Rite change.

What is the protocol or process that a Latin Rite Catholic has to go through to change to an Eastern Rite Church?

This requires that you write to your current bishop and to the bishop of the church into which you want to transfer and they both have to affirm the switch, but without good reason this usually isn’t necessary and it’s a hassle of a process.

I agree.

I know a woman whose primary parish is FSSP, but she attends daily Liturgy at the Eastern Catholic Church in her neighborhood.

You don’t need to change rite’s to attend the other. We’re all in communion, so enjoy your Mass at whichever rite serves you best.

The most important part is that you have to be attending the Eastern Catholic parish for at least 2 years. This is to ensure that you have experienced the life of an Eastern Catholic, and that your decision is not something that is done hastily.

You have to write to your current bishop with the wish to change rites and he will require a notarized letter explaining the reason for the change and copies of the your baptismal and confirmation certificates. Added must be a letter from a priest/bishop of the longed for rite saying he will accept you. Your current bishop studies the documents and if all is in order he sends them to Rome to the Congregation of the Oriental Church. They study the documents and send the approval to the Oriental bishop. You then have 6 months to be registered in an Oriental parish signed by the Oriental bishop… This document is sent to the church you were baptized in and to the former bishop.

It is important to note that you can only change Rites ONCE.

You can’t go from Latin Rite to Romanian Rite and then a few years later decide to switch back. Nor can you go from Latin Rite to Romanian Rite and then later decide to switch to Ukranian Rite. You can switch once, in your lifetime.

Also important to note is that you can’t switch Rites by accident, as others have mentioned this is a deliberate choice.

If 2 Latin Rite Catholics have decided to attend an Eastern Rite Church, say they’ve even been there for years, and have a child. The Eastern Priest may baptize the child, in an Eastern Church, by the Eastern rituals for Baptism…and that child is a Latin Rite Catholic. The same holds true in reverse. A child of Eastern Rite parents may be baptized by a Latin Rite Priest, in a Latin Rite Church, by the Latin form of Baptism…and the child is an Eastern Rite Catholic, although some Easterners allege that the Latin Rite has not been very good about following the rules and instead claiming the child is a Latin Rite Catholic.

I haven’t switched, but have made at least a cursory investigation of the idea. As others have said, there is no need to switch Rites in order to attend the Liturgy of a Rite not your own. There is great beauty, holiness, and tradition in all the rites of the Church. If you anyone has the opportunity to learn more about the faith from another Rite, I highly recommend taking it.


Let’s start from scratch.

After you have spent some period of time (usually, as someone said) a minimum of two years actively participating in the spiritual and liturgical life of an Eastern or Oriental Catholic parish, you would approach the pastor there. He, by then, will almost assuredly know you and know that you are considering asking for (not a Rite change, but) a transfer of canonical enrollment (you are seeking to change Churches, not Rites). If the priest doesn’t know you by that time, you aren’t ready and need to rethink what you really want.

You prepare a letter to the bishop of your (Latin) jurisdiction, explaining that you wish to seek a canonical transfer and the reasons why. These reasons cannot and should not be such thiings as a desire to become a priest despite not being celibate or a dislike for the customs and forms of liturgical worship in the Latin Church. Those types of reasons will get one short shrift from both the Latin hierarch and the Eastern hierarch whose jurisdiction you seek to enter. Examples of acceptable reasons are that your spirituality was formed in an Eastern environment, that Eastern spirituality affords you a closer relationship with God, that Eastern praxis resonates with you in some particular ways, etcetera. They can’t be mere empty statements.

Ideally, your letter is supported by one from the pastor of the Eastern parish which you’ve been attending (if it is not, the likelihood of a transfer being approved is very slim to none.)

You will, at the same time as you are sending a letter to the Latin bishop, send essentially the same letter to the Eastern hierarch into whose jurisdiction you are seeking to transfer. It will also be accompanied by a copy of the letter from the pastor of the Eastern parish.

The bishop of the Latin parish will generally approve the transfer, subject to the acceptance of it by his Eastern counterpart. You will, upon being notified of the respective approvals, be formally accepted into the Eastern parish and the transfer of your canonical enrollment will be recorded in its Sacramental Regsiter. The priest will provide notification to the pastor of parish in which you were baptized, which will so annotate your baptismal record.

There is NO notarized letter required - never was there any such requirement
No copies of baptismal or confirmation certificates are required as attachments
The Latin bishop sends NOTHING to Rome, unless you are a priest.
Until Vatican II, he sent your petition to the Apostolic Delegate, who acted for Rome.
Action on such petitions is now specifically delegated to the hierarchs involved.

