Monday, March 14, 2011

At Bkirki, Black Smoke

Four days into its conclave to elect a new head of the second-largest Eastern church, the Maronite Synod has yet to yield a new patriarch.

At this hour, though, the afternoon balloting is underway at the 3 million-member church's headquarters at Bkirki, north of Beirut. Earlier projections expected the choice of the 39 eparchs to emerge within two days of the gathering's start.

On their election, the Maronite Patriarchs of Antioch retain their birth name, but add "Pierre" -- that is, "Peter" -- to it; like Rome, the see of Antioch traces its roots to the First Apostle, who briefly presided over the church there before going on to the seat of the Empire.

While the Maronite Synod is already choosing the church's 77th leader in its 1,600-year journey, a week from today sees the beginning of the Ukrainian Synod at Lviv to elect Cardinal Lubomyr Husar's successor as head of the largest Oriental fold in communion with Rome, the 6 million-member Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church.

The highly-awaited election slated to last no longer than three days, the enthronement of the UGCC's next de facto patriarch is already set for 27 March in the church's new seat of Kiev, the historic cradle of Russian Christianity.