Eastern Catholic Churches

Eastern Catholic Churches

The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous, self-governing (in Latin, sui iuris) particular churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Together with the Latin Church, they compose the worldwide Catholic Church. They preserve some centuries-old eastern liturgical, devotional and theological traditions, shared in most cases with the various other Eastern Christian churches with which they were once associated. A few have never been out of communion with the Pope, a claim made, for instance, by the Maronites. Although the churches with which most were formerly associated may be of traditions out of communion with each other (Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, Church of the East), Eastern Catholic churches of whatever tradition are all in communion with one another and with the Latin or Western church. However, they vary in theological emphasis, forms of liturgical worship and popular piety, canonical discipline and terminology. They all recognize the central role of the Bishop of Rome within the College of Bishops and his infallibility when speaking ex cathedra. A number of theological concerns or, in the case of the Eastern Orthodox churches, differences primarily in understanding the role of the Bishop of Rome separate them even from their counterparts of similar tradition but out of communion with Rome, which in general do not admit them to the Eucharist or the other sacraments.

Historically, Eastern Catholic Churches were located in Eastern Europe, the Asian Middle East, Northern Africa and India. Due to migration they are now also in Western Europe, the Americas and Oceania, where eparchies have been established alongside the Latin dioceses. Eritrea has only an Eastern Catholic hierarchy, with no Latin structure.

The terms Byzantine Catholic and Greek Catholic are used of those who belong to Churches that use the Byzantine 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.


Juridical status

An Eastern Catholic Bishop of the Syro-Malabar Church holding the Mar Thoma Cross which symbolizes the heritage and identity of the Syrian Church of Saint Thomas Christians of India

The term Eastern Catholic Churches refers to 22 of the 23 autonomous particular Churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome. (Every diocese is a particular Church, but not an autonomous one in the sense in which the word is applied to these 22 Churches.) They follow different Eastern Christian liturgical traditions: Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian, Byzantine and Chaldean.[1] Canonically, each Eastern Catholic Church is sui iuris or autonomous with respect to other Catholic Churches, whether Eastern or Latin, though all accept the spiritual and juridical authority of the Pope. Thus a Maronite Catholic is normally subject only to a Maronite bishop. However, if members of a particular Church are so few that no hierarchy of their own has been established, their spiritual care is entrusted to a bishop of another ritual Church. For example, in Eritrea Latin Rite Catholics are in the care of the Ethiopian Catholic Church.

Theologically, all the particular Churches can be viewed as "sister Churches".[2] According to the Second Vatican Council these Eastern Churches, along with the larger Latin Church share "equal dignity, so that none of them is superior to the others as regards rite, and they enjoy the same rights and are under the same obligations, also in respect of preaching the Gospel to the whole world (cf. Mark 16:15) under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff."[3]

The Eastern Catholic Churches are in full communion of faith. Whilst they accept of authority of the See of Rome, they retain their distinctive liturgical rites, laws and customs, traditional devotions and have their own theological emphases. 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. The mysteries (sacraments) of baptism and chrismation are generally administered, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, one immediately after the other. Infants who are baptized and chrismated are also given the Eucharist.[4]

The Eastern Catholic Churches are represented in the Holy See and the Roman Curia through the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which "is made up of a Cardinal Prefect (who directs and represents it with the help of a Secretary) and 27 Cardinals, one Archbishop and 4 Bishops, designated by the Pope ad qui[n]quennium. Members by right are the Patriarchs and the Major Archbishops of the Oriental Churches and the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Unity among Christians."[5]

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Although Eastern Catholics are in communion with the Pope, and are members of the larger Catholic Church, also called the Roman Catholic Church,[6][7] they are not members of the Western or Latin Church, which uses the Latin liturgical rites, among which the Roman Rite is the most widespread.[8]


Care must be taken to distinguish differing meanings of the word "rite". Apart from its reference to the liturgical patrimony of a particular Church, the word has been and is still sometimes, even if rarely, used of the particular Church itself. Thus, the term Latin rite can refer either to the Latin Church or to one or more of the Latin liturgical rites, which include the majority Roman Rite, but also the Ambrosian Rite, the Mozarabic Rite, and others.

In the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (published in 1990), the terms autonomous Church and rite are thus defined: "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" (canon 27);[9] "1. A rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each autonomous [sui iuris] Church. 2. The rites treated in this code, unless otherwise stated, are those that arise from the Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean and Constantinopolitan traditions" (canon 28)[10] When speaking of the Eastern Catholic Churches, the 1983 Latin Code of Canon Law uses the terms "ritual Church" or "ritual Church sui iuris" (canons 111 and 112), and also speaks of "a subject of an Eastern rite" (canon 1015 §2), "Ordinaries of another rite" (canon 450 §1), "the faithful of a specific rite" (canon 476), etc. The Second Vatican Council spoke of the Eastern Catholic Churches as "particular Churches or rites".[11]

The use of the term "rite" to refer to the Eastern and Western Churches has now become rare. A publication of the then-National Council of Catholic Bishops explains: "We have been accustomed to speaking of the Latin (Roman or Western) Rite or the Eastern Rites to designate these different Churches. However, the Church's contemporary legislation as contained in the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches makes it clear that we ought to speak, not of rites, but of Churches. Canon 112 of the Code of Canon Law uses the phrase 'autonomous ritual Churches' to designate the various Churches."[12] And a writer in a periodical of January 2006 declared: "The Eastern Churches are still mistakenly called 'Eastern-rite' Churches, a reference to their various liturgical histories. They are most properly called Eastern Churches, or Eastern Catholic Churches."[13]


The term Uniat or Uniate is applied to those Eastern Catholic churches which were previously Eastern Orthodox churches, primarily by Eastern Orthodox. The term is considered to have a derogatory connotation,[14] though it was occasionally used by Latin and Eastern Catholics, prior to the Second Vatican Council.[15] Official Catholic documents no longer use the term, due to its perceived negative overtones.[16] 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 Second Vatican Council affirmed rather that Eastern Catholics constituted churches, whose vocation was to provide a bridge to the separated churches of the East."[17] An acceptable, commonly used term is now united Oriental Churches.

Emergence of Eastern Catholics

Small wooden Greek-Catholic church and belfry in the village of Sielec, Drohobych Raion (Ukraine) from the 17th century, in the typical architectural style of that region

Most Eastern Catholic Churches arose when a group within an ancient Christian Church that was in disagreement with the See of Rome returned to full communion with that See. Three Eastern Catholic churches have never broken communion with the Bishop of Rome since the beginning: (a) The Maronite Church was never out of communion with Rome, and has no counterpart in the Eastern Orthodox communion. (b) The Italo-Albanian Catholic Church which, unlike the Maronite Church, uses the same liturgical rite as the Eastern Orthodox Church.(c) The Syro-Malabar Church, based in Kerala, India. Other Christians of Kerala, who were originally of the same East-Syrian tradition, passed instead to the West-Syrian tradition and now form part of Oriental Orthodoxy. Some from the Oriental Orthodox in India reunited with the Bishop of Rome in 1930 and became the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, another Eastern sui juris church within the Catholic Church.

The canon law that the Eastern Catholic Churches have in common was codified in the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. The dicastery that works with the Eastern Catholic Churches is the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which, by law, includes as members all Eastern Catholic patriarchs and major archbishops.

Supreme authority of the Church

Under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, the Pope has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary authority in the Church, which he can always freely exercise.[18] The full description is under Title 3, Canons 42 to 54 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

Eastern patriarchs and major archbishops

The Catholic patriarchs and major archbishops derive their titles from the sees of Alexandria (Copts), Antioch (Syrians, Melkites, Maronites), Babylonia (Chaldaeans), Cilicia (Armenians), Kiev-Halych (Ukrainians), Ernakulam-Angamaly (Syro-Malabars), Trivandrum (Syro-Malankaras), and Făgăraş-Alba Iulia (Romanians). The Eastern Churches are governed under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.[19][20]

Historical background

An Eastern Catholic cemetery in northeastern Pennsylvania, where many Eastern Catholics settled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

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 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:

  • In 431 the Churches that accepted the teaching of the First Council of Ephesus (which condemned the views of Nestorius) classified as heretics those who rejected the Council's statements. 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.
  • In 451 those who accepted the 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; they 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, words that in themselves have exactly the same meaning, 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. In languages other than English, other means are used to distinguish the two families of Churches. Some reserve the term "Orthodox" for those that are here called "Eastern Orthodox" Churches, but members of what are then called "Oriental/Eastern Orthodox" Churches consider this unfair.
  • The East–West Schism came about in a context of cultural differences between the Greek-speaking East and the Latin-speaking West and of rivalry between the Churches in Rome—which claimed a primacy not merely of honour but also of authority—and in Constantinople, which claimed parity with Rome.[21] The rivalry and lack of comprehension gave rise to controversies, some of which appear already in the acts of the Quinisext Council of 692. At the Council of Florence (1431–1445), these controversies about Western theological elaborations and usages were identified as, chiefly, the insertion of "Filioque" in the Nicene Creed, the use of unleavened bread for the Eucharist, Purgatory, and the authority of the Pope.[22] The schism is conventionally dated to 1054, when the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Papal Legate Humbert of Mourmoutiers issued mutual excommunications that have since been revoked. In spite of that event, for many years both Churches continued to maintain friendly relations and seemed to be unaware of any formal or final rupture.[23] However, estrangement continued to grow. In 1190 Theodore Balsamon, Patriarch of Antioch, declared that "no Latin should be given Communion unless he first declares that he will abstain from the doctrines and customs that separate him from us";[24] and the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the participants in the Fourth Crusade was seen as the West's ultimate outrage. By then, 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.

Within each Church, no longer in communion with the Church of Rome, there arose a group that considered it important to restore that communion. The See of Rome accepted them without requiring that they adopt the customs of the Latin Church, so that they all have their own "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary heritage, differentiated by peoples' culture and historical circumstances, that finds expression in each sui iuris Church's own way of living the faith".[25]

At a meeting at Balamand Monastery, Lebanon in June 1993, the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church declared that these initiatives that "led to the union of certain communities with the See of Rome and brought with them, as a consequence, the breaking of communion with their Mother Churches of the East ... took place not without the interference of extra-ecclesial interests" (section 8 of the document). Likewise, the Commission acknowledged that "unacceptable means" were used in attempts to force Eastern Catholics to return to the Orthodox Church (paragraph 11). The missionary outlook and proselytism that accompanied the Unia (paragraph 10), was recognized to be incompatible with the rediscovery of each other as "Sister Churches" (section 12). Thus, the Commission concluded that the "missionary apostolate ... which 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."[26]

At the same time, the Commission stated:

  • Concerning the Eastern Catholic Churches, it is clear that they, as part of the Catholic Communion, have the right to exist and to act in response to the spiritual needs of their faithful.[27]
  • The 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 connected with this communion.[28]


Eastern Catholic Churches make up a small percentage of the membership in the Catholic Church when compared to the Latin Rite, which has over one billion members. The 2008 statistics collected by the CNEWA show that Syriac Christians make up 47% of Eastern Catholics and Byzantine Christians make up 46%. The three largest Eastern churches are the Byzantine Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with 4.3 million members (25%), the Syriac Syro-Malabar Catholic Church at 3.9 million faithful (23%), and the Maronite Eastern Catholic Church of Lebanon with 3.29 million faithful (20%). [29]

Eastern Catholic Churches, 2010; data from CNEWA[30]
Name Juridical status Population Eparchies /
Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church Eparchial church 3,845 1 1
Armenian Catholic Church Patriarchate 593,459 17 15
Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church Eparchial church 10,000 1 1
Chaldean Catholic Church Patriarchate 490,371 22 17
Coptic Catholic Church Patriarchate 163,630 7 10
Ethiopian Catholic Church Metropolitanate 229,547 6 7
Eparchy of Krizevci Eparchial church 58,915 3 4
Greek Byzantine Catholic Church Eparchial church 2,525 2 1
Hungarian Byzantine Catholic Church Eparchial church 290,000 2 2
Italo-Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church Eparchial church 61,487 3 2
Maronite Catholic Church Patriarchate 3,290,539 25 41
Melkite Greek-Catholic Church Patriarchate 1,614,604 25 30
Romanian Greek-Catholic Church Major Archiepiscopate 707,452 6 8
Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church Metropolitanate (in USA) 646,243 6 7
Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church Metropolitanate 239,394 4 5
Syriac Catholic Church Patriarchate 158,818 14 10
Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Major Archiepiscopate 3,828,591 27 40
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Major Archiepiscopate 420,081 6 8
Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church Major Archiepiscopate 4,350,735 31 44
Other jurisdictions Ordinariates 147,600 5 -
Relationship of the Nasrani (Saint Thomas Christian) groups

Orientalium Dignitas

On 30 November 1894 Pope Leo XIII issued the apostolic constitution Orientalium Dignitas in which he stated:

The Churches of the East are worthy of the glory and reverence that they hold throughout the whole of Christendom in virtue of those extremely ancient, singular memorials that they have bequeathed to us. For it was in that part of the world that the first actions for the redemption of the human race began, in accord with the all-kind plan of God. They swiftly gave forth their yield: there flowered in first blush the glories of preaching the True Faith to the nations, of martyrdom, and of holiness. They gave us the first joys of the fruits of salvation. From them has come a wondrously grand and powerful flood of benefits upon the other peoples of the world, no matter how far-flung. When blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, intended to cast down the manifold wickedness of error and vice, in accord with the will of Heaven, he brought the light of divine Truth, the Gospel of peace, freedom in Christ to the metropolis of the Gentiles.[31]

As Adrian Fortescue wrote, Pope Leo "begins by explaining again that the ancient Eastern rites are a witness to the Apostolicity of the Catholic Church, that their diversity, consistent with unity of the faith, is itself a witness to the unity of the Church, that they add to her dignity and honour. He says that the Catholic Church does not possess one rite only, but that she embraces all the ancient rites of Christendom; her unity consists not in a mechanical uniformity of all her parts, but on the contrary, in their variety, according in one principle and vivified by it."[32]

Leo declared still in force Pope Benedict XIV's encyclical Demandatam, addressed to the Patriarch and the Bishops of the Melkite Catholic Church, in which Pope Benedict forbade Latin Rite clergy to induce Melkite Catholics to transfer to the Latin rite, and he broadened this prohibition to cover all Eastern Catholics, declaring: "Any Latin rite missionary, whether of the secular or religious clergy, who induces with his advice or assistance any Eastern rite faithful to transfer to the Latin rite, will be deposed and excluded from his benefice in addition to the ipso facto suspension a divinis and other punishments that he will incur as imposed in the aforesaid Constitution Demandatam."[33]

Modern reforms

There had been confusion on the part of Western clergy as to the legitimacy of a presence of the Churches of the East in countries seen as belonging to the West, despite firm and repeated papal confirmation of these Churches' universal character. The Second Vatican Council brought the reform impulse to visible fruition. Several documents, both during and after Vatican II have led to significant reform and development within the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Orientalium Ecclesiarum

