“Catholic Church of the East” enters ROCOR

Catholic Church of the East

Source: Byzantine TX

(ROCOR-EAD) – Over the past several months, the leader of an independent church movement called the “Catholic Church of the East,” the former Archbishop Ramzi Mussalam, has begun a remarkable transition: to bring his entire movement, of over 60 parishes, into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). The former archbishop was received into the Orthodox Church and ordained a deacon and priest with the encouragement and blessing and by the hand of Metropolitan Hilarion, ROCOR’s First Hierarch. The former archbishop is now Hieromonk Elias. Father Elias grew up in the Scranton area of Pennsylvania as a communicant of the Polish National Catholic Church, in which he was ordained to the priesthood.

The process of Orthodox catechization has now commenced, with the gradual reception of the former clergy and faithful of the “Catholic Church of the East” into Orthodoxy, with their regularization within the canonical embrace of the Orthodox Church. It is expected that this will be a long and complex process but one of that will bear an abundant spiritual harvest. A number of parishes have already been received: St. Irene Church in Pittston, PA; St. Ann Church in Pottsville, PA and St. Mark Church in Milford, CT.

Let us welcome these people with joy and do all that we can to help them integrate into the Orthodox community. Let us give thanks to God that He has led Fr. Elias and his faithful people into Orthodoxy.


  1. Michael Warren says


    Looks like this might not go through. I share your enthusiasm, but I think ROCOR may have gotten itself burned here.

    • Michael Warren says

      Checking the Catholic Church of the East site, this all now called off, a bust. ROCOR almost lept before looking into the ecclesiastical game of a wannabe Ofiesh.

      The fact this fellow was turned down by Antioch should have had ROCOR at least find out why before moving to legitimize him and his ambitions.

      Honestly, that being said, Orthodox in this hemisphere have a great opportunity to witness and missionize effectively. Latin America longs for Orthodoxy. It is realistic to talk about 10 – 25% Orthodox populations with adequate allocation of resources.

  2. Gregory Manning says

    Memories of our (ROCOR’s) experience with those pedophilic scofflaws in nearby Blanco, Tx. are fresh enough that I cringe a little reading about this. We’ve been taken in before but I’m going to trust +Hilarion’s words about a “gradual reception” following “a long, complex process”. The italics are mine but I would feel better if they were his. I truly hope it “will bear an abundant spiritual harvest”.

  3. Michael Woerl says

    Ah! Something good hapoens … NO comments! ?

  4. Fr. Evangelos Pepps says

    Thrilled! May God work thru this for our edification and bless beloved Fr. Elia with all his people. Hopefully, their witness will play a role in a proper united Orthodox Christian witness here in America. Noshkor Allah!

  5. The announcement about this group’s reception has already been removed from the ROCOR website and Byzantine TX blog yesterday said the situation is exploding with more news to come shortly.

  6. The statement from Met. Hilarion appeared on the ROCOR website on February 6, 2016.

    The statement has since been removed from the ROCOR website (and not reposted under a different link).


    I first heard about this in early January on this blog:



    The page about The Most Rev. Ramzi Musallam (aka Hieromonk Elias ) on his “Catholic Church of the East” website is now blank (“under construction”) , but a week ago it said this:


    Father ELIAS Musallam was born and raised in Jerusalem, Palestine and was educated in the United States . He pursued Bachelor of Theology from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana and Masters in Clinical Psychology from American University.

    Fr Elias’ ministry began in the Polish National Catholic Church. He soon was faced with serving the needs of many Palestinian and other people from the Middle East. This evolved into the Catholic Church of the East. He had sought to create church home for the many immigrants who sought out his leadership. Knowing that they needed to be fully integrated into a canonical patriarchate, he was received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 2015.

    Was Ordained to the Deaconate at Saint John the Baptist Cathedral in Mayfield Pennsylvania by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and was elevated to the Priesthood by Metropolitan Jonah at Saint John Baptist Cathedral in Washington DC.

    Father Elias has developed many Churches in the United States of America and Abroad for his people from the Middle East since 2008. The Church also to provides housing for many of its people.”

    So already the story has become a bit murky … the ROCOR statement (now removed) said : “Father Elias grew up in the Scranton area of Pennsylvania as a communicant of the Polish National Catholic Church, in which he was ordained to the priesthood.” But on the “Catholic Church of the East” page (and other places you can find on the internet) Ramzi Musallam has made much of his growing up in Jerusalem … so which was it ? Did he grow up in Jerusalem or in Scranton, PA ? Also , something important that the ROCOR statement glosses over in relation to the PNCC is that Ramzi Musallam was deposed from the priesthood in the PNCC. He did not come to ROCOR in a straight line from the Polish National Catholic Church . The “Catholic Church of the East” (aka “Arabic Catholic Church”) was something quite different.

