CATHOLIC RITES AND CHURCHES
Christ, having been lifted up from the
earth has drawn all men to Himself. Rising from the dead
He sent His life–giving Spirit upon His disciples and
through Him has established His Body which is the Church
as the universal sacrament of salvation. Sitting at the
right hand of the Father, He is continually active in
the world that He might lead men to the Church and
through it join them to Himself and that He might make
them partakers of His glorious life by nourishing them
with His own Body and Blood. [Vatican Council II,
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 48]
A Rite represents an ecclesiastical, or
church, tradition about how the sacraments are to be
celebrated. Each of the sacraments has at its core an
essential nature which must be satisfied for the
sacrament to be confected or realized. This essence – of
matter, form and intention – derives from the divinely
revealed nature of the particular sacrament. It cannot
be changed by the Church. Scripture and Sacred
Tradition, as interpreted by the Magisterium, tells us
what is essential in each of the sacraments (2 Thes.
When the apostles brought the Gospel to
the major cultural centers of their day the essential
elements of religious practice were inculturated into
those cultures. This means that the essential elements
were clothed in the symbols and trappings of the
particular people, so that the rituals conveyed the
desired spiritual meaning to that culture. In this way
the Church becomes all things to all men that some might
be saved (1 Cor. 9:22).
There are three major groupings of Rites
based on this initial transmission of the faith, the
Roman, the Antiochian (Syria) and the Alexandrian
(Egypt). Later on the Byzantine derived as a major Rite
from the Antiochian, under the influence of St. Basil
and St. John Chrysostom. From these four derive the over
20 liturgical Rites present in the Church today.
A Church is an assembly of the faithful,
hierarchically ordered, both in the entire world – the
or in a certain territory – a
To be a sacrament (a sign) of the Mystical Body of
Christ in the world, a Church must have both a head and
members (Col. 1:18). The sacramental sign of Christ the
Head is the sacred hierarchy – the bishops, priests and
deacons (Eph. 2:19–22). More specifically, it is the
local bishop, with his priests and deacons gathered
around and assisting him in his office of teaching,
sanctifying and governing (Mt. 28:19–20; Titus 1:4–9).
The sacramental sign of the Mystical Body is the
Christian faithful. Thus the Church of Christ is fully
present sacramentally (by way of a sign) wherever there
is a sign of Christ the Head, a bishop and those who
assist him, and a sign of Christ's Body, Christian
faithful. Each diocese is therefore a
The Church of Christ is also present
sacramentally in ritual
Churches that represent an ecclesiastical
tradition of celebrating the sacraments. They are
generally organized under a Patriarch, who together with
the bishops and other clergy of that ritual Church
represent Christ the Head to the people of that
tradition. In some cases a Rite is completely coincident
with a Church. For example, the Maronite Church with its
Patriarch has a Rite not found in any other Church. In
other cases, such as the Byzantine Rite, several
Churches use the same or a very similar liturgical Rite.
For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church uses the
Byzantine Rite, but this Rite is also found in other
Catholic Churches, as well as the Eastern Orthodox
Churches not in union with Rome
Finally, the Church of Christ is
sacramentally present in the
Universal or Catholic
Church spread over the entire world. It is
identified by the sign of Christ our Rock, the Bishop of
Rome, Successor of St. Peter (Mt. 16:18). To be Catholic
particular Churches and ritual Churches must be in
communion with this Head, just as the other apostles,
and the Churches they founded, were in communion with
Peter (Gal. 1:18). Through this communion with Peter and
his successors the Church becomes a universal sacrament
of salvation in all times and places, even to the end of
the age (Mt. 28:20).
Rites and Churches
Immediately subject to the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme
Pontiff, who exercises his authority over the liturgy
through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the
Discipline of the Sacraments
ROMAN/LATIN FAMILY OF LITURGICAL RITES
The Church of Rome is the Primatial See of the world and
one of the five Patriarchal Sees of the early Church (Rome,
Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem).
Founded by St. Peter in 42 AD it was consecrated by the
blood of Sts. Peter and Paul during the persecution of
Nero (63–67 AD). It has maintained a continual existence
since then and is the source of a family of Rites in the
West. Considerable scholarship (such as that of Fr.
Louis Boyer in
Eucharist) suggests the close affinity of the
Roman Rite proper with the Jewish prayers of the
synagogue, which also accompanied the Temple sacrifices.
While the origin of the current Rite, even in the reform
of Vatican II, can be traced directly only to the 4th
century, these connections point to an ancient apostolic
tradition brought to that city that was decidedly Jewish
- After the Council of Trent it
was necessary to consolidate liturgical doctrine
and practice in the face of the Reformation.
Thus, Pope St. Pius V imposed the Rite of Rome
on the Latin Church (that subject to him in his
capacity as Patriarch of the West), allowing
only smaller Western Rites with hundreds of
years of history to remain. Younger Rites of
particular dioceses or regions ceased to exist.
