Q. Can a Roman Catholic worship in a Ukrainian Catholic Church – such as the Churches of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, whose archeparch is appointed by the pope and is in communion with the Roman Catholic Church? (My experience is that the Roman Catholic Church is very welcoming. Do you know whether such a practice is also welcomed by the Ukrainian Catholic Church?) 

A. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a Byzantine-rite Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See. As you mention, its leaders are appointed by the pope. And yes, Latin-rite Catholics are free to worship in Ukrainian Catholic Churches, and they fulfill their Sunday obligation by doing so.

The reverse is true as well: Ukrainian Catholics are invited to worship in a Latin-rite Church. (St. Michael’s Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Indiana – near the campus of the University of Notre Dame – says on its website, “All Catholic Christians in good standing with the Roman Catholic Church are welcome to receive the sacraments at St. Michael’s.”)

A Latin-rite Catholic choosing to attend Mass in a Ukrainian Catholic parish would notice some differences.

The liturgy might be conducted in English or in Ukrainian; a screen decorated with icons separates the congregation from a full view of the altar of worship; the liturgy is an ancient ritual, originating with St. John Chrysostom; Ukrainian Catholics bless themselves from right to left in the sign of the cross (the opposite of Latin-rite Catholics); upon entering a Church, Ukrainians bow rather than genuflect; and holy Communion is distributed with a spoon, the host scooped by the priest from a cup of consecrated wine and placed directly into the mouth of the recipient.

Q. My husband of 60 years will soon celebrate his 86th birthday. He is a baptized Protestant. He attends Mass with me every Sunday, does the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, comes with me for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and attends Holy Week services. The only thing he does not do is receive Communion. What would be required of him to be able to receive Our Lord in the host? (He would never be able to participate in the RCIA program.) In my opinion, my husband is a better Catholic than many priests I have heard of lately. It would be a sin not to accept him into the Church. 

A. I have no doubt that your husband will make a fine Catholic and is already well on his way there. The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) is traditionally the path by which the Catholic Church instructs and receives new members. That process includes meetings and classes, spiritual reflection and a series of rituals; most often, it requires up to a year to complete, culminating in reception into the Church during the celebration of the Easter Vigil.

However, there are conditions that can shorten this process – and your husband’s situation seems ideally suited for that. Section 331 of the RCIA’s foundational document provides that “exceptional circumstances may arise in which the local bishop, in individual cases, can allow the use of a form of Christian initiation that is simpler than the usual complete rite.” Examples listed include “sickness” and “old age” (No. 332).

Your husband should talk to your parish priest about his desire to become a Catholic and to receive the Eucharist. My confident guess is that the priest or a religious educator provided by the parish would be willing to sit down with your husband for a series of conversations to present a basic overview of the Catholic Church’s teaching and to address any questions your husband might have – leading to his not-very-distant reception of the sacraments.