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Eastern Rite
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Eastern Rite

The Eastern Rites are the rites used by many of the ancient Christian churches of Eastern Europe and the Middle East that are in the Catholic Communion but do not follow the Latin Rite. The churches that use these rites are called the Eastern Catholic Churches. The faithful who use these rites are technically members of "Eastern Catholic Churches", not rites. Their union with the Catholic Church, in which they are sui iuris Churches, gives rise to the term Uniate, which is not used by the Vatican.

Western (or "Latin-Rite") Catholic bishops are subject directly to the Pope, but most Eastern-rite Catholic bishops are subject indirectly to the pope via one of six Catholic "patriarchs of the east", who sit in Alexandria, Antioch, Antelias, Baghdad, Beirut, and Damascus but who acknowledge the primacy of the Pope. (There is a seventh "patriarch" of the east in Jerusalem, but his church follows the Latin Rite, as his title is honorary, not juridical.)

These churches accept Catholic dogma, and retain hierarchies and liturgies distinct from the Western church, and follow many laws and customs that differ from those of Western church. They are subject to the "Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches" promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1991. For example, their priests need not be celibate, and their parish priests, rather than diocesan bishops, normally confirm parishioners, using the chrismation rite rather than the rite used in the west.

It should be noted that not all the "Western" churches follow the Roman rite, in fact, several Italian dioceses have their own rites and usually the orders will have their own rites (Dominicans, Jesuits).

Table of contents
1 Historical background
2 List of Eastern-Rite churches
3 See also

Historical background

According to Catholic Tradition, the Catholic Church, in the fullest meaning of the term, includes apostolic churches (those having their authority handed down by the apostles) who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). This communion was lost over various theological disputes over what constitutes true belief (orthodoxy) vs. false opinion (heresy). When communion is lost, the situation is termed a "schism," meaning a "break," or "brokeness." Schism can also come about without heresy--for example, over jurisdictional or political disputes.

From the Catholic perspective, the following were the major schisms damaging or reducing the Catholic Church:

1-the Nestorian controversy, producing a Nestorian Church, once spreading over several dozen dioceses from Syria to China, producing a "Nestorian Church" or "Church of the East." This church is now quite small.

2-the Monophysite controversy, producing a "Monophysite" or "Oriental Orthodox Church" especially in Egypt/Ethiopia and Syria.

3-the Great Schism between Rome and "New Rome" (Constantinople) over political power and theological issues, including Roman primacy, the Filioque clause, bread for communion and marriage/divorce. Those who did not side with Rome are today known as the Orthodox Church.

From a Roman perspective, these controversies developed on Eastern lands, and involved Eastern Churches using Eastern liturgies and theology. Those Eastern Churches who refused to acknowledge this schism continued to be Catholic. Those Churches who overcame the schism with Rome through various contacts and agreements were elevated to a fully Catholic status, and are also now called Eastern Catholic Churches.

Today the Eastern Catholic Churches are an important (and controversial) religious minority. They make up 2 percent of Catholic faithful, and less than 10 percent of Eastern Christians.

Among the larger Eastern Catholic Churches:

-the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of Kyiv(Kiev)/Halych, which also included at one time, the Church in Belarus.

-the Maronite Catholic Church, centered in Lebanon.

-the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of India (St. Thomas Christians)

-the Romanian Greek Catholic Church of Transylvania.

-the Melkite Catholic Church centered in Syria, and extending to Lebanon and Israel for Arabs following the tradition of Constantinople.

List of Eastern-Rite churches

See also