What is Eastern Catholicism?

I’m sure it’s been asked before but I’m new to Catholicism and was wondering what Eastern Catholicism is. I am familiar with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Are the practices similar, such as use of Icons, the prayer rope, what Saints are venerated, etc.

Are there any good introductory books on the subject?

Any and all help is greatly appreciated.

12 of the 14 Byzantine Rite Catholic Churches Sui Iuris are nearly identical in praxis to their Orthodox counterparts; The Ruthenian Catholics and Ruthenian Orthodox (ACROD) have notably different results from delatinization (and different source amounts of latinization due to the St. Alexis Toth schism). The UGCC is all over the map, but has some parishes indistinguishable save for papal commemorations, and a rare few that could be mistaken for Ruthenian-latinization… but it is coming around.

The other Eastern Rite Churches are of different Liturgical Rites; The Coptic Catholics use the same praxis and liturgy as the Coptic Orthodox; The Ethiopian Catholic Church uses very similar liturgies to the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches; The Syrian Catholic Church uses the same as the Syrian Orthodox; The Chaldeans and Assyrian Church of the East use almost the same liturgies.

The Armenian Catholics and Armenian Apostolic Orthodox use the same liturgies, and even sometimes share deacons.

Welcome to CAF and to the Eastern Catholicism section.
If you mean are our EC practices similar to Eastern Orthodox as far as the use of Icons, the prayer rope, what Saints are venerated, etc., painting with a broad brush I’d say yes. As far as a local Russian Orthodox Church and my Russian Byzantine Catholic Church, except for the fact we pray for Pope Benedict and Patriarch Gregorios, and the Orthodox pray for their Metropolitan and Bishop you’d see no difference in the Divine Liturgy going both places. Our readings and hymns are the same. Our calendar is the same.

I highly recommend Catherine Alexander’s Word from the Wise interviews with the Monks of Holy Resurrection Romanian Catholic Monastery. I think all the interviews are excellent. If you click on the “… (more info)” it brings up a list of the questions Catherine asks in that segment. The HRM monks are Byzantine however they do address that somewhat in their responses, making note of Oriental Catholics.

Fr Loya also has a weekly radio program Light of the East. Fr Tom’s title comes from Orientale Lumen, John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter.

A number of parishes have very good websites with helpful information. One excellent parish site is that of St. Elias Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Brampton, ON, CA.

Most people are not aware that the “Catholic Church” is actually comprised of twenty-three independent Catholic Churches, all in union with the pope. The Western, or Latin Catholic Church, is so large, however, that many people, even Catholics, are completely unaware of the other twenty-two churches, which make up the Eastern Branch. (Some have from only a few thousand members to a few million.)

Originally, there was only one denomination… the Catholic Church (the word Catholic meaning “universal”). However, there were five cities that early on were singled out as being important centers of Christianity. They were Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and of course, Rome. Each developed its own unique traditions and liturgy, but ALL shared a common theology and were in communion with each other and the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. However, about 1000 years ago, due to a variety of unfortunate problems, the other four cities, allied with the Byzantine Empire, mutually broke off from Rome, forming the various Eastern Orthodox Churches. Although doctrinally, they are virtually identical to Catholics, they refuse to acknowledge that the pope is more than a “first among equals”. (A couple groups broke of much earlier in the 400s AD also, to form what are known as the Oriental Orthodox Churches).

What has happened is that over time, some portions of each of the various Orthodox groups have decided to reconcile with the Catholic Church and come back into communion with Rome. When they do, they are allowed to keep all of their traditions and much of their independence, although they acknowledge the authority of the Pope. They become truly Catholic, in that anyone from ANY branch of the Catholic Church can participate in the liturgy and ceremonies of any OTHER branch of the Catholic Church. The only two Eastern groups that never fell out of communion with the Catholic Church were the Maronite Catholic Church, and the Italo-Albanian Catholic Church. So… for every branch of the Orthodox Churches that are NOT in communion with Rome, there is a corresponding and virtually identical branch of the Eastern Catholic Church that IS in communion with Rome. Since their customs and liturgies date from before the Council of Trent, they are allowed to remain.

The following liturgies are used by the Eastern Catholic Churches:

  • The Liturgy of St. Basil
  • The Chaldean Mass
  • The Order of the Divine and Holy Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints Gregory the Theologian (or Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts)
  • The Liturgy of St. James
  • The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
  • The Liturgy of St. Mark
  • The Holy Qorbono


Here is a listing that includes EACH of the twenty-three Catholic Churches in union with the Pope. Do not confuse “churches” with “rites”. A rite is a series of traditions, that includes different customs and liturgies. Several different churches may use the exact same rite. A Church has its own rules and separate line of authority to the Pope. It may also have a figure in charge, like a Metropolitan or a Patriarch (like an Archbishop), since these churches are generally very small and work very hard to preserve their unique traditions. The major rites are the Latin, Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian, Chaldean, and Byzantine.

