Priesthood and Hierarchy

Table 15.2 provides the following information: (1) location of the primate, and his title and (2) the proportion of married (diocesan) clergy to that of celibate diocesan clergy. Notwithstanding Vatican II's declaration of the equality of all 'Rites', Roman authorities continue to oppose the open ordination of married candidates to the priesthood outside of Eastern Catholic 'homelands.' Thus, in spite of the severe shortage of clergy in the USA, the only married priests usually permitted to serve there are immigrants from Eastern Europe or the Middle East. In Italy and France, however, married priests are not even allowed to immigrate to serve their communities.

Table 15.2 Eastern Catholic primatial sees and proportion of married priests

Name of Church

Residence and title of primate or senior hierarch

Proportion of married diocesan priests


Ukrainian Greek Catholic

Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine: Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halyc (seeking patriarchal status)

In Ukraine, about 90%; outside: about 40%


Syro-Malabar Catholic

Ernakulam, India: Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly

Optional celibacy eliminated


Maronite Catholic

Bherke, Lebanon: Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites

In the Middle East, about 50%; outside: none


Melkite Greek Catholic

Damascus, Syria: Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek Catholics

In the Middle East, less than 50%; outside: few


Romanian Greek Catholic

Blaj, Romania: Major Archbishop of Fagaras and Alba Julia

In Romania, a majority; outside: few


Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Metropolitan of Pittsburgh of the Byzantines

Almost no married priests


Syro-Malankara Catholic

Trivandrum, Kerala State, India: Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malakarese

Optional celibacy eliminated in 1930s


Armenian Catholic

Beirut, Lebanon: Patriarch of Cilicia

Almost no married priests


Chaldean Catholic

Baghdad, Iraq: Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans

Very few married priests


Hungarian Greek Catholic

Nyiregyhaza, Hungary: Bishop of Hajdudorog

More than half


Slovak Greek Catholic

Presov, Slovakia: Bishop of Presov of Catholics of the Byzantine Rite

More than half


Coptic Catholic

Cairo, Egypt: Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts

Optional celibacy eliminated in 1898


Ethiopian Catholic

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Archbishop of Addis Ababa of the Ethiopians

Almost no married priests


Syrian Catholic

Beirut, Lebanon: Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians

Optional celibacy eliminated in 1888



Lungro and Piana degli Albanesi: two equal sees

Very few married priests


Greek Catholics in the former Yugoslavia

Zagreb, Croatia: Bishop of Krizevci

Approximately 75%


Bulgarian Byzantine Catholic

Sofia, Bulgaria: Apostolic Exarch for Catholics of the Byzantine-Slav Rite in Bulgaria

More than half


Greek Byzantine Catholic

Athens, Greece: Apostolic Exarch for Catholics of the Byzantine Rite in Greece

No married priests

Eastern Catholics, like their Orthodox and Roman Catholic counterparts, have the three major orders of bishop, presbyter and deacon. However, unlike the Roman Church, they have retained the minor orders as in the Orthodox Church. Where optional celibacy has not been banned or restricted by the Vatican, candidates for ordination must be married before receiving the diaconate, and all bishops must be celibate (again, as in the Orthodox Church). At the time of the Council of Florence, several eastern hierarchs were made cardinals. In 1856, the Archbishop of Lviv became the first Eastern Catholic cardinal of the post-Florentine period, and thereafter that number has steadily increased, so that at the beginning of the twenty-first century there are several of them. However, especially among the Melkites, there has been considerable debate about the advisability of having eastern hierarchs invested with the title, 'Cardinal of the Roman Church'.

As for offices or titles particular to the various churches, almost all of the Eastern Catholic Churches have retained or revived the titles used in their Orthodox counterparts: 'mitred archpriest (among the Byzantine Slavs) and 'archpriest' or 'protopresbyter' (among the Byzantines at large); 'chorbishop' and 'periodeutes' (among those of the Syriac tradition); and 'vartapet' (among the Armenians). 'Archimandrite' and 'hegoumen' are still used in religious communities in particular, though 'protoarchimandrite' was created as an equivalent of 'superior-general' for religious orders. In many instances, Eastern Catholics have also adopted the Roman Catholic titles 'monsignor' '(papal) chamberlain', and 'prelate', as well as the general western title 'canon'. All these are used with exactly the same significance as in the Roman Rite except for 'monsignor', which the Maronites use as an additional title for chorbishops.

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