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Married man ordained into priesthood

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Deacon Wissam Akiki, became an ordained Maronite Priest on Thursday. Akiki, who is married with a daughter, is the first family man to do so in nearly a century.

The new ordained priest was welcomed by many supporters late Thursday at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis.

He called it a "historic day". Akiki went on to say he, "had been given two great blessings: marriage to his wife of 10 years, Manal, and the dream to serve the Lord thanks and church as a priest."

After Latin-rite Bishops complained that ordaining married men as priest was too confusing for parishioners, it was banned in the 1920's by the Vatican. It was Pope John Paul II who called for a greater acceptance of the Middle Eastern Catholic church practice. Since then it has been evaluated on a case by case basis. Wissam Akiki was granted permission by Pope Francis to be ordained.

"Almost half of our priests in Lebanon are married, so it's not an unusual event in the life of the Maronite church, though in the United States it is," said Deacon Louis Peters, chancellor at St. Raymond's.

Many members of the St. Raymond's congregation are of Lebanese descent, and many of the prayers, hymns and readings were in Arabic.

Although reduced in numbers today, Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon. The Maronite Church asserts that since its inception, it has always remained faithful to the Church of Rome and the Pope.

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