As a consequence of the Second Vatican
Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,
Pope Paul VI undertook a reform of the Mass of the Roman
Rite, promulgating a revised rite with the Missal of
1970. This Missal has since been modified twice (1975
and 2002). Mass celebrated in accordance with this
missal is the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
At the time of the revised Missal's
promulgation in 1970 almost all Catholics assumed that
the previous rite, that of the Missal of 1962, had been
abolished. By decision of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict
XVI this general assumption has been declared false and
the right of Latin Rite priests to celebrate Mass
according to the former missal has been affirmed
(Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, 7 July 2007).
Mass celebrated in accordance with the Missal of 1962
constitutes the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
– The overwhelming majority of Latin Catholics and of
Catholics in general.
– Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Mass celebrated in
accordance with the Missale Romanum of 1970, promulgated
by Pope Paul VI, currently in its third edition (2002).
The vernacular editions of this Missal, as well as the
rites of the other sacraments, are translated from the
Latin typical editions revised after the Second Vatican
– Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Mass celebrated
in accordance with the Missale Romanum of 1962,
promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII. The other
sacraments are celebrated according to the Roman Ritual
in force at the time of the Second Vatican Council. The
Extraordinary Form is most notable for being almost
entirely in Latin. In addition to institutes which have
the faculty to celebrate the Extraordinary Form
routinely, such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest,
any Latin Rite priest may now offer the Mass and other
sacraments in accordance with norms of Summorum
– Anglican Use. Since the 1980s the Holy See has granted
some former Anglican and Episcopal clergy converting
with their parishes the faculty of celebrating the
sacramental rites according to Anglican forms,
• Mozarabic – The
Rite of the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) known
from at least the 6th century, but probably with roots
to the original evangelization. Beginning in the 11th
century it was generally replaced by the Roman Rite,
although it has remained the Rite of the Cathedral of
the Archdiocese of Toledo, Spain, and six parishes which
sought permission to adhere to it. Its celebration today
is generally semi–private.
• Ambrosian – The
Rite of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy, thought to be
of early origin and probably consolidated, but not
originated, by St. Ambrose. Pope Paul VI was from this
Roman Rite. It continues to be celebrated in Milan,
though not by all parishes.
• Bragan – Rite of
the Archdiocese of Braga, the Primatial See of Portugal,
it derives from the 12th century or earlier. It
continues to be of occasional use.
• Dominican – Rite
of the Order of Friars Preacher (OP), founded by St.
Dominic in 1215.
• Carmelite – Rite
of the Order of Carmel, whose modern foundation was by
St. Berthold c.1154.
• Carthusian –
Rite of the Carthusian Order founded by St. Bruno in
Eastern Rites and Churches
The Eastern Catholic Churches have their
own hierarchy, system of governance
(synods) and general law, the Code of
Canons for the Eastern Churches. The
Supreme Pontiff exercises his primacy
over them through the Congregation for
the Eastern Churches.
ANTIOCHIAN FAMILY OF LITURGICAL RITES
The Church of Antioch in Syria (the ancient Roman
Province of Syria) is considered an apostolic See by
virtue of having been founded by St. Peter. It was one
of the ancient centers of the Church, as the New
Testament attests, and is the source of a family of
similar Rites using the ancient Syriac language (the
Semitic dialect used in Jesus' time and better known as
Aramaic). Its Liturgy is attributed to St. James and the
Church of Jerusalem.
1. WEST SYRIAC
• Maronite – Never
separated from Rome. Maronite Patriarch of Antioch. The
liturgical language is Aramaic. The 3 million Maronites
are found in Lebanon (origin), Cyprus, Egypt, Syria,
Israel, Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and
• Syriac – Syriac
Catholics who returned to Rome in 1781 from the
monophysite heresy. Syriac Patriarch of Antioch. The
110,000 Syriac Catholics are found in Syria, Lebanon,
Iraq, Egypt, Canada and the US.
• Malankarese –
Catholics from the South of India evangelized by St.
Thomas, uses the West Syriac liturgy. Reunited with Rome
in 1930. Liturgical languages today are West Syriac and
Malayalam. The 350,000 Malankarese Catholics are found
in India and North America.
2. EAST SYRIAC
• Chaldean –
Babylonian Catholics returned to Rome in 1692 from the
Nestorian heresy. Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.
Liturgical languages are Syriac and Arabic. The 310,000
Chaldean Catholics are found in Iraq, Iran, Syria,
Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and the US.
– Catholics from Southern India using the East Syriac
liturgy. Returned to Rome in the 16th century. Liturgical languages are Syriac and
Malayalam. Over 3 million Syro–Malabarese Catholics can
be found in the state of Kerela, in SW India.
BYZANTINE FAMILY OF
The Church of Constantinople became the political and
religious center of the eastern Roman Empire after the
Emperor Constantine built a new capital there (324–330)
on the site of the ancient town of Byzantium.
Constantinople developed its own liturgical rite from
the Liturgy of St. James, in one form as modified by St.
