Alaska Byzantine Catholics have new bishop

Pope Francis named a new bishop to oversee many of the Eastern rite Catholics located across the West Coast, including in Alaska.

The pope tapped Bishop John Stephen Pazak, of the Eparchy of Saints Cyril and Methodius, in Toronto, Canada, to serve as bishop of the Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix, Ariz. He succeeds Bishop Gerald Dino, who turned 75 last year, the age at which all bishops must submit their resignation to the pope.

Bishop Dino told Catholic News Agency that he welcomed the news of his successor.

“I was very happy to hear that Pope Francis has appointed him to this eparchy,” Bishop Dino said. “He’s a very, very gentlemanly person. A very kind, very spiritual, very happy person. Very joyful.”

Bishop Pazak, 69, was ordained a Byzantine bishop in 2001 and has served in Toronto since that time. In leading the Eparchy of Phoenix, he will oversee about 2,700 Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite Catholics spread in small communities across the West Coast, including Anchorage and Wasilla where about 150 Byzantine Catholics attend St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Church and its mission, Blessed Theodore Romzha. Other Byzantine churches in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico and Hawaii will be under Bishop Pazak’s pastoral care.

Byzantine and other Eastern rite Catholics are in full communion with the pope and the global Catholic Church. Eastern rite churches are former Orthodox churches that have reunited with the Catholic Church. As such, they are permitted to celebrate the Eastern rite liturgies which date back to the early years of Christianity.

The Phoenix eparchy was founded by descendants of the Ruthenian people, Eastern Europeans, but it is no longer ethnically oriented and draws from a diverse population of Americans.

“The main thing that binds our people together is their Byzantine spirituality and Byzantine theology and liturgy,” Bishop Dino told Catholic News Agency.

In Anchorage, Father Michael Sidun is pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra where he is the first married Byzantine Catholic priest to serve in Alaska. He and his wife Luba have three girls. Father Sidun is originally from the Ukraine. Eastern rite churches in Europe have a long tradition of ordaining married clergy. This is similar to the practices of the various Orthodox churches from which the Eastern rite Catholic Churches broke in order to reunite back with the pope. Historically, the Byzantine Catholic Church in Europe came back into full union with Rome in the late 1600s. At the reunification, these churches were allowed to keep the vast majority of their ancient traditions, including the tradition of ordaining married men to the priesthood.

To learn more about St. Nicholas, visit the parish website at or call the parish at (907) 277-6731.

'Alaska Byzantine Catholics have new bishop' have 1 comment

  1. June 2016 @ 12:17 pm Colleen

    One correction: not all Eastern Rite Churches are formerly Orthodox. Most are, but there is a small number who never left union with Rome. Thank you for this article!


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