When you consider the parishes comprising the Diocese of Orange, Roman Catholic churches are the ones that first come to mind.
Yet, the diocese also includes five Eastern churches that are in full communion with Rome, each with its own faith tradition, origins, and patriarchs, and similarities and differences from Roman Catholicism.
Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church
The Right Reverend Stephen G. Washko, pastor of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Anaheim, proudly notes that his church will celebrate its 50th anniversary the same week that Christ Cathedral will be dedicated.
Fr. Washko says one of the biggest differences Roman Catholic visitors see between their rite and the Byzantine rite is the way the Mass – or as they call it, the Divine Liturgy – is celebrated.
“When Roman Catholics attend, they notice the architecture and the building are different,” Fr. Washko says. “Byzantine rites tend to use a lot of incense. Eastern churches don’t use musical instruments. We have a cantor and the choir leads the singing. All our services are chanted and sung.”
Holy Cross Melkite Church
Located in Placentia, the Holy Cross Melkite Church is headed by a patriarch who resides in Damascus, Lebanon, and Alexandria. The Melkites trace their history to the 1st century Christians of Antioch, where Saints Peter and Paul first introduced Christianity.
The Melkite Church is related to the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, from which it separated in the mid-18th century. It has been part of the Catholic Church since 1724.
Father Francois Beyrouti, pastor of Holy Cross Melkite Church, says his church is identical to the Roman Catholic Church in its beliefs. “How we express those beliefs is different. All the elements of the liturgy are fairly recognizable, and we believe in the consecration of the body and blood of Christ.”
Saint John Maron Church
The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Pope and the worldwide Catholic Church, with self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Officially known as the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, it is part of Syriac Christianity by liturgy and heritage.
“In our tradition you will hear some Aramaic in some instances, just as you will sometimes hear Latin in a Roman Catholic service,” explains Rev. Antoine Bakh, pastor of the Orange church. “We keep some songs in that language and also use it in the words of consecration, because it is the language of Christ.”
When attending a Maronite service, Fr. Bakh says, participants will hear three languages: Aramaic, English and Syriac. “Our songs are very ancient – even the more modern songs have an ancient feeling or spirit.”
Saint Ceorge Chaldean Catholic Church
The Chaldean Catholic Church has had its headquarters in the Cathedral of Mary Mother of Sorrows, in Baghdad, Iraq, since 1950. Located in Santa Ana, Saint George Chaldean Catholic Church is led by its pastor, Rev. Awraha Mansoor. The Chaldean Catholic Church originally formed out of the Church of the East in 1552.
Saint Thomas Apostle Syro-Malabarforane Catholic Church
St. Thomas Christians trace their origins to the evangelical mission of Thomas the apostle. The Syro-Malabar church is an East Syrian Rite, a Major Archiepiscopal church in full communion with the Catholic church. Located in Santa Ana, Saint Thomas Apostle Syro-Malabar Forane Catholic Church is led by its pastor, Rev. James Nirappel.