In the event of disagreement (rare) between the two hierarchs involved or an appeal (rare) by a petitioner of a denial, the matter would devolve to the Apostolic Delegate. The sole circumstance in which the Oriental Congregation would become involved is if the petitioner is a priest or if there was some other, incredibly important reason why it could not be resolved by the Apostolic Delegate.

Actually, you CAN transfer more than once. There is no provision that prevents it, although it is uncommon. However, in most cases, the only such transfer likely to be allowed is a return to the Church of origin, unless there is a compelling reason to allow transfer to a different (third) Church. One example of such a compelling reason might be marriage to a person of another Church, but there can be others. Generally speaking, a request for a second transfer (other than to one’s Church of origin) is subject to close scrutiny.

There is, by the way, neither a Romanian nor a Ukrainian Rite, nor does one transfer Rites. One transfers their canonical enrollment from, for instance, the Latin Church sui iuris to the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church sui iuris or Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church sui iuris (2 of the 14 Churches that serve according to the Byzantine Rite) or to any of the 8 non-Byzantine Rite Churches sui iuris, which use 5 Rites among themselves.

I think God is caling me to the Byz Church. I know whenever I go to the Divine Liturgy I feel closer to God in worship.

The case I explained to the Archbishop of Cincinnati who gave it to his US Vicar General. First I had not lived in the USA for 40 years. So nobody knew me or if I was a Catholic. On the other hand teaching in the Malankara Catholic schools in India I was well known by the Archbishop of Tiruvalla. The procedure I gave is what the required of me. The decision of the Congregation of the Oriental Church was sent to the Archbishop in India who then received me.Into the Malanakara Catholic Church, And a copy to the USA church where I had been baptized

That’s interesting.

It would seem as if the child was subsequently raised in an Eastern Rite, they might not even know that they are really Latin Rite. Or vice versa.

And so would their own children, and children’s children.

There might be quite a few Catholics who are in a different rite than they think they’re in, particularly in a mobile society like America.

This is only partly true. I know of a number of folks who have gone from the Latin Church to 1 of the Byzantine Churches and then have officially switched to a different Byzantine Rite Church eg Latin to Melkite then to Ukrainian.

In order to get the process started you send a letter to the bishop of the church you wish to JOIN…he then takes it from there…it should go to the bishop THRU your pastor.

I have assisted countless folks with the Change of Ritual Church process…send me a PM if you have any more questions.

Diakonia in #8 has basically described my own experience.
After my EC priest and I agreed on the change:

#1 I wrote a letter of request to the Archbishop of SF ( We Russians are under Latin bishops at this time in history) for a change to the ECC under his jurisdiction. This was a very basic letter of about 6 sentences. I obtained and enclosed a recent copy of the certificate of my Confirmation (reception into the Latin Church), because a friend in the Oakland Tribunal told me it would be needed.

   I wrote to my Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland where I reside advising him of my desire to make this change in Church. That letter was only 4 sentences long because I also enclosed a copy of my letter to the Archbishop of SF.

#2 The SF Archdiocese Tribunal responded in less than 2 weeks requesting a “letter of endorsement” from my EC pastor.

#3 The Archbishop of SF soon wrote me that he had received a letter from the Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland “consenting” to the transfer, and that he, the Archbishop, was granting the transfer.

#4 My ECC pastor received an “Attestation” form from the SF Tribunal stating my request and the permissions granted. I signed it, the pastor of my ECC parish signed it, and two people witnessed it.

#6 The pastor then notified the Latin parish where I had been Confirmed (or Baptized for someone Baptized in the Church) for them to make the proper notation on my Confirmation record. The pastor sent a copy of that notification to the SF Tribunal along with a copy of the Attestation for their records at the SF Archdiocese.

The paperwork was very basic, simple. The Bishop and Archbishop responded very quickly as did the Tribunal in supplying the Attestation.

I understand from other posts here or another fourm that there are clergy who don’t support transfers of Latins to an ECC Church. My ECC pastor expressed no opposition at all. When I first approached him about the prospect of a formal change in Church he suggested I wait a year which I thought at the time was entirely appropriate. When I spoke with him again he had no opposition.