**The Western (Latin) Catholic Church

Latin liturgical tradition**

  1. Ordinary Form (This is the form of the Mass that you will find in virtually every Latin Catholic Church almost every day of the week. This Mass has existed since the mid-1960s, ever since reforms were made following the Second Vatican Council.)
  2. Extraordinary Form (This is the form of the Mass that was used in virtually every Latin Catholic Church from the Middle Ages until the mid-1960s. It may still be said in Catholic Churches should a priest choose to use it. Some of the differences from the Ordinary Form include the exclusive use of the Latin language (except for the homily), the receipt of Communion exclusively on the tongue and kneeling, the priest facing the same direction as the people (toward the altar and God) so he can lead the people in prayer, no lay participation on the altar, and usually, no responses by lay people.)
  3. Ambrosian Rite (Only permitted in the Archdiocese of Milan)
  4. Mozarabic Rite (Only permitted in the Cathedral of Toledo, Spain and a few surrounding churches of the diocese)
  5. Bragan Rite (Only permitted in the Archdiocese of Braga, Portugal)
  6. Anglican-Use Mass (This form was once only permitted in the extremely rare circumstance in which an Anglican priest converted to Catholicism and brings his entire parish with him. In that event, a parish could continue to use the Anglican liturgy, with corrections to make it conform with Catholic teachings. It was originally meant as a transitional liturgy, and upon the death of the pastor, the church would revert to the Ordinary Form. With the recent provisions announced by the Vatican to allow Anglicans into the Catholic Church and keep their traditions, it seems that the Anglican-Use will now become both far more widespread AND permanent.)

**Rites of Religious Orders **

  1. Dominican Rite
  2. Carthusian Rite
  3. Carmelite Rite
  4. Cisternian Rite

Note: Technically, the forms of the Latin liturgy listed above are NOT different rites, but variations of the SAME rite, although people do tend to commonly use the term somewhat erroneously in this context. The differences between the Latin “rites” are FAR less than those between the Latin liturgy and any of the Eastern Rites.)

**The Eastern Catholic Churches

  1. Alexandrian liturgical tradition**
  2. Coptic Catholic Church (patriarchate): Egypt (1741)
  3. Ethiopian Catholic Church (metropolia): Ethiopia, Eritrea (1846)
    2. Antiochian (Antiochene or West-Syrian) liturgical tradition
  4. Maronite Church (patriarchate): Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Argentina, Brazil, United States, Australia, Canada, Mexico (union re-affirmed 1182)
  5. Syriac Catholic Church (patriarchate): Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, United States and Canada, Venezuela (1781)
  6. Syro-Malankara Catholic Church (major archiepiscopate): India, United States (1930)
    3. Armenian liturgical tradition:
  7. Armenian Catholic Church (patriarchate): Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, Ukraine, France, Greece, Latin America, Argentina, Romania, United States, Canada, Eastern Europe (1742)
    4. Chaldean or East Syrian liturgical tradition:
  8. Chaldean Catholic Church (patriarchate): Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, United States (1692)
  9. Syro-Malabar Church (major archiepiscopate): India, Middle East, Europe and America.
    5. Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) liturgical tradition:
  10. Albanian Greek Catholic Church (apostolic administration): Albania (1628)
  11. Belarusian Greek Catholic Church (no established hierarchy at present): Belarus (1596)
  12. Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church (apostolic exarchate): Bulgaria (1861)
  13. Byzantine Church of the Eparchy of Križevci (an eparchy and an apostolic exarchate): Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro (1611)
  14. Greek Byzantine Catholic Church (two apostolic exarchates): Greece, Turkey (1829)
  15. Hungarian Greek Catholic Church (an eparchy and an apostolic exarchate): Hungary (1646)
  16. Italo-Albanian Catholic Church (two eparchies and a territorial abbacy): Italy (Never separated)
  17. Macedonian Greek Catholic Church (an apostolic exarchate): Republic of Macedonia (1918)
  18. Melkite Greek Catholic Church (patriarchate): Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Jerusalem, Brazil, United States, Canada, Mexico, Iraq, Egypt and Sudan, Kuwait, Australia, Venezuela, Argentina (1726)
  19. Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic (major archiepiscopate): Romania, United States (1697)
  20. Russian Catholic Church: (two apostolic exarchates, at present with no published hierarchs): Russia, China (1905); currently about 20 parishes and communities scattered around the world, including five in Russia itself, answering to bishops of other jurisdictions
  21. Ruthenian Catholic Church (a sui juris metropolia, an eparchy, and an apostolic exarchate): United States, Ukraine, Czech Republic (1646)
  22. Slovak Greek Catholic Church (metropolia): Slovak Republic, Canada (1646)
  23. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (major archiepiscopate): Ukraine, Poland, United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Germany and Scandinavia, France, Brazil, Argentina (1595)

If you want a good look at what the Eastern Orthodox Churches looked like before the Schism, look at the Eastern Catholic Churches.

