Saturday, May 08, 2004

The Italian Greek Byzantine Catholic Church

In a welcome respite from the bickering that constitutes the "conversation" on so many Catholic e-mail lists, one of them turned to discussing the Italo-Greek Byzantine Catholic Church recently. I knew something of this Rite, having read about the opening a few years ago in Las Vegas of the newest church of that Rite. This Rite maintains the Byzantine liturgy and the Greek language but is located principally in Sicily and the mainland of Italy.

The always dependable Catholic Encyclopaedia begins its discussion of the Italian Byzantines with an overview:

The name applied to the Greeks in Italy who observe the Byzantine Rite. They embrace three classes: (1) the ecclesiastical communities which have followed the Greek Rite since the Byzantine period; (2) the Greek colonies in the various maritime cities and at Rome; (3) the descendants of the Greeks and Albanians who emigrated en masse into Southern Italy after the Turkish occupation of the Balkans, and established towns, or at least formed powerful groups by themselves; they long maintained their native language and customs, and even now observe the Greek Rite, though in other respects they have been absorbed in the Italian population.

The CE continues with a fascinating article on the history of this Rite. Unfortunately, the article was written in 1910 and much of what is written about its "current" status no longer obtains. An up-date would be welcome but the material on the web is limited. Especially intriguing is this little snippet: "In Sicily, Italo-Greeks are found at. . . . and Messina, where in the church of S. Maria del Graffeo the Latin Rite is observed in the Greek tongue. . . ." The Latin Rite celebrated in Greek? In 1910? Other than the Glagolithic exception in Croatia I would suspect this church is unique. Some further discussion of that would be most welcome, also. I wonder, does it still exist? Would it still be the Gregorian rite in Greek or the Novus Ordo in Greek? Would it be the new rite in ancient liturgical Greek or "vernacular" Greek? The web doesn't say.

There are a few web pages devoted to this Rite. The monastery of St. Mary of Grottoferrata has a web page. This monastery of the Greek rite has never been a part of the Eastern schism and is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary this year. The deacons of the Greek Rite who celebrate with the Holy Father in Rome come from this Abbey.

There are two parishes in the United States of the Italo-Greek rite. The oldest is Our Lady of Grace in New York and the newest is Our Lady of Wisdom in Las Vegas.