Can an Eastern Catholic become Pope?

Is Pope Benedict XVI bi-ritual or for that matter are all popes multi ritual as there are many Catholic rites?


The Pope is omni-ritual. That is, he can celebrate the Liturgy in any Rite of the Church.

A picture of the previous Pope.

That is also technically true of any Bishop.

I’m not entirely sure on that one. I recall reading about priests that are bi-ritual have to give up their bi-ritual faculties upon being elevated to the episcopacy. I could be wrong about this, however.

Pace e Bene

I don’t believe this is true, as Bishop Fulton Sheen was tri-ritual if I’m not mistaken…

That would be Cardinal Agagianian. He’d have been a pretty good pope, IMO, and the church would have been saved much upheaval.

Andrew is correct. Bishops are not “omni-ritual” - technically or otherwise. Except in a few specific instances, a presbyter with bi-ritual faculties who is elevated to the episcopacy cannot thereafter exercise faculties in any Rite other than the one in which he serves - except with permission of the appropriate dicastry (the Congregation of Bishops, I believe). He can con-celebrate, he may* be able to preside/officiate, but he cannot celebrate (be the sole celebrant).

Hierarchs who possess and can exercise bi-ritual faculties are few and far between - generally being Latin hierarchs who are serving Eastern/Oriental jurisdictions locum tenens; it seems to me that there are presently one or two, but I’m blanking at the moment.

Regarding Archbishop Sheen, of blessed memory, it isn’t clear when or by whom he was accorded bi-ritual faculties or why. In 1932, as a priest, he was present in Ireland on the occasion of a Eucharistic Congress. On the second day of the Congress, a Byzantine Ukrainian Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky, then Apostolic Exarch of Volyn and Pidlyashia of the Ukrainians. Father Sheen is recorded as having “participated”, which may mean that he concelebrated. However, to have done so would not have necessitated that he have faculties.

On November 5, 1946, as a Monsignor, he was the homilist at the episcopal ordination of Kyr Daniel Ivancho, of blessed memory, as Coadjutor Bishop of the then-Apostolic Exarchate of the Ruthenians. Again, I don’t know whether he was a concelebrant but, as before, faculties would not have been required to do so.

He definitely had faculties in 1955 (by which time he himself had been raised to the episcopacy and was Auxiliary of the Latin Archdiocese of New York), as he served what was reportedly the first Pontifical Divine Liturgy chanted in English, during the Uniontown pilgrimage (in the course of which he announced the appointment of Bishop Nicholas Elko as Exarch :frowning: ).

On another occasion, he substituted for His Beatitude Patriarch Maximos IV, of blessed memory, at a US Melkite Convention and served the Divine Liturgy.

There are those who believe that he acquired faculties using the reason (a reason was required to be stated) that he needed such in conjunction with his involvement in the Society for the Propogation of the Faith - not a particularly compelling argument, but the reasons were not much scrutinized in those days. Others think that he was not granted faculties until subsequent to his episcopal consecration. I’m unaware of any reference to the matter in biographies of him.

He was not, to my knowledge, other than bi-ritual. I am only aware of his having celebrated in the Byzantine Rite other than the Latin - although he celebrated in the Ruthenian, Ukrainian, and Melkite Churches.

Many years,


*may because, once a bishop enters a temple of other than his own Rite, if it is of a Church which has its own canonical jurisdiction in the place, he has stepped outside of his own jurisdiction. An example would be the episcopal enthronement of Archbishop Cyril Bustros as Eparch of Newton of the Melkites a few years ago. It was held at the Melkite Cathedral, which is physically sited within the geographic bounds of the Latin Archdiocese of Boston. The Latin Archbishop of Boston was accorded a place of honor, as was the Metropolitan Archbishop of Hartford, by virtue of their respective offices. Neither, however, occupied the cathedra, as they were outside their own jurusdictions once they entered the Cathedral and were, in fact, within the jurisdiction of the Eparchy.

Priests act in the name of the bishop. They receive the authority to celebrate Mass\D.L. as part of their relationshiop to the bishop. Thus they are part of the Ritul of the bishop.

But Bishops are true heirs of the Apostles. Can one really imagine Thomas needing Andrew’s ‘permission’ to say the Divine Liturgy using rubics and texts that Andrew devised? Or Bartholmew? or Matthew?

No, they may say the Liturgy in any valid, published form.

But that said, a bishop is also the caretaker of the Liturgical tradition that has been handed to them, as such, proper pastoral care means celebrating the Liturgy that has been handed to them, in Communion with the bishops of their sui juris Church. So, in economy, a bishop will only use the Liturgy of their sui juris Chruch, but they have the AUTHORITY to use any.

If the current Pope dies they can if the Cardinal of Bishops elect a Cardinal from the Eastern Rite.


You are incorrect. As explained above, they may concelebrate - but they may not individually celebrate outside their Rite of ascription without a grant of faculty by the appropriate dicastery.

Many years,


Yes, and not only that, the College of Cardinals can elect a layman from the Eastern Rite if they see fit.

But, any one who is elected pope would be the ordinary for the Latin Rite diocese of Rome, and in that capacity would be expected to say mass and other liturgical functions in the rite of his own diocese.

Of course, its possible for an Eastern rite individual to become pope, but I see a lot of problems with it. I don’t see it as much more feasible than the pope choosing the (for example) a Latin rite bishop to be Maronite patriarch.

‘merely’ guides?

Yes, and sometimes more effectively than others.

As Cardinal Ratzinger said,

Probably the only assurance [the Holy Spirit] offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.
…There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked.

Since the Pope does not pick nor elevate non-latin patriarchs, and has little say over the choices for the patriarchs (see the CCEO), the odds of a latin rite bishop being elected by the Maronite synod would seem astronomically low.

This could very well happen in the not-too-distant future in order to facilitate unification more quickly. Don’t be surprised if the next pope is an eastern rite bishop or cardinal. And it would make sense too.

The book/movie “The Shoes of the Fisherman” is about just such a scenario.


Was Kiril Pavlovich Lakota a Bishop and Cardinal from an Eastern Rite or was he a Latin Rite Bishop who happened to be Russian? He is mentioned as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lvov (spelling?), and he at times wears a more Eastern style neckwear (don’t know the name of it) in lieu of a pectoral cross (which he also wears at times). I never read the book, but the movie is somewhat ambiguous about what Rite he exactly is.

Also, the movie is very good, and I recommend it for viewing.

Actually, I’ve read that this would only hamper unifying the two churches.

I just finished reading the book, and I ordered the movie. :thumbsup: Lakota was from the Ruthenian Rite.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit