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Eastern Christianity
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The term Eastern Rites may refer to the liturgical rites used by many ancient Christian Churches of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and India that, while being part of the Catholic Church, are distinct from the Latin Rite or Western Church. Or it may apply to these autonomous particular Churches themselves, known collectively as the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Canon 27 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches defines the second sense, which is the main topic of this article, as follows: "A group of Christian faithful linked in accordance with the law by a hierarchy and expressly or tacitly recognized by the supreme authority of the Church as autonomous is in this Code called an autonomous Church" (in the original Latin, "Coetus christifidelium hierarchia ad normam iuris iunctus, quem ut sui iuris expresse vel tacite agnoscit suprema Ecclesiae auctoritas, vocatur in hoc Codice Ecclesia sui iuris.")

Eastern and Western (Latin) Catholics

Care must be taken to distinguish these two meanings of the word "rite". The one Byzantine liturgical rite is used by several distinct Eastern autonomous Churches, each of which, such as the Ukrainian Rite or the Melkite Rite, is called a Rite in the second sense. On the other hand the one Latin Rite (Rite in the second sense) uses several liturgical rites: not only the majority Roman Rite, but also the Ambrosian Rite, the Mozarabic Rite, and others.

By the term Roman Catholic, some mean Latin-Rite Catholic, and by Roman Catholic Church the Latin Catholic Church. When Roman Catholic is used in this sense, Eastern Catholics are not "Roman Catholics", and the Eastern Catholic Churches are not part of the "Roman Catholic Church". However, this usage is found in no official document of the Holy See. Instead, the Catholic Church (because of the central position for it of the Bishop of Rome) accepts the designation "Roman Catholic" in agreed documents concerning dialogue between the Church as a whole and other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities, and the First Vatican Council referred to the whole Catholic Church as the "Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church" (in Latin, "Sancta catholica apostolica Romana ecclesia" (Session III, Dogmatic Constitution de fide catholica).[1]

Most Eastern Catholic Churches arose when a group within an ancient Christian Church that was in disagreement with the see of Rome chose to enter into full communion with that see. However, the Maronite Church boasts of never having been separated from Rome, and has no counterpart Orthodox Church out of communion with the Pope. It is therefore inaccurate to refer to it as a "Uniate" Church. The Syro-Malabar Church can make a somewhat similar claim.

All Catholics are subject to the bishop of the eparchy or diocese (the local particular Church) to which they belong. They are also subject directly to the Pope, as is stated in canon 43 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and canon 331 of the Code of Canon Law. Most, but not all, Eastern Catholics are also directly subject to a patriarch, major archbishop, or metropolitan who has authority for all the bishops and the other faithful of his Rite or autonomous particular Church (canons 56 and 151 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches).

The distinction between autonomous (sui iuris) particular Churches or Rites (cf. Second Vatican Council: Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2),[2] and non-autonomous "particular or local Churches (cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 11)[3] is dealt with more fully in the article Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic patriarchs and major archbishops derive their titles from the sees of Alexandria (Copts), Antioch (Syrians, Melkites, Maronites), Babylonia (Chaldaeans), Cilicia (Armenians), Kyiv-Halyč (Ukrainians), Ernakulam-Angamaly (Syro-Malabars), Trivandrum (Syro-Malankaras), and Făgăraş-Alba Iulia (Romanians).

(Within the Latin Church, there are the titles of Patriarch of Jerusalem, Lisbon, Venice, East Indies and West Indies. All except the first – the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem – are merely honorary titles, and the last has fallen into disuse. They are irrelevant to the subject matter of this article.)

The Eastern Catholic Churches are in full communion of faith and of acceptance of authority with the see of Rome, but retain their distinctive liturgical rites, laws and customs, and traditional devotions. Terminology may vary: for instance, "diocese" and "eparchy", "vicar general" and "protosyncellus", "confirmation" and "chrismation" are respectively Western and Eastern terms for the same realities. Clerical celibacy is not obligatory for Eastern Catholic priests, as distinct from their bishops, but is in fact practised by many of them, particularly those who live according to monastic tradition. Those who wish to marry must do so before, not after, they are ordained. The sacraments of baptism and chrismation however are generally administered, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, one immediately after the other.

The canon law that the Eastern Catholic Churches have in common has been codified in the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, while the Western or Latin particular Church is governed by the Code of Canon Law, a second edition of which was issued in 1983.

