An Exchange of Letters between an Archbishop and the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio regarding the Rite of a Candidate for the Permanent Diaconate, 1991. Private.

What follows is correspondence about Dr. John Jones, a candidate for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Kaskaskia who has always presumed that he was a Latin Catholic by baptism; during the course of his preparation, however, he discovered otherwise. The first entry regards the “religious history” of Dr. Jones:

The following is a recent history of the religious faith of my family. The purpose of this account is to give the facts pertaining to my membership in the Armenian Catholic rite.

The religion practiced by the family of my father, John Jones, was Presbyterian. The Jones family traces its membership in the Presbyterian faith back at least into the early part of the eighteenth century.

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My mother, Sarah Amina Jones, was baptized in the Armenian Apostolic Church. Her parents (my maternal grandparents), Jacob and Ruth, were both of the Armenian Apostolic faith, and they were married in that faith. When my mother was approximately nine years of age, my grandmother, persuaded by a Roman Catholic neighbor, began attending the nearby Latin rite church, and she eventually converted, along with my mother. My grandfather retained his membership in the Armenian Apostolic Church. For the remainder of her life, my grandmother faithfully practiced her religion in Latin rite churches according to Latin rite customs, either because there were no Eastern rite churches available to her, or more probably because she did not realize that she had, by conversion, become an Armenian Catholic. My mother also continued to practice her Catholic faith according to the Latin rite, and she raised my sister and me in this rite. My mother and I until very recently had little understanding of the nature of the various ritual churches. I have to this day practiced my own faith according to the Latin rite, but I now realize and admit that I am an Armenian Catholic.

When these facts became evident, the Director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Kaskaskia wrote to the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio. The latter responded with the following letter of August 14, 1991, sent to Archbishop Cyprian, the diocesan bishop [English originals]:

On May 13, 1991, Deacon Richard Smith, Director of the Permanent Diaconate, presented a petition for the transfer of rite on behalf of Dr. John Jones, a candidate for ordination for the diaconate. Although reared in the Latin rite, Dr. Jones is now believed to be a member of the Armenian Catholic Church.

Dr. Jones’ proper Ordinary, the Most Reverend Nerses M. Setian, the Apostolic Exarch for Armenian Catholics in the United States and Canada, has expressed his opposition to an actual change of rite and would prefer that this case be submitted to the Holy See to request an indult of bi-ritualism.

Since the Holy See grants Decrees of Accommodation in such cases, I would be willing to present the matter to Rome. It would be preferable, however, that your personal votum accompany this case.

Archbishop Cyprian then responded to the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio with the following letter of October 15, 1991:

I am writing to you on behalf of Dr. John Jones, a candidate for the permanent diaconate of the Archdiocese of Kaskaskia, U.S.A.

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Since the Apostolic Exarch for the Armenian Catholics prefers that the candidate be admitted to both rites, I would concur with this recommendation.

Although Dr. Jones has been baptized and reared in the Latin rite, he has expressed an interest in getting back to his roots and studying about the Armenian Church; he has indicated a willingness to function as a deacon in both rites.

I would, therefore, request that his petition for a Decree of Accommodation be forwarded to the Holy See for its approval.

Thanking you for your consideration of this matter.

The matter was resolved in the following manner when the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio answered the request of Archbishop Cyprian in his letter of December 20, 1991:

Pursuant to your request, please be informed that the Congregation for the Oriental Churches authorizes that Dr. John Jones, a Catholic of the Armenian rite, may be ordained to the diaconate in the Latin rite for service in the Archdiocese of Kaskaskia.

Concerning bi-ritualism, Dr. Jones enjoys the faculties to exercise his ministry in his native Armenian rite provided the local Armenian Exarch acknowledges that he possesses the necessary knowledge of the Armenian liturgy.

Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, 1991, Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate and a Question of Rite, RRAO (1993): 11-14.