    • Over the Nativity Lent, hubby and I went to the National Cathedral for a concert. While there, we kind of traveled around the basement area and ran across the chapel with mosaics that the Polish National Catholic Church used to use in the 50s for services. Brought back a lovely childhood memory of my grandmother taking me on a trip there. They were very like Orthodox.

  7. Glory to God!

  8. This, of course, is a biased article, but it gives some idea of the context of the upcoming meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Cuba:


  9. Ronda Wintheiser says

    What’s to dislike???

  10. Priest Raphael says

    Will they be/are they Western Rite?

  11. Lola J. Lee Beno says

    The announcement seems to have been rescinded by ROCOR. I can’t find it anymore on their News section. Anyone know what’s going on?

  12. Lola J. Lee Beno says
    110 East Ave. & Hickory St.
    Mount Carmel, PA 17851


  14. The Holy Mass in Latin, according to the Catholic Church of the East:

    Et in Spíritum Sanctum, Dóminum, et vivificántem: qui ex Patre Filióque procédit.


  15. Heracleides says

    What could possibly go wrong? Stay tuned:

    “Catholic Church of the East” / ROCOR situation explodes

  16. Tim R. Mortiss says

    Sixty parishes? Why am I skeptical?

  17. Early reports from reliable sources tell us that Fr Elias (or Ramzi) has been suspended from the priesthood, and that Metropolitan Hilarion Kapral (of ROCOR) has withdrawn his approval of this man and his work.

    • Yeah, this may be a cluster f of a low order. I thought that they had learned their lesson with the last Western Rite incident. Maybe not. At least they caught it early.

      • Interestingly, I read that Ramzi Musallam’s group “Catholic Church of the East” was intending to come in to ROCOR as Eastern Rite, at the request of Musallam , according to what was posted on ROCOR’s Western Rite Facebook page . So this might not be something to lay at the feet of the Western Rite as such (although whether Eastern Rite or Western Rite all ROCOR is under Met. Hilarion). I think most folks assumed because Musallam has so carefully crafted the appearance of being Roman Catholic that they would want to come in to ROCOR as Western Rite. Fr. Mark Rowe, Dean of the ROCOR Western Rite Communities apparently felt the need to clarify .

        On Feb. 6 this was posted on the Western Rite Facebook page


        An announcement from His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion came out from Moscow that discussed the conversion and reception of the Catholic Church of the East and Fr Elias (formerly Abp Ramzi Muisallam).

        These communities are under the oversight of Metropolitan Hilarion and Metropolitan Jonah as they make their conversion and transition to Holy Orthodoxy.

        My understanding from both Metropolitans is that they intend to be Eastern Rite communities.

        Let us continue to pray for their journey to Holy Orthodoxy.

        I am,

        Yours in Christ,

        -Fr Mark Rowe
        ROCOR WR Communities

        • Although, I will say that on the “Western Rite?” or “Eastern Rite?” question Musallam seems to have contributed to confusion on the matter, as in this news story about the opening of St. Irene ROCOR in the building of the former St. Rocco Roman Catholic parish:


          In the video Musallam says: “I think for the sake of the community I thought it would be very great to continue the mission of the good people who were here and to open it under the Russian Orthodox and to allow liturgies of east and west.”

          (That’s not possible. Orthodox parishes can not be be dual rite parishes … it’s either Eastern Rite or Western Rite , choose one. Did he really not understand that when he was ordained in ROCOR ? It seems a more extended period of catechesis would have been in order before laying hands on him to ordain him as an Orthodox priest.)

          Also , notice in the video at around the 00:20 mark there is a closeup of a service booklet that says “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass , According to the Rite of the ROCOR Western Rite” .

          From the photos and video, the St. Irene church is obviously set up for Western Rite liturgy . I don’t know how he intended to “offer liturgies of east and west” in that building , even if a dual-rite parish were allowed.

          In another news story , Musallam says:

          “We didn’t have any advertisements so we’ve just been having people come in,” Musallam said. “On the weekday Masses, we’ve been having people come and we’ve been having Sunday Liturgy where it varies. We had three Masses on Christmas Eve and all three had people in them.”

          Musallam said he will temporarily conduct Mass and Liturgy until a permanent priest is appointed.

          The religious practices of St. Irene Church are of the Orthodox faith, particularly the Western Rite Orthodoxy and the Eastern Rite Orthodoxy.”

