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Eastern Catholic Churches

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The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous (in Latin, sui iuris) particular Churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. They preserve the liturgical, theological and devotional traditions of the various Eastern Christian Churches with which they are associated, and between which doctrinal differences exist, in particular between the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East. Eastern Catholics recognize that their faith is not at variance with that of other Eastern Catholics and of Latin Catholics, whom they see as equal members of the same Catholic Church. In particular, they recognize the central role of the Bishop of Rome within the College of Bishops. They hold distinct forms (different both from the Latin forms and from those of other Eastern Catholic Churches) of liturgical worship, sacramental[1] and canonical discipline, terminology, traditional prayers and practices of piety. They preserve the special emphases and illuminations that Eastern Christianity has developed over the centuries, some of which Pope John Paul II illustrated in his apostolic letter Orientale Lumen of 2 May 1995.[2]

Most Eastern Catholic Churches have counterparts in other Eastern Churches, whether Assyrian or Oriental Orthodox, from whom they are separated by a number of theological concerns, or the Eastern Orthodox Churches, from whom they are separated primarily by differences in understanding of the role of the Bishop of Rome within the College of Bishops.

Eastern Catholics are in full communion with the Roman Pontiff, and in this sense are members of the Roman Catholic Church,[3] but they are not "Roman Catholics" in the narrower senses of that term, since they are not members of the local particular Church of Rome nor of the Western or Latin Church, which uses the Roman Rite liturgy and the other Latin liturgical rites.[4]

The Eastern Catholic Churches were located historically in Eastern Europe, the Asian Middle East, Northern Africa and India, but are now, because of migration, found also in Western Europe, the Americas and Oceania to the extent of forming full-scale ecclesiastical structures such as eparchies, alongside the Latin dioceses. One country, Eritrea, has only an Eastern Catholic hierarchy, with no Latin structure.

The terms Byzantine Catholics and Greek Catholic are used of those who belong to Churches that use the Byzantine liturgical rite. The terms Oriental Catholic and Eastern Catholic include these, but are broader, since they also cover Catholics who follow the Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian and Chaldean liturgical traditions.


  1. Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 12-18
  2. Orientale lumen, 5-8
  3. Examples of the use of "Roman Catholic Church" by Popes, even when not addressing members of non-Catholic Churches, are the encyclicals Divini illius Magistri and Humani generis, and the talk by Pope John Paul II at the general audience of 26 June 1985 (actual text in Italian, [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/1985/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_19850626_sp.html Spanish translation) in which he treated "Roman Catholic Church " as synonymous with "Catholic Church". The term "Roman Catholic Church" is repeatedly used to refer to the whole Church in communion with the see of Rome, including Eastern Catholics, in official documents concerning dialogue between the Church as a whole (not just the Western part) and groups outside her fold. Examples of such documents can be found at the links on the Vatican website under the heading Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The Holy See never uses "Roman Catholic Church" to refer only to the Western or Latin Church. In the First Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution de fide catholica, the phrase the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church (in Latin, Sancta catholica apostolica Romana ecclesia) also refers to something other than the Latin-Rite or Western Church.
  4. Some Eastern Catholics deny that they are "Roman Catholics": "We're Byzantine rite, which is Catholic, but not Roman Catholic" (http://www.southbendtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070104/News04/701040473 Ukrainian church pastor honored]). Others "are proud to call themselves Roman Catholics" (Maronites in Catholic Encyclopedia).
Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, page http:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern Catholic Churches, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.