If you want a good look at what the Eastern Orthodox Churches looked like before the Schism, look at the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

… and if you want to see what the eastern Catholic churches looked like before the schism, look no further than the eastern Orthodox. :slight_smile:

And if you want to know what Old Rome looked like before the schism, then…

Rolltide packed a lot of information into his posts. A little ancient history in addition is that there were two other Cities from which liturgies arose: Carthage with the Cathaginean liturgy which was partly incorporated into the Ambrosian liturgy today, and Edessa for the Maronite, Chaldean and Syro-Malabarese liturgies.

Some additional litiurgies for religious orders, not previously mentioned, and extinct churches, had unique liturgies also:

Franciscan Rite, Lyonese Rite, Salisbury Rite (Sarum), Trondheim, Glagolithic, Benevento, Celtic Rite, Venetian Rite, Italo-Greek Rite, Benedictine Usage, Servite Usage.

Hasn’t this survived in some fashion, or is the modern rite a reconstruction?


Go to Old Rome

The architecture alone is worth the trip.

Sarum Use dates to early 13th century, Salsbury England, Richard le Poore. It was replaced in the Catholic Church by the Tridentine Mass, and later in the 19th century, some tried to revive it. I read that a modified form of Sarum Use is currently used in the Western Rite Orthodox Church and ROCOR Western Rite (with added epiclesis and Trisagion).

Not quite. Pre-schism Orthodoxy = in Full Communion with St. Peter. Post-schism Orthodoxy = out of Communion with St. Peter. Modern day Eastern Catholic Churches = Orthodox in Communion with St. Peter, ergo Eastern Catholics look like pre-schism Orthodoxy.

It survived outside the Catholic Church; some high-church Anglicans retained the Sarum Rite.

It was reconstructed by the Orthodox for use in the Western Rite of one of the EO churches.

Further, it’s been used as an Extraordinary Form recently, apparently under the permissions of the Bishops of England. There seems a very real possibility of it coming back to use, if nothing else, by virtue of some Anglo-Catholics coming into Union.

Orthodox have always been in communion with Peter.

He attends every liturgy, all the angels and saints are there.

Oh, I didn’t realize. My apologies.

As an Eastern Catholic I can pretty much tell you that the Eastern Catholic Churches look like anything BUT pre-schism Orthodoxy. This is actually one of the points of contention in modern Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. Many Orthodox fear that should communion with Rome be reestablished, then they’ll go the way of the “uniates;” much of their traditional theology will be replaced by “Catholic” (read “Roman”) theology, much of their liturgical outlook will be replace by the “Catholic” liturgical outlook, many of the traditional practices and devotions will be replaced by “Catholic” practices and devotions. If you want a great illustration of this, just look into the celibate vs. married clergy debates that rage between Eastern Catholics and Rome. The law, from what I understand, is that married clergy are not permitted outside the traditional patriarchal territories. This makes married clergy for Eastern Catholics in the U.S. contrary to Church law. It’s ridiculous.

Lately, however, there have been attempts among the Eastern Catholic Churches to actually restore the sort of relationship that existed between Rome and the East prior to the Schism. The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is at the forefront of this restoration, and has caught much flack for it. I have personally caught much flack for my attempts to be fully Orthodox and fully in communion with the Bishop of Rome as first among equals according to the understanding of the Greek Fathers before the Schism. :shrug: We have a long way to go and much work to do before all the Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches are fully what they were prior to the Schism.

The Ruthenian liturgical recinision was approved by Rome in 1941 and following years, in various versions: Russian (Nikonian), Ruthenian (non-Nikon), and Greek, and also other versions in other languages. The Ruthenian paradigm dates back to Bishop Isidore, Metropolitan of Kiev and Moscow and all Rus’, circa 1437. (The current revisions are not yet in full compliance.)

Because Latin bishops in the countries where Eastern Catholics immigrated requested it, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith issued rules on 2 May 1890 to Archbishop of Paris, Francois-Marie-Benjamin Richard. Published officially in The Acta Sanctae Sedis, vol. 1891/92, p.390 and the Congregation applied it to the United States on 1 May 1897 in Collectanea No. 1966 stating that only celibates or widowed priests coming without their children should be permitted in the United States.

Since 1999, individual cases of married clergy have been approved, which is codified in the particular law of the Byzantine Catholic Church of USA. There are now married Anglican Catholic priests also.

Canon 758 §3
§1. Married men, after completion of the formation prescribed by law, can be admitted to the order of deacon
§2. Concerning the admission of married men to the order of the presbyterate, the special norms issued by the Apostolic See are to be observed, unless dispensations are granted by the same See in individual cases.

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