In the decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum[34] (21 November 1964), dealing with the Churches of Eastern Christianity, the Second Vatican Council directed that the traditions of the Eastern Catholic Churches should be maintained. It declared that "it is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire and likewise that it should adapt its way of life to the different needs of time and place" (paragraph 2), and that they should all "preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life, and ... these may not be altered except to obtain for themselves an organic improvement" (para. 6; cf. 22). It confirmed and approved the ancient discipline of the sacraments existing in the Eastern Churches, and the ritual practices connected with their celebration and administration, and declared its ardent desire that this should be re-established, if circumstances warranted (para. 12). It applied this in particular to administration of Confirmation by priests (para. 13). It expressed the wish that, where the permanent diaconate (ordination as deacons of men who are not intended afterwards to become priests) had fallen into disuse, it should be restored (section 17). Paragraphs 7-11 are devoted to the powers of the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Churches, whose rights and privileges, it says, should be re-established in accordance with the ancient tradition of each of the Churches and the decrees of the ecumenical councils, adapted somewhat to modern conditions. Where there is need, new patriarchates should be established either by an ecumenical council or by the Bishop of Rome.

Lumen Gentium

The Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium (21 November 1964) deals with the Eastern Catholic Churches in paragraph 23, stating:

By divine Providence it has come about that various churches, established in various places by the apostles and their successors, have in the course of time coalesced into several groups, organically united, which, preserving the unity of faith and the unique divine constitution of the universal Church, enjoy their own discipline, their own liturgical usage, and their own theological and spiritual heritage. Some of these churches, notably the ancient patriarchal churches, as parent-stocks of the Faith, so to speak, have begotten others as daughter churches, with which they are connected down to our own time by a close bond of charity in their sacramental life and in their mutual respect for their rights and duties.[35] This variety of local churches with one common aspiration is splendid evidence of the catholicity of the undivided Church. In like manner the Episcopal bodies of today are in a position to render a manifold and fruitful assistance, so that this collegiate feeling may be put into practical application.

Unitatis Redintegratio

The decree Unitatis Redintegratio (also of 21 November 1964) deals with the Eastern Catholic Churches in paragraphs 14-17.

Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches

During the First Vatican Council the need for a common code for the Eastern Churches was discussed, but no concrete action was taken. Only after the benefits of the 1917 Latin Code were appreciated was a serious effort made to create a similar code for the Eastern Catholic Churches.[36] This came to fruition with the promulgation in 1990 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which came into effect in 1991. It is a framework document that lays out the canons that are a consequence of the common patrimony of the Churches of the East: each individual sui iuris Church has its own canons, its own particular law, layered on top of this code.

Liturgical prescriptions

The Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches of 6 January 1996 was aimed at bringing together in one place the developments that took place in previous texts. This Instruction is "an expository expansion based upon the canons, with constant emphasis upon the preservation of Eastern liturgical traditions and a return to those usages whenever possible—certainly in preference to the usages of the Latin church, however much some principles and norms of the conciliar constitution on the Roman rite, 'in the very nature of things, affect other rites as well'."[37] The Instruction states:

The liturgical laws valid for all the Eastern Churches are important because they provide the general orientation. However, being distributed among various texts, they risk remaining ignored, poorly coordinated and poorly interpreted. It seemed opportune, therefore, to gather them in a systematic whole, completing them with further clarification: thus, the intent of the Instruction, presented to the Eastern Churches which are in full communion with the Apostolic See, is to help them fully realize their own identity. The authoritative general directive of this Instruction, formulated to be implemented in Eastern celebrations and liturgical life, articulates itself in propositions of a juridical-pastoral nature, constantly taking initiative from a theological perspective.[38]

Past interventions by the Holy See, the Instruction said, were in some ways defective and needed revision, but often served also as a safeguard against aggressive initiatives.

