by Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Eastern Catholic churches must strengthen their liturgical identity, especially given ongoing conflicts in many of the homelands of those churches and the continuing migration of Eastern Catholics to countries where most Catholics belong to the Latin rite, said a Vatican official.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, spoke at the opening of a conference marking the 25th anniversary of an instruction from the congregation that urged Eastern Catholics to learn more about their liturgies and to exercise great care in translating the texts and modifying the liturgies. He said Eastern liturgies are a treasure belonging to the entire Catholic Church and bind it closely to the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches as well.

Cardinal Sandri told conference participants Feb. 16 that Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians "feel the wound of still not being able to sit around the one eucharistic table," but they also know that "we are heirs of a common treasure and very often of the same texts for celebrating the different liturgies."

So, he pleaded with the Eastern Catholic churches "to avoid solitary escapes in pursuit of reforms that do not take into account the heritage shared with the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches."

The cardinal repeated the instruction's call for Eastern Catholics belonging to the same ritual families — the Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian, Byzantine and Chaldean — to work together in studying their rites, developing educational programs for their faithful, translating texts and weighing any possible reforms before moving ahead with them.

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Joachim and Anna Rejoice

Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed, * for God has heard Joachim and Anna * and He promises manifestly that they, against all hope, would give birth to the Maiden of God * from whom the Uncircumscribed One Himself would be born, becoming man, * and he commanded the Angels to cry out to her: * “Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the whole world celebrates * the conception of Anne which was brought about by God, * for she gave birth to the one who, beyond understanding, * gave birth to the Word. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)