          There it is again , seeming to say that St. Irene will offer both Western Rite and Eastern Rite services (and note that Musallam says that he celebrated “three Masses on Christmas Eve” . . . whether Western Rite or Eastern Rite , an Orthodox church has ONE Divine Liturgy (“Mass”) per day , not multiple Masses. )

          The video at that link also seems to indicate that former St. Rocco’s (Roman Catholic) parishioners from the neighborhood were attending liturgies offered at St. Irene ROCOR , but that would not be permissible for a ROCOR priest to offer participation in the Holy Mysteries to a non-Orthodox person . Apparently the RC Diocese of Scranton was concerned enough about this to issue a warning to Roman Catholics in the area to steer clear of St. Irene’s:


          • George Michalopulos says

            Are you absolutely sure that Orthodox parishes “…cannot be dual rite…”?

            • Michael Warren says

              Sir, there is a ROCOR Priest I believe in TX who is dual rite and historically such things have existed.

            • I thought that was the case . Am I mistaken about that ? Are there any examples you know of dual-rite Orthodox parishes that have Divine Liturgy in both Eastern Rite and Western Rite ?

              Even if that were allowed by a Bishop exercising oikonomia in special circumstances, how would that practically work ? Look at the photos of the several “Catholic Church of the East/Arabic Catholic Church” buildings … all are set up for Western Rite . How would the Eastern Rite be conducted in that sort of setting?

              • Michael Warren says

                In one ROCOR parish the Priest sets up a second altar in front of the Royal Doors and uses the iconostasis as a raredos screen. The Byzantine Rite’s original Templon or iconastasis was a low wall in front of an open altar with a ciborium over it. The altar also had a curtain in front of it. So it can be done.

                • MW:

                  In one ROCOR parish the Priest sets up a second altar in front of the Royal Doors and uses the iconostasis as a raredos screen.

                  A SECOND altar in an Orthodox church, in front of the iconostasis? HOW UTTERLY BIZARRE.

                  So it can be done.

                  It CAN be done, but it AIN’T Orthodoxy. But MW wouldn’t realize that, would he?

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    I suppose no more bizarre than your championship of prog/liberalism over and above the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

                  • Michael Warren says

                    I believe it is Fr. Nelson? Bizarre, not very Orthodox? Not sure where to take that. The Antiochian Syriac rites have their altars configured in a manner more consistent with what we understand as Western. This school of rites is the parent of the Byzantine Rite. It influenced the Roman rite and was a direct parent of such Western rites as the Gallican. So there are Orthodox antecedents. That being said, the Trent Rite served with the Rubrics AWRV and precursor ROCOR WR congregations used isn’t accommodated well using a traditional Byzantine altar with a full iconostasis, when one considers how the altar is set up even at a low mass for instance. My only concern is that 1Priest, 1 altar, 1 antimens, before noon canon be observed, and in ROCOR it generally is (Some AWRV parishes violate this Canon as if it didn’t exist for them, rightly calling their observance of WR into question).

                    If the question is is use of the Trent or BCP rites Orthodox? Bishops are satisfied with the revisions made to see to their use. I tend to prefer Gallican/Milanese/Mozarabic and more Romano-Gallican versions of Sarum. But the Carthusian rite and even the Maronite liturgies (which are directly descended from the Liturgy of St. JAMES but VERY latinized) or what some are calling the “Old Believer Liturgy of St. Peter” seem functional. Pre Trent liturgics, especially those which followed Lyons and often incorporate use of a Rood Screen are more easily adapted to Orthodox use. But if parish x got a blessing to do Rite IV Paul VI Novus Ordo EWTN style which could effectively build a congregation using phosphora with a Byzantine/Antiochian/Alexandrian epiklesis and the Bishop signed off, then it is Orthodox, a rite conveying the full sacramentality of the Church within the Church, as opposed to the heterodox and empty ritual it is outside of the Church as it is now amongst the papists. I don’t particularly care for that adapted Protestant low church divine service, especially when said facing the people (and Eucharistic ministers are a non starter), but Orthodox pastors must “become all things to all men so that they can save some” within the framework of obedience to the Orthodox episcopate.

                    In my view, part of the function of the Western Rite should be to serve as a template of how Rome (and others) can be received and reintegrated into the Catholic Church, Orthodoxy. It should give the West a liturgical baseline to reflect upon after the sectarian and Protestant liturgical reforms of Vatican II. Because as things stand now liturgically, the post Vatican II rites are overly nominalized and desacralized and reflect a liberal Protestant understanding of liturgy incompatible with Orthodoxy.

