divine Service of the Holy Mysteries with U.S. bishops from the Eastern Catholic churches at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome 17 May. Bishops from the Chaldean, Ruthenian, Maronite, Ukrainian, Armenian, Melkite, Syriac and Romanian Catholic churches were making their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring) 

18 May 2012 – by Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Eastern Catholic bishops in the United States share their brother bishops’ concerns about religious freedom and evangelization, and see their distinct liturgies as powerful tools for expanding their flocks.

Bishops from the Chaldean, Ruthenian, Maronite, Ukrainian, Armenian, Melkite, Syriac and Romanian Catholic churches were at the Vatican May 15-19 for their “ad limina” visits. They were the last group of U.S. bishops to make the visits to report on the status of their dioceses to Pope Benedict XVI and to hold discussions with Vatican officials.

Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of St. Maron of Brooklyn, N.Y., said Eastern Christians, whose churches have experienced much persecution over the centuries, have a message for their fellow Christians in the West: “Don’t be silenced by anybody.”

“Christianity doesn’t seek to ’impose’ on anybody,” he said. “That’s the false myth in American society,” because the Catholic witness to non-Christians takes place primarily through service in hospitals, nursing homes and schools, said the bishop, whose diocese covers 40 parishes in 16 states.

For the Maronite Church in the United States, he said, one challenge is to meet the needs both of Maronites whose families have been in the country for generations and of newcomers from Lebanon and the Middle East, who may speak only Arabic.

“The other (challenge) is to welcome people who have no church background, no faith background and have found a home with us,” he said.

“It’s fascinating, among my clergy (there are) last names like Beaton, Franklin, Jensen, Morrison — not the traditional Arabic names. You have men who have found a great love for this church,” its liturgy and spirituality, the bishop said.

Ukrainian Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia told Catholic News Service that the recent immigration of Catholics from Ukraine “has been a source of renewal” for his church, which has been losing many of the children of earlier generations of Ukrainian immigrants.

Building up the faith of members and persuading those who have left to return is a challenge the Eastern Catholic bishops share with their Latin-rite counterparts, he said.

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Tags: Vatican United States Eastern Churches Congregation for Eastern Churches