For the first time, the Maronite Catholic Church will ordain a married man to the priesthood in the United States, the St. Louis archdiocesan newspaper reported.
The ordination of Deacon Wissam Akiki will take place in St. Louis on February 28.
The Maronite Catholic Church is among the Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with the Holy See that ordain married men to the priesthood. At the request of the bishops of the United States, however, the Holy See in 1929 decreed that only celibate priests could serve in Eastern Catholic parishes in the US. Similar decrees were issued for Australia and Canada.
Some Eastern Catholic prelates have permitted married men ordained in the Middle East to serve in American parishes. Pope Francis has dispensed Deacon Akiki from the current norm and has not abandoned the norm, a Maronite spokesman told the Associated Press.
Such a dispensation is not unprecedented. Catholic News Service reported in 2011 that “Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, [said] that the Vatican reconfirmed the general ban in 2008, ‘but in individual cases, in consultation with the national bishops’ conference, a dispensation can be given’ allowing the ordination.” http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=20625