SALT LAKE CITY — As part of the effort to welcome the 77th Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, for his visit to Utah on Oct. 20, many fundraisers have taken place around the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
The Maronite Church, which has about 300,000 members worldwide, is an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the pope of Rome. The United States has two Maronite eparchies, equivalent to a province of the Roman Catholic Church: the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, which is headquartered in Los Angeles and St. Louis, and the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn.
St. Jude Maronite Catholic Church in Murray is the only Maronite church in Utah.
The Patriarch Cardinal Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi was ordained priest on Sept. 3, 1967. From 1967-1975 he was responsible for the Arabic programs on Vatican Radio.
“He was like Bishop Fulton Sheen; he was on television weekly in Lebanon, teaching and speaking about the Catholic faith,” said Father Joubran BouMerhi, pastor of St. Jude Maronite Parish, which will host the patriarch’s visit.
Bishop Sheen of New York was known for his radio and television ministry, which ran from 1930 to 1968.
Patriarch Bechara Cardinal Rai founded Notre Dame University in Louaizé, Lebanon. He took his monastic vows with the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Aug. 31, 1962; he was ordained a priest on Sept. 3, 1967; and ordained a bishop on July 12, 1986. On Nov. 24, 2012 he was named cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. The following year he participated as a cardinal elector in the conclave that elected Pope Francis.
“Patriarch Bechara Cardinal Rai is the first Maronite patriarch to come from a religious order in more than 200 years,” according to the press release about his visit. As his motto, he chose “Communion and Love.”
“One of the misconceptions is that people don’t realize that yes, he is the patriarch of the Maronite Church, but he is also a cardinal in the Roman Church,” said Kristin Mason, who is one of the organizers of the visit.
To raise funds to help pay for the celebrations surrounding the patriarch’s visit, Mason and others have held bake sales and sold meat pies at parishes in the greater Salt Lake area. During these events, she frequently hears that “people think ‘we are Roman Catholics and this has nothing to do with us.’ But it does,” she said.
All are welcome to join in welcoming the patriarch by attending the Divine Liturgy and the dinner that will follow. The Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City, and priests of the diocese will concelebrate the liturgy.
“The importance of gathering as a community to welcome him is because we need to show unity among all Catholics,” Mason said. “We are hoping people will respond to this call.”
Fr. BouMerhi agrees with Mason that this will be a unique for local Catholics. “Such a visit may not happen again for another 100 years,” he said.
Tickets for the public to attend the dinner honoring the patriarch are still available. The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at Saint Vincent de Paul Catholic Church because the space in St. Jude Marinate Catholic Church is limited. The dinner will follow in the St. Vincent de Paul parish hall.
WHAT: Divine Liturgy and Dinner
WHEN: Friday, Oct. 20 beginning with the Divine Liturgy at 6 p.m.
WHERE: St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 1375 Spring Lane, SLC
COST: $75 for the dinner
The public is welcome to attend both the Divine Liturgy and the dinner. To register for the dinner, visit stjudemaroniteutah.org. For information, contact Kristin Mason, 801-599-6862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.