These interventions felt the effects of the mentality and convictions of the times, according to which a certain subordination of the non-Latin liturgies was perceived toward the Latin-rite liturgy which was considered "ritus praestantior".[39] This attitude may have led to interventions in the Eastern liturgical texts which today, in light of theological studies and progress, have need of revision, in the sense of a return to ancestral traditions. The work of the commissions, nevertheless, availing themselves of the best experts of the times, succeeded in safeguarding a major part of the Eastern heritage, often defending it against aggressive initiatives and publishing precious editions of liturgical texts for numerous Eastern Churches. Today, particularly after the solemn declarations of the Apostolic Letter Orientalium Dignitas by Leo XIII, after the creation of the still active special Commission for the liturgy within the Congregation for the Eastern Churches in 1931, and above all after the Second Vatican Council and the Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen by John Paul II, respect for the Eastern liturgies is an indisputable attitude and the Apostolic See can offer a more complete service to the Churches.[40]

List of Eastern Catholic Churches

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Alexandrian-rite Churches
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West Syrian rite Churches
Maronite  · Syriac  · Syro-Malankara
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Armenian Church
Byzantine-rite Churches
Albanian  · Belarusian  · Bulgarian
Croatian  · Greek  · Hungarian
Italo-Greek  · Macedonian
Melkite  · Romanian  · Russian
Ruthenian  · Slovak  · Ukrainian
East Syrian rite Churches
Chaldean  · Syro-Malabar
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The Holy See's Annuario Pontificio gives the following list of Eastern Catholic Churches with the principal see of each and the countries (or larger political areas) where they have ecclesiastical jurisdiction, to which are here added the date of union or foundation in parenthesis and the membership in brackets. The total membership is about 16,336,000.

  1. Alexandrian liturgical tradition:
    1. Coptic Catholic Church (patriarchate): Cairo, [163,849], Egypt (1741)
    2. Ethiopian Catholic Church (metropolia): Addis Ababa, [208,093], Ethiopia, Eritrea (1846)
  2. Antiochian or West Syrian liturgical tradition:
    1. Maronite Church[41] (patriarchate): Bkerke, [3,105,278], Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Syria, Argentina, Brazil, United States, Australia, Canada, Mexico (Never separated: union re-affirmed 1182)
    2. Syriac Catholic Church (patriarchate): Beirut,[131,692], Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, United States and Canada, Venezuela (1781)
    3. Syro-Malankara Catholic Church[42] (major archepiscopate): Trivandrum, [412,640], India, United States (1930)
  3. Armenian liturgical tradition:
    1. Armenian Catholic Church[43] (patriarchate): Beirut, [375,182], Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Ukraine, France, Greece, Latin America, Argentina, Romania, United States, Canada, Eastern Europe (1742)
  4. Chaldean or East Syrian liturgical tradition:
    1. Chaldean Catholic Church[44] (patriarchate): Baghdad, [418,194], Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, United States (1692)
    2. Syro-Malabar Catholic Church[45] (major archepiscopate): Ernakulam, [3,902,089], India, Middle East, Europe, America
  5. Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) liturgical tradition:
    1. Albanian Catholic Church (apostolic administration): [3,510], Albania (1628)
    2. Belarusian Catholic Church (no established hierarchy at present): [10,000], Belarus (1596)
    3. Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church[46] (apostolic exarchate): Sofia, [10,107], Bulgaria (1861)
    4. Eparchy of Križevci[47] (an eparchy and an apostolic exarchate): Križevci, Ruski Krstur [21,480] + [22,653], Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro (1611)
    5. Greek Byzantine Catholic Church[48] (two apostolic exarchates): Athens, [2,325], Greece, Turkey (1829)
    6. Hungarian Greek Catholic Church[49] (an eparchy and an apostolic exarchate): Nyiregyháza, [290,000], Hungary (1646)
    7. Italo-Albanian Catholic Church (two eparchies and a territorial abbacy): [63,240], Italy (Never separated)
    8. Macedonian Catholic Church (an apostolic exarchate): Skopje, [11,491], Republic of Macedonia (1918)
    9. Melkite Greek Catholic Church[50] (patriarchate): Damascus, [1,346,635], Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Brazil, United States, Canada, Mexico, Iraq, Egypt and Sudan, Kuwait, Australia, Venezuela, Argentina (1726)
    10. Romanian Church United with Rome[51] (major archiepiscopate): Blaj, [776,529] Romania, United States (1697)
    11. Russian Catholic Church[52] (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
    12. Ruthenian Catholic Church[53] (a sui juris metropolia,[54] an eparchy,[55] and an apostolic exarchate [56]): Uzhhorod, Pittsburgh, [594,465], United States, Ukraine, Czech Republic (1646)
    13. Slovak Catholic Church[57] (metropolia and an eparchy): Prešov, [243,335], Slovakia, Canada (1646)
    14. Ukrainian Catholic Church[58] (major archiepiscopate): Kiev, [4,223,425], Ukraine, Poland, United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Germany and Scandinavia, France, Brazil, Argentina (1595)

