Author Archives: Brian Garcia-Luense

A few different takes on the upcoming meeting between Pope Francis and President Trump

Here are a number of thoughtful articles worth reading in preparation for Wednesday’s meeting between Pope Francis and President Trump.

Eastern Catholic Churches

In recent times we have unfortunately heard more about the Christian communities in many of the countries of the Near East because of their threatened or precarious status.  Many Catholics in the United States may have been surprised to learn that Christian communities, many established in apostolic times, have in fact continued to exist in areas whose populations are now largely Muslim.  Further confusing the situation for many American Catholics are the unfamiliar sounding names of some of the communities.  At the end of last month Pope Francis visited Egypt. In addition to meeting with Muslim leaders, Pope Francis also met with Christian leaders, including some who are Coptic Orthodox (and separated from us as Catholics) and some who are Coptic Catholic (who are united with us as Catholics).

The Universal Catholic Communion consists of twenty-three sui iuris Churches: The Roman Catholic Church and twenty-two other Churches known collectively as Eastern Catholic Churches. Each of the twenty-three Churches has a hierarchy which enjoys a self-governing power that has either been expressly conceded or recognized by the supreme church authority; these ecclesial groupings are called churches sui iuris (literally, “of their own right”). They recognize one another as being united in one profession of faith, united under one supreme authority, sharing is one sacramental life, with each being an expression of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. In some cases this bond of communion was severed for some time, only to be reestablished at a later date. Membership in the Catholic Church is never “at large”; instead a person is a member of a specific church sui iuris. Each of the twenty-two Eastern Catholic Churches observes a rite, i.e., a body of liturgy, theology, spirituality, and discipline, derived from one of the five Eastern traditions: Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean, and Constantinopolitan.

Within the Catholic Church, the presence, distinction, and importance of the Eastern Churches was unfortunately under recognized for many years, even centuries, by those in the West.  This began to change substantially when, during the Second Vatican Council, the council issued the decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Eastern Churches) in which it affirmed that it held, “in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches” (no. 1) and that it, “solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, as much as those of the West, have a full right and are in duty bound to rule themselves, each in accordance with its own established disciplines, since all these are praiseworthy by reason of their venerable antiquity, more harmonious with the character of their faithful and more suited to the promotion of the good of souls” (no. 5).   The establishment of a permanent synod of bishops following the Second Vatican Council for the universal Church was a clear instance of the history and traditions of the Eastern Churches being allowed to influence the direction of the universal Church.  Pope St. John Paul II, during his pontificate, reinforced this message when he spoke on numerous occasions of the need for the Catholic Church to “breathe with both lungs,” i.e. to incorporate within itself the inspiration and genius of both east and west.

The United States, being, like most nations of the western hemisphere, a nation of immigrants, has within itself both Roman Catholics and Catholics of several of the Eastern Catholic Churches.  There are 18 established hierarchies of Eastern Churches in the United States (2 archeparchies, 15 eparchies, and one exarchate) from 10 different Eastern Churches (Byzantine-Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Maronite, Chaldean, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Armenian, Melkite, Syriac, and Romanian Churches).

Within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston there are a number of parishes and missions of various Eastern Catholic Churches.  These parishes then, are not Catholic parishes that are not a part of our archdiocese; rather, they are under the jurisdiction of one of those 18 Eastern circumscriptions.  In Houston, these include a Ukrainian Catholic parish, a Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic parish, and a Maronite parish.  Also, there are two Syro-Malabar Catholic communities in Missouri City (a Malayalam speaking community and a Knanayan community), and a Syro-Malankara community in Stafford.  The Roman Catholics of our Archdiocese are enriched by the presence, witness, and collaboration of these our Catholic sisters and brothers.  It is important to remember that these are communities of Catholic Churches with whom we have full communion and therefore all Catholics are welcome not only to attend their liturgies but to share fully in the sacraments.  Our own Cardinal Archbishop, with his own deep love of the Eastern Churches, has made it his practice regularly to visit these local eastern communities and to give visible testimony to our full communion by sharing together with them in the sacraments.

As we hear news of the situation of Coptic Catholics in Egypt, Syriac, Melkite, Armenian and Maronite Catholics in Syria, and Chaldean Catholics in Iraq we do well to remember the bonds of communion that unite us to them and to pray for them and their safety.

Struggles over euthanasia and assisted suicide engage the faithful in many places in the world

In the United States we as Catholics can often be guilty of presuming that the issues that seem most pressing to us are likewise the most pressing for the Church throughout the world. That is very often not the case.

On the topics of euthanasia and assisted suicide, however, we see that this issue is indeed a pressing one in many places. Read here about how the issue one that has again been brought to prominence in Italy.

What is a contemporary theology of organized action?

The blog contains very thoughtful essays and reflections from some of the best young Catholic theologians in the United States.

Periodically they have a themed week in which, each day, they explore a single theme from a variety of theological perspectives.

This week (starting this past Sunday and continuing through tomorrow) they have been exploring the following theme:

How does Christ’s ministry in the Gospel inform what it means to protest, to resist, to organize? What are the theological underpinnings of organizing against injustice? How do religious ideas and institutions enhance our understandings of citizenship, of democracy, and of organizing for the greater common good?

Pope authorizes promulgation of a degree recognizing miracle through intercession of Solanus Casey, beatification to follow

Until December of last year there were no U.S. born men who had been recognized by the Catholic Church as Blessed, let alone as saints.

In December Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Oklahoma-born priest Father Stanley Rother,whose beatification will be celebrated later this year.

Today. Pope Francis authorized the promulgation of a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Solanus Casey, paving the way for his beatification later this year as well.

For more information about this event and about the life and ministry of Fr. Solanus, see the excellent summary from the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Conference in Chicago highlights how faith and science not in opposition

The Society of Catholic Scientists held their first ever conference last month in Chicago. The group highlights an important element of our catechesis: that faith and reason are not in opposition and that one need not choose between science and religion.


On the Centrality of the Resurrection for the Christian Faith

On this Easter day in which we celebrate with great joy and solemnity the Resurrection of Christ the Lord, a helpful essay reminding us as to why this mystery is the central mystery of the Christian faith on which everything else rests.

New free laundry for the homeless opens in Rome

Moved by the exhortations of Pope Francis, a religious group in Rome has created a free laundry for the homeless. Can and should such an undertaking be repeated in major metropolitan centers in this country that also have significant homeless populations?