                    • Michael Warren says

                      It is not uncommon for Orthodox churches to have multiple altars. I believe the Russian understanding of a “sobor” (loosely translated as katholikon) means a church with at least three altars. Holy Protection Cathedral AKA St. Basil’s in Red Square I believe has 7 altars.

                    • MW:

                      It is not uncommon for Orthodox churches to have multiple altars. I believe the Russian understanding of a “sobor” (loosely translated as katholikon) means a church with at least three altars. Holy Protection Cathedral AKA St. Basil’s in Red Square I believe has 7 altars.

                      Yes, cathedrals may have several CONSECRATED ALTARS.


                      I believe it is Fr. Nelson? Bizarre, not very Orthodox? Not sure where to take that….

                      …and then he takes it to several paragraph’s worth verbal masturbation and rationalization. I don’t care WHAT the kook’s name is who throws up an IKEA DESK or some such thing IN FRONT OF the holy place. It has NO precedent in ANY RITE; it’s KOOKY; and it’s NOT ORTHODOX.

                    • MW:

                      In my view, part of the function of the Western Rite should be to serve as a template of how Rome (and others) can be received and reintegrated into the Catholic Church, Orthodoxy.

                      So MW wants to take a page out of the Jesuits’ book and do a REVERSE UNIATE NUMBER on the Catholics. What a great suggestion, MW! See many Catholics flooding into the Antiochian western rite parishes lately?

                    • Michael Warren says

                      No, not just Cathedrals have multiple altars. Any given parish can have multiple altars. While irregular, it isn’t all that “kookie” to have a separate altar put in place to accomodate a DIFFERENT RITE WITH RUBRICS WHICH DON’T ACCOMODATE A BYZANTINE LAYOUT. Hooked on Phonics can get your reading comprehension up to a level high enough so that you will understand “all those words” used so you could get this on the first try.

                      Last, I checked Western Riters weren’t having armed soldiers with Jesuits come into villages to enforce the writs of APOSTATE, RENEGADE BISHOPS engaging in deception, pogroms, lynchings, rapes, dismemberments, immolations, confiscation of the property of Western Christians to force submission to a “chair of Peter.” Nor have Orthodox suggested that Vatican II Neo Protestantism is something we want in our Church as “Another lung.”

                      Orthodox Western Rite exists in Othodoxy, the authentic Catholic Church, by THE VOLUNTARY desire AND INFORMED CONSENT of its parishoners. It tends to observe rites which Western “churches” have discarded or vandalized. It does so to reawaken Orthodoxy in the West.

                      While Rome’s repentance necessarily mandates renewed models of Orthodox worship and liturgics, because their current practices as they formulate them are heretical. Western Rite excises papal error. Western Rite exists to ultimately form free, self governing Orthodox bodies, not forcing Western Orthodox into suicide pact submission with a papal personality cult. That makes it not a religious counterfeit like Unia, but a restoration movement which celebrates the Orthodox past (and future of the West).

                      Here you are a Russophobe having expressed duress that 60 parishes were entering Orthodoxy at the outset lampooning that there is no great number of Western Riters. Well, we don’t confiscate churches, compel adherence with soldiers and atrocities, don’t have resources put in place to fund it, because we operate on a shoestring and people are doing this EXERCISING THEIR FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE WITHOUT THE FRAUD OF A RELIGIOUS COUNTERFEIT (Unia). Seems you just hate Orthodoxy. Take it back to whatever self help group you are using to get over your illness.

                • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                  Reredos. More semi-learned (self-taught) dogmatizing. ROCOR is like a burr in M Warren’s saddle when he goes a-lecturing!

                  • Michael Warren says

                    I thought Syosset sent internet stalkers to New Mexico to keep from embarassing themselves. The Pokrov website seems to hint at that.

        • Gregory Manning says

          “An announcement from….Metropolitan Hilarion came out from Moscow“? A bit circuitous isn’t it?

        • David:

          These communities are under the oversight of Metropolitan Hilarion and Metropolitan Jonah…

          Way to go +Jonah!

  18. +Bart and Jillions say: LMFAO.

