I recently had the opportunity to celebrate our common faith in Christ with ecumenical leaders from throughout Orange County at St. Cecilia’s Church in Tustin. Latin Catholic clergy from our diocese were joined by Fr. Hrant Yeretzian of 40 Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church in Santa Ana, Fr. Francois Beyrouti of the Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church in Placentia, Msgr. George Vida of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Anaheim, and Fr. Chris Terhes of St John the Baptist Romanian Catholic Church in Tustin. Ecumenical leaders representing the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox faith traditions were present from the Armenian Apostolic Church, a number of our Coptic Orthodox clergy, and clergy from the Assyrian Church of the East. We also were blessed to have a number of Protestant brothers and sisters with us, representatives from the Episcopal and Lutheran communities and Rev Karin Ellis, Associate Pastor of Aldersgate Methodist in Tustin and Rev Greg Batson and Rev Tom Rothharr of the United Methodists. I was truly blessed to pray in solidarity with these esteemed leaders and more than 400 community members that attended this service.
This inspiring evening was a special occasion to share our common vision for the building up of Christian faith in Orange County and sharing our commitment to Christian dialogue and unity. As Catholics, it is a blessing and a duty for us all to pray for Christian unity. Across Orange County, similar events spotlighting our desire for unity across all Christian communities take place throughout the year. In January, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity draws people of different faiths together to celebrate their common Christian beliefs. The Catholic and Orthodox churches also join together for prayer celebrations (the seventh annual Roman and Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christian Ecumenical Service of Prayer for Christian Unity will be held at Newport Beach’s Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church June 14).
Fr. Al Baca, pastor of St. Cecilia parish and the diocesan Vicar for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs, has been an incredible bridge builder of fellowship with the Christian communities in our Diocese as well as with those of other faith traditions. Fr. Baca pointed out during our prayer service that the chapel atop the Tower of Hope on the campus of the future Christ Cathedral is indeed ecumenical, the first time—that I’m aware of—that a Catholic cathedral has presented a place of prayer for others in the Christian community. This Chapel is truly an embodiment of our calling as Catholics to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus, “that they all may be one” (John 17:21).
+Bishop Kevin Vann