Catholic University Looks East

Father Mark Morozowich is the first Eastern Catholic to lead CUA’s School of Theology.

Father Mark Morozowich has been appointed dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies of The Catholic University of America. A Ukrainian Catholic priest, Father Morozowich is the first Eastern Catholic to lead the school.

"Symbolically, this demonstrates The Catholic University of America’s commitment to Blessed John Paul II’s vision of the Church ‘breathing with two lungs’ — both Eastern and Western rites," said CUA’s president, John Garvey, in a statement.

Father Morozowich joined the theology and religious studies faculty in 2003 as an assistant professor of liturgical studies and sacramental theology. He studied with Jesuit Father Robert Taft, a leading expert in Eastern Christian studies, at the Oriental Institute in Rome and earned a doctorate in Eastern Christian studies there, with a specialization in liturgy. He served as associate dean for seminary and ministerial programs from 2006 to 2011 and as acting dean of the school since July 2011.

His specialty is the historical development of the liturgical year in the Byzantine tradition, with a concentration on Holy Week, as well as themes of sacramental theology in the patristic period and its relationship with liturgical history.

A Western Pennsylvania native, Father Morozowich pursued a vocation to the priesthood in the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio. He studied at St. Basil’s Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Stamford, Conn., and CUA and served in parishes in Pittsburgh and Butler, Pa.


What is the significance of your being the first Eastern Catholic to lead the School of Theology?

When we begin to think about the Catholic Church, it’s really an amalgamation of Churches. … So, we have various different Eastern Churches with their own liturgical, canonical, theological, spiritual traditions. It’s hard, so many times, because the Latin Church is just so large, especially in this country, that when we look at the Eastern Catholic Churches, we don’t always understand that they are just as Catholic as the Latin ritual tradition is.

So, when we think about the theological world, we are taken back to the time of Constantine, when there was one Church, both East and West. And this lasted, as we all know, through the centuries, with various schisms, certainly, but until 1054, when there was the great divide between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Rome.

However, the theological inheritance, the idea that Nicaea happened in the East, the Councils of Constantinople were considered as ecumenical councils. So the theological basis for many of these discussions, some might say, is just purely Eastern; but certainly the Catholic Church holds to the ecumenical councils as being representative of the true teaching of the Church. So when we try to expand the understanding of the word "Catholic," we see that it’s universal, so this is sort of a further development, a sort of realization of that, to say that it’s not just a medieval, theological tradition, but that when we look at the whole tradition of the Church, we understand that as being the whole 2,000-year lived tradition of the Church.


So you would certainly bring that perspective to the theological field and the school.

Yes, so when we look at the theological tradition, the tradition of the Church is the whole 2,000-year tradition; and that when we try to understand, we certainly need to base ourselves in what we have said throughout the centuries. We can even look at liturgical developments: The


Sanctus in the liturgy was a Syriac hymn that was interpolated later into the liturgy. Even in the Latin Church today, we still have the Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, which is clearly Greek terminology that came into the Latin liturgy as well.

So I think this is really helping to accentuate that sense of an interdependency of the Church and all of its various manifestations and traditions.


What are some of the things that inform your theological thinking?

Well, when we look at the whole theological task … the importance of history and understanding tradition are really key in the whole experience, and if we want to have a good understanding and a developed approach, then we need to have a broad perspective; and that includes an across-the-board comparative approach. So my theological and liturgical studies involve comparative liturgy. This is not just a historical study of liturgy, where we look at diverse ritual traditions to understand how the history developed, but we also look to them to understand how theology developed; because when we look at the Church, when we look at liturgy, if you will, it’s not just a historical entity — it’s a metaphysical, it’s a spiritual reality that these people were engaged in.

We have these "monuments" that exist in writing; these manuscripts that show us some aspects of the past, but they’re just bits and pieces, little jewels of the past. So, to be able to put them together and understand how people were celebrating, were worshipping, were living, were relating to God dynamically, we need to not just look at one specific account, but to try to look at the whole of the Christian experience and try to immerse ourselves into that reality, to see where they were going, why they were interested in what they were interested in.

There were certain things, for instance, that shaped theologians in Cappadocia, with the controversies surrounding the Holy Spirit. It’s very clear that this is why we have such a clear, developed [epiclesis] within the Eastern liturgies: because people were questioning the role of the Holy Spirit. And so that they were able to enhance, that they were able to include these aspects within their liturgical prayers, is just another sign and another witness to that great reality that we celebrate, that we have of the living liturgy.

We can even go forward and look at different prayers and how they were composed and how well we can learn something from others and develop and shape our experience, so that, in our liturgies, we have these celebrations of God’s activity in our life that are alive, that are living, that are in the present.

Also, it’s a melding of the historical and theological data that would enable us to have a synthetic look at the present; so that when we look at tradition — tradition is our ability to see today with the inheritance of yesterday.


Are you interested in Catholic-Orthodox dialogue? Do you see any hope of movement toward unity?

In fact, together with Father Taft, we founded the Society for Oriental Liturgy. We had our first meeting in 2006, in Eichstätt, Germany, and the emphasis was to bring together oriental liturgists from all different confessions, so we could come together and really do it on an academic level and not on a confessional level: to advance the historical, scientific, liturgical, theological, architectural and musicological studies of Eastern liturgy.

The second meeting was in 2008 in Rome; the third was in 2010, in Volos, Greece, an Orthodox land, so we had many of the Orthodox participating in that meeting. And I’m just getting back from the 2012 meeting, which took place in Beirut, Lebanon, where we had Maronites and Melkites and people from throughout the world who had gathered, even from India. So this is one way, sort of a concrete, ecumenical movement.

I firmly believe that as we work together, as we build these common bonds of friendship through intellectual discourse, this will eventually help us on the ground in developing relationships — and the more we can build these bridges, ecumenically throughout the world. … That’s why I’m so passionate about the Society for Oriental Liturgy — because I’ve seen that happen already.

I have friends from Orthodox countries all over the world that we keep in contact with, even by email and Skype, and it helps to build those bridges.


Speaking of a different kind of "orthodox," many Catholics are concerned about the orthodoxy of Catholic colleges and universities.

Our faculty is fully committed to the mission of the Church and fully committed to the theological endeavor, as seen in union with the Church of Rome. It may not always be somebody’s particular sense of what Rome is asking us to do, but we are faithful to the Holy See. Sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand the apostolate of the theologian, with its complexities in seeking out truth and knowledge at all levels.

John Burger is the

Register’s news editor.