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Throughout the 1950s and 60s, however, the Americanization of the Byzantine Catholic Church frequently suggested latinization. The Divine Liturgy, which had been celebrated in Church Slavonic, was now said in English. And a recited, abbreviated version of the liturgy was also offered. In many churches the iconostasis, or wall of icons separating sanctuary and nave, was removed. Side altars with Byzantine-style images (instead of statues) were erected. Nevertheless, participation in church activities was highly enthusiastic.

In 1963, Pope Paul VI divided the Apostolic Exarchate of Pittsburgh into two eparchial sees. One eparchy was established in Pittsburgh and a second in Passaic. A third eparchy was created in 1969 in Parma, Ohio. And that same year Pope Paul VI established the Eparchy of Pittsburgh as a Metropolitan See, with Passaic and Parma as suffragan sees. In 1981, Pope John Paul II created a third suffragan see, the Eparchy of Van Nuys, Calif. More than 200,000 people now belong to the Byzantine Catholic Church in the U.S.

The bishops of the church, while not returning to the ethnocentric policies of the past, have promoted cultural and spiritual renewal. Standardized texts of the Divine Liturgy have been promulgated. Liturgical services that once fell out of use, including the proper administration of the sacraments of Christian Initiation – baptism, chrismation and Eucharist – have been resurrected. Icons and icon screens have been restored and, in some parishes, entire churches have been transformed into traditional Ruthenian structures.

In a letter to all Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics commemorating the Union of Uzhorod, Pope John Paul II called for the “Ruthenian community to be invigorated by this celebration and to fulfill with new apostolic vigor the mission entrusted to it…by means of prayer [and] example, by the scrupulous fidelity to the traditions of the East, by better knowledge of each other, by working together and by a brotherly attitude toward all persons and things.

“The affirmation of one’s proper identity,” the Pontiff continued, “ought to serve as proof that there are places open in the Universal Church for different traditions.”

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Michael La Civita is the Editor of Catholic Near East magazine.

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