Vatican introduces new norms for Eastern rite married priests

17.11.2014, 12:49
The Congregation for Eastern Churches led by Cardinal Sandri has decided that these priests can minister outside the dioceses where they normally serve

Married priests of Eastern Rite Catholic churches will now be allowed to carry out pastoral work outside the areas where they traditionally minister, namely the Middle East and Eastern Europe. This means they will be able to follow their faithful to whichever country they immigrate to. The decision became official when Francis approved a document by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches titled Pontificia Praecepta de clero Uxorato Orientali. The document was signed by teh dicastery’s Prefect, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri on 14 June 2014. In reality, little is going to change in Italy and other countries where there are not yet any areas of jurisdiction for Eastern rite immigrants as there are in the US, Britain and France. Only the Holy See will have the power to allow married clergy to serve within its boundaries, only in specific and exceptional cases, after it has conferred with the relevant Bishops’ Conferences.

The move is still an important sign, however, as it is a step toward guaranteeing spiritual support to immigrants belonging to Eastern rite Churches who often switch to the Orthodox Church because of the lack of clergy from their own Churches in the countries they go to live in. In the US, the document recalls, “the presence of married ministers sparked a protest among Latin bishops who claim their presence provoked a `gravissimum scandalum´ among Latin faithful. For this reason, the Congregation for Propaganda Fide issued a decree on 1 October 1890, prohibiting married clergy to reside in the US.” This ban was then extended to other Eastern Churches and territories outside the Americas and Europe. This meant that around 200 thousand faithful switched over to the Orthodox faith.

From now on, – similarly to what Benedict XVI did for Anglo-Catholics in 2009 – Eastern Ordinaries will also be able to ordain married Eastern candidates from their respective area of jurisdiction. The Latin bishop in charge of the area where the candidate is resident will need to be informed prior to this in writing, so that he can offer his own opinion and provide any other useful information. However, in countries such as Italy - where Eastern faithful have no specific administrative structure they can use as a reference point and are therefore placed under the care of local Latin bishops – the rules have not changed so only the Holy See has the power to admit married clergy, having first consulted local bishops.

15 November 2014 Vatican Insider