Maronite Catholic Church Ordains Married Priest, First in US in 100 Years

Image: Maronite Catholic Church Ordains Married Priest, First in US in 100 Years Wife Manal Kassab, Deacon Wissam Akiki, and daughter Perla.

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 04:07 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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A Maronite Catholic Church in St. Louis ordained a married priest Thursday, an event that hasn’t happened in the United States in almost 100 years.

According to The Associated Press, Wissam Akiki called the event historic and told hundreds of people gathered at St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral that he had two blessings — being married to his wife, Manal, and “the dream to serve the Lord thanks and church as a priest.”

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Akiki and his wife have a daughter, 8, who participated in the ceremony.

Eastern Catholic churches often ordain married men in other countries, such as the Middle East and Europe, but the Vatican banned the practice in the 1920s in the United States.

Akiki was ordained with the permission of Pope Francis.

“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," Deacon Louis Peters, chancellor at St. Raymond's, told the AP.

The church welcomed the idea of a married priest.

"I really think it sets a precedent," Stephanie Baker, a lifelong church member, told the AP. "There are a lot of people who have it (the priesthood) in their hearts. This opens it up for other people."

Experts on the Catholic Church, though, said this doesn’t mean the church will allow married priests.

“This is certainly not an automatic indication that the mandate of celibacy within Roman rite will be overturned," Randy Rosenberg, a theological studies professor at Saint Louis University, told the AP.

But others saw the move as a signal for the future. Adam Deville, a professor at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Maronite Church has been conservative about married priests in the U.S. and that makes the ordination significant.

Deville likened the situation to conservative Republican Rick Santorum coming out in favor of gay marriage, the Post-Dispatch said.

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