  19. Estonian Slovak says

    Um, Metropolitan Hilarion has a track record of accepting just about anybody.Why,hisown clergy call him” the fastest hands in the East. “

  20. Hieromonk Mark (Kerr) says

    A number of individuals and communities have been accepted by Metropolitan Hilarion and ROCOR over the past few years with, apparently, not much investigation. Fr. Juan Rios, in central Florida, was accepted after a curious journey from ROCOR, where, as a layman, some decades ago, under the spiritual guidance of the former Fr. Anthony Gavalas (then in ROCOR but now a Greek Old Calendar bishop), he was refused advancement to the priesthood for what have be described as valid canonical reasons, which prompted him to go to the former Metropolitan Paisios of St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery, in Astoria, NY, who ordained him a priest. Subsequently, the story goes that he fell away from Orthodoxy, returned to a Protestant ministry, divorced his wife and remarried, then went to the Milan Synod, where he was apparently accepted as a priest and then, from there, re-entered ROCOR as a priest (with his second wife), from what I understand, all without these transformations being uncovered and addressed. Likewise, the reception into ROCOR of St. Nicholas Monastery, in North Fort Myers, FL, which was founded upon an entirely uncanonical basis, by a former priestmonk of ROCOR, Fr. John Lewis, who left ROCOR in the late 70s, transitioned through the Matthewite Old Calendar Church in Greece and, for upwards of 15 years led his Holy Theotokos Monastery into schism, commemorating ‘all true Orthodox bishops’, then coming under the omophorion of the same Metropolitan Paisios (at Fr. Juan’s instigation), because he wanted one of his monks to be ordained a priest, as his failing health was making it more difficult for him to serve as a priest (which he continued to do even though he had been defrocked by ROCOR in the early 80s). This same Fr. John later, with Met. Paisios, was received into the Ecumenical Patriarchate, telling them that he had been ordained in ROCOR (which was true and was accepted by the EP) while not telling them that he had also been defrocked by them. Subsequently, when he realised that the EP would not accept his Holy Theotokos Monastery as a stavropegial monastery and consecrate him a bishop, he ceased any communication and cooperation with the EP and once again established himself as independent. After this, Fr. John destroyed his monastery dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, the Joy of All That Sorrow, by driving out the two hieromonks with him on trumped up charges, again, without ecclesiastical trials or hierarchical judgment, and handed over all its assets to the nun Andrea (Nicholas, formerly the convert from Judaism, Deborah Goodrich), tonsuring her and elevating her to an abbess, again without hierarchical blessing, and, in his final days, steered her and the St. Nicholas Monastery that he created for her, without hierarchical blessing or approval, to apply to enter ROCOR, which he had left in the late 1970s. Nun Andrea seems to be building a cult of devotion to Fr. John who was defrocked by ROCOR in the early 80s and never had his status reviewed or regularised in ROCOR (as far as I know) or in the Ecumenical Patriarchate but continued to act as a priest and as an archimandrite (which title he received from the Old Calendarist Matthewites, whom he left after a year or two, to resume an autonomous status), until his death, after which Nun Andrea and her irregularly and uncanonically established monastery were received into ROCOR. I would like to ask Metropolitan Hilarion, if Fr. John Lewis is still being referred to as an archimandrite and a priestmonk, if the Holy Synod of ROCOR has rescinded their defrocking of him in the early 80s. It seems as though someone is not doing a very careful job of vetting some of these questionable individuals and groups that His Eminence is welcoming under his omophorion. There is much more to the story, but this is a brief narration that relates to the questions and concerns raised by this report of the reception of the ‘Catholic Church of the East’, under discussion in the above article.

  21. Estonian Slovak says

    Thank you ,Fr. Mark, for the information. Is Fr. John Lewis still alive, then?

  22. Estonian Slovak says

    Thank you for the information, Fr. Mark! I trust you answered Leprechaun’s question as well. Do you know when the deposed Monk John(Lewis) reposed?

  23. Estonian Slovak says

    Never mind, Fr. I found out that Fr. John reposed on Sept 1, 2007. He received Communion from a Serbian Orthodox priest that morning and reposed under his epitrachilion. BTW, I don’t know if ROCOR actually defrocked him. At any rate, there is a priest in Massachusetts who was part of the HOCNA schism, but has since been reconciled to ROCOR and continues to serve as a priest. There may be other examples……
    In any event, Metropolitan Hilarion did serve a panichida for Fr. John Lewis upon visiting the Florida Convent in 2013.

    • Hieromonk Mark (Kerr) says

      Fr. John was defrocked but, as I understand, due to the intervention of his cronie, Fr. William Ischie, of Setauket, NY, and the pressure he brought to bear on the Synod, the decision was not officially published. However, Fr. John did receive notification, but, already with the Matthewite Old Calendarists, he continued to serve as a hieromonk and accepted the office of archimandrite from them. He was never one to let a mere bishop get in his way. He more than once wryly quoted is friend, Fr. William Ischie, as saying, ‘Once you’ve told one bishop to go to hell, you can tell any bishop to go to hell.’