External link: Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, text and concordance from the IntraText Digital Library

Historical background

Communion between Christian Churches has been broken over matters of faith, when each side accused the other of heresy or departure from the true faith (orthodoxy). Communion has been broken also because of disputes that do not involve matters of faith, as when there is disagreement about questions of authority or the legitimacy of the election of a particular bishop. In these latter cases, each side accuses the other of schism, but not of heresy.

Major breaches of communion:

  1. The Churches that accepted the teaching of the 431 Council of Ephesus, which condemned the views of Nestorius, classified those who rejected the Council's teaching as heretics. Those who accepted it lived mostly in the Roman Empire and classified themselves as orthodox; they considered the others, who lived mainly under Persian rule, as Nestorian heretics. These had a period of great expansion in Asia. Monuments of their presence still exist in China. Now they are relatively few in numbers and are divided into three Churches, of which the Chaldaean Church, which is in communion with Rome, is the most numerous, while the others have recently split between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.
  2. Those who accepted the 451 Council of Chalcedon similarly classified those who rejected it as Monophysite heretics. The Churches that refused to accept the Council considered instead that it was they who were orthodox. The six present-day Churches that continue their tradition reject the description Monophysite, preferring instead Miaphysite. They are often called, in English, Oriental Orthodox Churches, to distinguish them from the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This distinction, by which the words oriental and eastern are used as labels for two different realities, is impossible in most other languages and is not universally accepted even in English. These churches are also referred to as pre-Chalcedonian or, now more rarely, as non-Chalcedonian or anti-Chalcedonian.
  3. The East-West Schism between Rome and New Rome (Constantinople) arose over questions of authority, and was led up to by rivalry and by cultural differences (Greek was scarcely known any longer in the West and Latin in the East), not questions of doctrine, though controversy later arose over several matters such as the Western insertion of the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed, the use of leavened or unleavened bread for the Eucharist, and discipline concerning marriage/divorce. Each side considered that the other no longer belonged to the Church that was orthodox and catholic. But with the passage of centuries, it became customary to refer to the Eastern side as the Orthodox Church and the Western as the Catholic Church, without either side thereby renouncing its claim to be the truly orthodox or the truly catholic Church. The Churches that sided with Constantinople are known collectively as the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

In each Church whose communion with the Church of Rome was broken by these three divisions, there arose, at various times, a group that considered it important to restore that communion. The see of Rome accepted them as they were: there was no question of requiring them to adopt the customs of the Latin Church. At a meeting in Balamand, Lebanon in June 1993, the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church declared that what has been called "uniatism" "can no longer be accepted either as a method to be followed nor as a model of the unity our Churches are seeking."[4]

At the same time, the Commission stated that "[t]he Oriental Catholic Churches who have desired to re-establish full communion with the See of Rome and have remained faithful to it, have the rights and obligations which are connected with this communion"; and that they "have the right to exist and to act in answer to the spiritual needs of their faithful."

As remarked earlier, the identity of the Maronite Church and of the Syro-Malabar Church is due to no such division within an Eastern Church.

Eastern Catholic Churches make up 2 % of the membership of the Catholic Church, and less than 10 % of all Eastern Christians.

The term Uniat[e]

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The term Uniat or Uniate is applied to Eastern Catholics primarily by Eastern Orthodox, who sometimes give it pejorative overtones, but was also historically used, though less frequently, by Catholics of both Eastern and Western liturgical traditions. Present-day Eastern Catholics generally regard the term negatively, and so its use is often avoided, especially in ecumenical contexts. According to Eastern Orthodox Professor John Erickson of St Vladimir's Theological Seminary, "The term 'uniate' itself, once used with pride in the Roman communion, had long since come to be considered as pejorative. 'Eastern Rite Catholic' also was no longer in vogue because it might suggest that the Catholics in question differed from Latins only in the externals of worship. The council affirmed rather that Eastern Catholics constituted churches, whose vocation was to provide a bridge to the separated churches of the East…"[5]

The term has been used by the Holy See (e.g., in the Ex Quo of Pope Benedict XIV)[6]. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1909) consistently used the term "Uniat" to refer to Eastern Catholics, stating: "The Uniat Church is therefore really synonymous with Eastern Churches united to Rome, and Uniats is synonymous with Eastern Christians united with Rome."[7] The term is found on the website of the Catholic television network EWTN, especially when quoting older documents, and appears occasionally in the Catholic press, though official Catholic documents no longer use the term, due to its perceived negative overtones.

