By Luca Badetti
ROME — Twenty pilgrims, led by Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, visited The Lay Centre May 14, as part of a 10-day pilgrimage to Rome to mark the eparchy’s 50th anniversary. During the evening together, pilgrims and Lay Centre community members explored the Byzantine tradition present in Rome.
The visit began with a tour of the gardens, a moment of prayer and a shared meal. Prior to the meal, the pilgrims appreciated hearing about the founding of The Lay Centre and its mission from Lay Centre Director Donna Orsuto, who is originally from Ohio as well.
Lay Centre alumna Laura Ieraci subsequently introduced Byzantine Catholic Rome through words and images.
Ieraci, who first encountered Eastern Catholicism during her time as a reporter for a Catholic newspaper in Canada, is married to a Byzantine Catholic priest and is the editor of Horizons, the eparchy’s newspaper that sponsored the pilgrimage.
She underscored how this pilgrimage’s purpose was to help pilgrims see how Eastern Catholicism has an important place in the heart of the Church.
“Rome is full of Byzantine art — icons, mosaics and paintings — and very little of this is shared with the pilgrims who come to Rome generally. It is often glossed over, but Rome is imbued with this art and the theology that it teaches and communicates,” she said.
Ieraci explored the Byzantine history and influence across a variety of Roman churches, including the basilicas of San Clemente, St. Mary Major, and St. Cecilia in Trastevere.
The Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma is the eparchy of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church in the American Midwest. Its creation dates back to 1969, when Pope Paul VI created the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh with its two suffragan eparchies, Passaic and Parma. Its territory currently comprises 12 states.
Considering Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox Christians share theological and liturgical bonds, “it was interesting and encouraging for them to know that there is a place, such as The Lay Centre, that is working toward Christian unity and that practices ecumenism concretely,” Ieraci said.
Lay Centre scholar Alexander Aboutanos, who is a member of the Syriac-Maronite Church of Antioch, one of the 23 Eastern Churches in union with Rome, said Ieraci’s presentation was a helpful reminder of the Catholic Church's universality.
He said welcoming the group was also, “a wonderful opportunity to support an eparchy that has worked tirelessly to nourish parish life in the often difficult circumstances of diaspora communities.”