What does this mean for Archimandrite Garbriel Ghanoum, who has been the Exarch of the Eparchy of Mexico since 2006 (as well as pastor of St. Nicholas Melkite Church in Delray Beach, Florida)?
An Apostolic Administrator sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis
is appointed to administer a canonical jurisdiction which is under the direct authority of the Holy See (ad nutum Sanctae Sedis
), until such time as a bishop or eparch is named to the vacant seat (sede vacante
). This type of appointment is temporary and not common. An AA sede vacante
has only limited authority; he is basically appointed to safeguard the assets of the jurisdiction and assure the pastoral care of its inhabitants until a bishop is named. As LC noted, Mexico has not had an eparch since Archbishop Boustros (Rai), BAO, of blessed memory, reposed in the mid-1990s. A succession of non-hierarchical prelates, some being Patriarchal Exarchs, served it as AAs for the past 2 decades.
Parroquia de Porta Coeli-Santuario del Senor del Veneno (Parish of the Gate of Heaven of the Lord of the Poison) is both the Melkite cathedral and the sole church.
I don't know the current situation but, for some time, the Melkites were restricted insofar as the extent to which they are able to (or would) make permanent modifications to the temple. The reason being that it is a place of great veneration, dating back to its Latin history.
The church was provided to the Melkites for use at the time that the Eparchy of Nuestra Senora del Paraiso en Mexico (Our Lady of Paradise in Mexico) was erected back in 1988. After the repose of Archbishop Boutros, of blessed memory, Father Archimandrite and Patriarchal Exarch Antoine (Mouhanna), also of blessed memory, served as Patriarchal Administrator until his own repose. Two other priests, both Mexicans of Arab descent, had earlier been ordained as Basilian Salvatorian hieromonks to serve the Eparchy, but also reposed untimely. I'd have to check the Eparchial Necrology, but I believe that was about a decade ago.
There was a period during which the parish was unserved and there was a very real concern that, if something were not done to revive the vacant See and avoid canonical suppression by Rome, the Archdiocese of Mexico City might seek to reclaim the temple - because of its prominence. With the appointment of Father Archimandrite and Patriarchal Exarch Gabriel (Ghannoum), BSO, that was averted - albeit no Eparch was appointed.
The temple was a Dominican church noted for a 17th century Crucifix on which hung an almost life-size statue of Christ. According to the history of the church, it was the custom of a pious priest to pray before it daily and kiss the feet of the crucified Lord after concluding his prayers. A virulently anti-Catholic individual, who had observed this practice, reportedly daubed the feet with a poisonous liquid, intending to kill the priest. When the priest next visited and finished praying, he approached the Crucifix only to see the Christ figure change from a flesh color to one of jet black. Among those present at the time was the would-be killer, who was overcome and immediately confessed what he had done.
The miracle quickly became known and the Crucified Lord shortly became popularly known as Senor del Veneno, the Lord of the Poison. The church became a place of pilgrimage and continues to be so (thus, its other name, Santuario del Senor del Veneno, Shrine of Our Lord of the Poison), although I believe the Crucifix itself is now enshrined in a side chapel of the Metropolitan Cathedral.
There is no resident priest, unless one has been named very, very recently. Father Archimandrite Gabriel was commuting about once a month from Florida for a time, but I don't believe that to any longer be the case.
Eastern and Oriental Catholics in Mexico are very underserved, though there are several communities. The Maronites have a presence and a few parishes. The Armenians have a parish visited only about once quarterly from one of their South American jurisdictions. There is a small Byzantine chapel, served by a retired Ruthenian presbyter. That's about it, unless the Chaldeans or Syriacs have done anything recently about which I've not heard.