Basil, and in a more commonly used form, as modified by
St. John Chrysostom. After 1054, except for brief
periods of reunion, most Byzantine Christians have not
been in communion with Rome. They make up the Orthodox
Churches of the East, whose titular head is the
Patriarch of Constantinople. The Orthodox Churches are
mostly auto–cephalous, meaning self–headed, united to
each other by communion with Constantinople, which
exercises no real authority over them. They are
typically divided into Churches along nation lines.
Those that have returned to communion with the Holy See
are represented among the Eastern Churches and Rites of
the Catholic Church.
Considered either its own Rite or an older version of
the Byzantine. Its exact form is not used by any other
Byzantine Rite. It is composed of Catholics from the
first people to convert as a nation, the Armenians (N.E.
of Turkey), and who returned to Rome at the time of the
Crusades. Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians. The
liturgical language is classical Armenian. The 350,000
Armenian Catholics are found in Armenia, Syria, Iran,
Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Ukraine, France,
Romania, United States and Argentina. Most Armenians are
Orthodox, not in union with Rome.
• Albanian –
Albanian Christians, numbering only 1400 today, who
resumed communion with Rome in 1628. Liturgical language
is Albanian. Most Albanian Christians are Albanian
– Unknown number of Belarussians who returned to Rome in
the 17th century. The liturgical language is Old
Slavonic. The faithful can be found in Belarus, as well
as Europe, the Americas and Australia.
• Bulgarian –
Bulgarians who returned to Rome in 1861. Liturgical
language is Old Slavonic. The 20,000 faithful can be
found in Bulgaria. Most Bulgarian Christians are
• Czech – Czech
Catholics of Byzantine Rite organized into a
jurisdiction in 1996.
• Krizevci –
Croatian Catholics of Byzantine Rite who resumed
communion with Rome in 1611. The liturgical language is
Old Slavonic. The 50,000 faithful can be found in
Croatia and the Americas. Most Croatians are Roman
• Greek – Greek
Christians who returned to Rome in 1829. The liturgical
language is Greek. Only 2500 faithful in Greece, Asia
Minor (Turkey) and Europe. Greek Christians are almost
all Orthodox, whose Patriarch is the Orthodox Patriarch
• Hungarian –
Descendants of Ruthenians who returned to Rome in 1646.
The liturgical languages are Greek, Hungarian and
English. The 300,000 faithful are found in Hungary,
Europe and the Americas.
• Italo–Albanian –
Never separated from Rome, these 60,000 Byzantine Rite
Catholics are found in Italy, Sicily and the Americas.
The liturgical languages are Greek and Italo–Albanian.
• Melkite –
Catholics from among those separated from Rome in Syria
and Egypt who resumed Communion with Rome at the time of
the Crusades. However, definitive union only came in the
18th century. Melkite Greek Patriarch of Damascus.
Liturgical languages are Greek, Arabic, English,
Portuguese and Spanish. The over 1 million Melkite
Catholics can be found in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan,
Israel, Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina
• Romanian –
Romanians who returned to Rome in 1697. The liturgical
language is Romanian. There are over 1 million Romanian
Catholics in Romania, Europe and the Americas. Most
Romanian Christians are Romanian Orthodox.
• Russian –
Russians who returned to communion with Rome in 1905.
The liturgical language is Old Slavonic. An unknown
number of the faithful in Russia, China, the Americas
and Australia. Most Russian Christians are Russian
Orthodox, whose Patriarch is the Orthodox Patriarch of
• Ruthenian –
Catholics from among those separated from Rome in
Russia, Hungary and Croatia who reunited with Rome in
1596 (Brest–Litovsk) and 1646 (Uzhorod).
• Slovak –
Byzantine Rite Catholics of Slovakian origin numbering
225,000 and found in Slovakia and Canada.
• Ukrainian –
Catholics from among those separated from Rome by the
Greek Schism and reunited about 1595. Patriarch or
Metropolitan of Lviv. Liturgical languages are Old
Slavonic and the vernacular. The 5.5 million Ukrainian
Catholics can be found in Ukraine, Poland, England,
Germany, France, Canada, US, Brazil, Argentina and
Australia. During the Soviet era Ukrainian Catholics
were violently forced to join the Ukrainian Orthodox
Church. Their hierarchy, which continued to exist
outside the homeland, has since been re–established in
ALEXANDRIAN FAMILY OF LITURGICAL RITES
The Church of Alexandria in
Egypt was one of the original centers of Christianity,
since like Rome and Antioch it had a large Jewish
population which was the initial object of apostolic
evangelization. Its Liturgy is attributed to St. Mark
the Evangelist, and shows the later influence of the
Byzantine Liturgy, in addition to its unique elements.
Coptic – Egyptian
Catholics who returned to communion with Rome in 1741.
The Patriarch of Alexandria leads the 200,000 faithful
of this ritual Church spread throughout Egypt and the
Near East. The liturgical languages are Coptic
(Egyptian) and Arabic. Most Copts are not Catholics.
– Ethiopian Coptic Christians who returned to Rome in
1846. The liturgical language is Geez. The 200,000
faithful are found in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and