The word can be found on the cornerstone of Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church in Simpson, Pennsylvania, adorned with a Byzantine-style cross, and which reads (in Russian) "Russian Gr. Cath. Church / of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul", followed (in English) by "MAY 7, 1905 / RUSSIAN GR. CATH. CHURCH / SIMPSON, PA. UNIAT" (see photo at right).

When speaking of Byzantine-rite Catholics, including those who are not Greek-speaking, the term Greek Catholic is commonly used, as well as Byzantine Catholic. The terms Oriental Catholic and Eastern Catholic are applied to these and also to Catholics belonging to Eastern Churches with no historical link to Eastern Orthodoxy).

List of Eastern Catholic Churches

The Holy See's Annuario Pontificio gives the following list of Eastern Catholic Churches and of countries (or other political areas) in which they possess an episcopal ecclesiastical jurisdiction:

As is obvious from the above list, an individual autonomous particular Church may have distinct jurisdictions (local particular Churches) in several countries.

The situation of the Ruthenian Catholic Church is exceptional. A constituent metropolia, the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh, which is referred to also, but not officially, as the Byzantine Catholic Church in America, is treated as if it held the rank of an autonomous ("sui iuris") metropolitan particular Church, because, when it was set up as an ecclesiastical province (in 1969), conditions in the Rusyn (Ruthenia) homeland admitted no other solution, the Byzantine Catholic Church there having been suppressed by the Government. When Communist rule ended, the eparchy of Mukacheve (founded in 1771) was able to come again into the open. It has some 320,000 adherents, greater than the number in the Pittsburgh metropolia. In addition, an apostolic exarchate established in 1996 for Catholics of Byzantine rite in the Czech Republic is classed as another part of the Ruthenian Catholic Church.

On an EWTN website the Apostolic Exarchate for Byzantine-rite Catholics in the Czech Republic is mentioned in a list of Eastern Churches, of which all the rest are autonomous particular Churches. This appears to be a mistake, since recognition within the Catholic Church of the autonomous status of a particular Church can only be granted by the Holy See (cf. canon 27 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches), which instead classifies this Church as one of the constituent local particular Churches of the autonomous (sui iuris) Ruthenian Catholic Church.

Some have treated Byzantine-rite Catholics within the Georgian Catholic Church as a separate particular Church. Stating that, in the 1930s, they had an Exarch, two interrelated websites,[8] [9] which misname him as Fr. Shio Batmanishviii, thus implicitly claim that Georgian Byzantine-Rite Catholics had by then been formed into an apostolic exarchate. The book, The Forgotten: Catholics of the Soviet Union Empire from Lenin through Stalin, by Father Christopher Zugger (Syracuse University Press 2001) states: "By 1936, the Byzantine Catholic Church of Georgia had two communities, served by a bishop and four priests, with 8,000 believers", and identifies the bishop as Shio Batmalashvili (pages 224 and following). These sources thus claim that a Georgian Byzantine-Rite Catholic Church existed, even if only as a local particular Church. However, since the establishment of a new hierarchical jurisdiction must be published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and no mention of the erection of such a jurisdiction for Byzantine Georgian Catholics exists in that official gazette of the Holy See, the claim appears to be unfounded. Until 1994, the annual publication Catholic Almanac used to go further, listing "Georgian" among the Byzantine Rites or autonomous particular Churches. Until corrected in 1995, it appears to have been making a mistake similar to that which the equally unofficial EWTN site is now making about the Czech Byzantine-rite Catholics.

Since the Annuario Pontificio of the 1930s does not mention Shio Batmalashvili, he may have been one of the priests secretly ordained bishops of titular sees for the service of the Church in the Soviet Union by French Jesuit Bishop Michel d'Herbigny, who was head of the Pontifical Commission "Pro Russia" from 1925 to 1934. Rather than exarch of a Georgian Byzantine exarchy, he will then have been apostolic administrator of the whole of the Latin diocese of Tiraspol, to which Georgian Catholics even of Byzantine rite belonged (cf. Oriente Cattolico (1974), page 194). In the circumstances then prevailing, the Holy See would have been incapable of and would not even have thought of setting up new dioceses or exarchates within the Soviet Union, especially not of Byzantine rite, since Byzantine-rite Catholics were being forced to become officially members of the Russian Orthodox Church.

See also

This article was forked from Wikipedia on March 28, 2006.

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