I honestly don’t know if I would have felt the call to make the formal change in Church had I not had the great benefit of a wonderful local Russian Orthodox parish which I go to many times during the year for Festal services which my tiny parish has not celebrated in recent years. These many Festal services added to the 12 Feasts and weekly Sunday and monthly Saturday DL we do celebrate in my own parish, have really solidified my sense of the sacramental, liturgical life of the East, combined with the profound impact my EC pastor and the Russian Orthodox pastor have had on me and the special qualities of our tiny Russian Greek Catholic parish intensified my experience as distinctly Eastern Catholic. I still continue to worship almost daily in the Latin Church and serve as a catechist in RCIA of a Latin parish. I have those longstanding relationships with clergy and friends in the Latin Church, and I’m blest to give back to the Church as a catechist, especailly since the Latin Church gave me the benefit of a wonderful 3 years training for that work. :slight_smile:

Ahhh, had you described those circumstances initially, my answer would have been the same, but I would have noted that yours was an exceptional situation:

  • not being locally known as a Latin after 4 decades
  • offering an endorsement of your request from a hierarch in another country
  • seeking acceptance, not by a ‘local’ hierarch of the Church to which you wanted to transfer, but by that same hierarch in another country - and -
  • very honestly, seeking canonical transfer to a Church that rarely receives such (other than from Indian Latin Catholics or the occasional Malabarese Catholic)

Those make for a very different case than what would be the experience of the average person seeking canonical transfer of their enrollment from one to another Church.

Although it’s seldom exercised in North America (except, notably, by one overcautious/ indecisive eparch), both the losing and receiving hierarchs always have the option to send a request forward for review. (In the few instances that it is done, it is ordinarily sent to the Apostolic Nuncio/Delegate). However, in truly unusual cases, or in countries where there is little knowledge/experience of the Eastern Churches, it may happen more frequently and may get ‘kicked upstairs’.

To my last point in the list above as regards James’ case, I don’t want anyone to misunderstand and think that I’m projecting any sort of prejudice.

The Oriental Catholic Churches and the Chaldean Church generally do not receive very many canonical transfers (or converts either), other than those resulting from marriage or from Catholics of the same ethnicity/culture as the Church’s general population The same is true for the counterpart Oriental Orthodox Churches, as well as the Assyrian Church, and the Ancient Church of the East - converts are uncommon except in those same cases (or when a Catholic from their counterpart Church crosses the road).

To a significant extent, this relates to or is attributed to a perception, right or wrong, that their Churches are ‘more ethnic’ and that their Churches are more entwined with the culture of the countries in which they originated. To Western and Latin thinking, I’ve often heard them described as ‘more exotic’. (Read what one will into that; I won’t try to defend it. To me, as an Eastern Catholic, these Churches are another, equally beautiful religious vehicle by which to express worship and spirituality.)

A half century ago, the same would have been said of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches - now, we’re still the ones with the funny hats who use a lot of smoke, but that we’re mainly European probably makes us a tad less ‘exotic’.

I’d agree with ciero that this is the best approach to take. It faciliates the process and direct communication - bishop to bishop - is generally less fraught with stumbling blocks.

Archbishop Pilarczyk forwarded me your e-mail to him dated December 21,
2007. In order to start the process of changing rites, we need

  1. A petition to change rites addressed to

The Congregation for the Oriental Churches
Most Reverend Leonardo Sandri
Via della Conciliazione 34
00193 Rome, Italy

signed by you and notarized by a civil or ecclesiastical notary.

The petition should contain the reason(s) why you want to change rites,
and a request for the change. It would also be helpful to include your
postal mailing address. While the letter is addressed to The
Congregation for the Oriental Churches, it should be mailed by postal
mail to me

Rev. Joseph R. Binzer
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
100 E 8th Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

  1. It would be appropriate for your friend, the bishop, write a letter
    of recommendation for the transfer, or if he is unable to do so, have a
    priest of the Syro-Malankara rite compose a letter of recommendation.
    The letter of recommendation should be addressed to The Congregation for
    the Oriental Churches (please see above for the address), but sent by
    postal mail to me (please see above for the address).

I will secure your certificate of baptism and certificate of
confirmation. I will keep you posted on these efforts.

Once I receive the petition from you and any letter of recommendation (I
suggest mailing these in the same envelope), I will forward them with a
letter from Archbishop Pilarczyk to The Congregation for the Oriental

Thank you for your patience. If you have any questions, please let me

May God graciously bless you and all that you do.

Fr. Joe Binzer

P.S. I was required to have my reasons notarized.

As others have pointed out, we are all in communion, so one may attend the liturgies of any of the rites, and receive communion, without the formality of changing rites.

If a person from one rite decides to marry someone from another rite, though, a canonical dispensation is required so that the marriage will be valid. It is usually a simple process, but it needs to be done.

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