Note: Georgian Byzantine-Rite Catholics are not recognized as a particular Church (cf. canon 27 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches). The majority of Eastern Catholic Christians in the Georgian Republic worship under the form of the Armenian liturgical rite.

The list shows that an individual autonomous particular Church may have distinct jurisdictions (local particular Churches) in several countries.

The Ruthenian Catholic Church is organized in an exceptional way because of a constituent metropolia: the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh is also, unofficially, referred to as the Byzantine Catholic Church in America. Canon law treats it as if it held the rank of an autonomous ("sui iuris") metropolitan particular Church because of the circumstances surrounding its 1969 establishment as an ecclesiastical province. At that time, conditions in the Rusyn homeland, known as Carpatho-Rus, admitted no other solution because the Byzantine Catholic Church had been forcibly suppressed by the Soviet authorities. When Communist rule ended, the Eparchy of Mukacheve (founded in 1771) re-emerged. 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 the 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 is 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.

Byzantine-rite Catholics of Georgian nationality or descent

Some have treated Byzantine Rite Catholics within the Georgian Catholic Church as a separate particular Church with a reunion date of either 1861 or 1917. A study by Deacon Methodios Stadnik states: "The Georgian Byzantine Catholic Exarch, Fr. Shio Batmanishviii (sic), and two Georgian Catholic priests of the Latin rite were executed by the Soviet authorities in 1937 after having been held in captivity in Solovki prison and the northern gulags from 1923."[59] In his book The Forgotten: Catholics of the Soviet Union Empire from Lenin through Stalin,[60] Father Christopher Zugger writes: "By 1936, the Byzantine Catholic Church of Georgia had two communities, served by a bishop and four priests, with 8,000 believers", and he identifies the bishop as Shio Batmalashvili. The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union mentions "the Catholic administrator for Georgia Shio Batmalashvili" as one of those who were executed as "anti-Soviet elements" in 1937.[61]

The second of these sources calls Batmalashvili a bishop. The first is ambiguous, calling him an Exarch but giving him the title of Father. The third merely refers to him as "the Catholic administrator" without specifying whether he was a bishop or a priest and whether he was in charge of a Latin or a Byzantine jurisdiction.

If Batmalashvili was an Exarch, and not instead a bishop connected with the Latin diocese of Tiraspol, which had its seat at Saratov on the Volga River, to which Georgian Catholics even of Byzantine rite belonged [62] this would mean 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 setting up of such a jurisdiction for Byzantine Georgian Catholics exists in that official gazette of the Holy See, the claim appears to be unfounded.

The Annuario Pontificio of the Catholic Church does not mention Batmalashvili in its editions of the 1930s. If indeed he was a bishop, he may then have been one of those secretly ordained for the service of the Church in the Soviet Union by French Jesuit Bishop Michel d'Herbigny, who was head of the Pontifical Commission for Russia from 1925 to 1934. In the circumstances of that time, the Holy See would have been incapable of setting up a new Byzantine exarchate within the Soviet Union, since Byzantine Catholics in the Soviet Union were being forced to join the Russian Orthodox Church.

Batmalashvili's name is not among those given in Roman Catholic Regional Hierarchy as the four "underground" apostolic administrators (only one of whom appears to have been a bishop) for the four sections into which the diocese of Tiraspol was divided after the resignation in 1930 of its already exiled last bishop, Joseph Aloysius Kessler. This source gives Father Stefan Demurow as apostolic administrator of "Tbilisi and Georgia" and says he was executed in 1938. Other sources associate Father Demurow with Azerbaijan and say that, rather than being executed, he died in a Siberian concentration camp.[63]

Until 1994, the United States annual publication Catholic Almanac used to go further, listing "Georgian" among the Byzantine Churches. Until corrected in 1995, it appears to have been making a mistake similar to that made on the equally unofficial EWTN site about the Czech Byzantine Catholics.

There was also a short-lived Byzantine Catholic movement among the ethnic Estonians in the Orthodox Church in Estonia during the interwar period of the 20th century, consisting of two to three parishes, not raised to the level of a local particular church with its own head. This group was liquidated by the Soviet regime and is now extinct.

Bi-ritual faculties

While "clerics and members of institutes of consecrated life are bound to observe their own rite faithfully,"[64] priests are occasionally given permission to celebrate the liturgy of a rite other than the priest's own rite, by what is known as a grant of "biritual faculties". The reason for this permission is usually the service of Catholics who have no priest of their own rite. Thus priests of the Syro-Malabar Church working as missionaries in areas of India in which there were no structures of their own Church, were authorized to use the Roman Rite in those areas, and Latin-Rite priests are, after due preparation, given permission to use an Eastern rite for the service of members of an Eastern Catholic Church living in a country in which there are no priests of their own particular Church.

For a just cause, and with the permission of the local bishop, priests of different autonomous ritual Churches may concelebrate; however, the rite of the principal celebrant is used whilst each priest wears the vestments of his own rite.[65] For this no indult of bi-ritualism is required.

Biritual faculties may concern not only clergy but also religious, enabling them to become members of an institute of an autonomous Church other than their own.[66]

The laity should foster an appreciation of their own rite, and should observe that rite unless there is good reason e.g. a Latin Rite Catholic living in an exclusively Ethiopian Rite country.[67] This does not forbid occasional or even, for a just cause, habitual participation in the liturgy of a different autonomous Church, Western or Eastern. The obligation of assisting at the Eucharist or, for members of some Eastern Churches, at Vespers, is satisfied wherever the liturgy is celebrated in a Catholic rite.[68]

Bishop celebrating Divine Liturgy in Greek-Catholic church in Prešov, eastern Slovakia. Another bishop stands to his immediate right (white omophorion visible), and two married priests stand to the side (facing camera)

Clerical celibacy

Eastern and Western Christian churches have different traditions concerning clerical celibacy and the resulting controversies have played a role in the relationship between the two groups in some Western countries.

Most Eastern Churches distinguish between "monastic" and "non-monastic" clergy. Monastics do not necessarily live as monks or in monasteries, but have spent at least part of their period of training in such a context. Their monastic vows include a vow of celibate chastity.

Bishops are normally selected from the monastic clergy, and in most Eastern Catholic Churches a large percentage of priests and deacons also are celibate, while a portion of the clergy (typically, parish priests) may be married. If someone preparing for the diaconate or priesthood wishes to marry, this must happen before ordination.

In countries where Eastern traditions prevail, a married clergy caused little controversy; but it aroused opposition in other countries to which Eastern Catholics migrated; this was particularly so in the United States. In response to requests from the Latin bishops of those countries, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith set out rules in a letter of 2 May 1890 to François-Marie-Benjamin Richard, the Archbishop of Paris,[69] which the Congregation applied on 1 May 1897 to the United States,[70] stating that only celibates or widowed priests coming without their children should be permitted in the United States. This rule was restated with special reference to Catholics of Ruthenian Rite by the 1 March 1929 decree Cum data fuerit, which was renewed for a further ten years in 1939. Dissatisfaction by many Ruthenian Catholics in the United States gave rise to the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. This rule was abolished with the promulgation of the Decree on the Catholic churches of the Eastern Rite; since then, married men have been ordained to the priesthood in the United States, and numerous married priests have come from eastern countries to serve parishes in the Americas.[71]

Three Eastern Catholic Churches have decided to adopt mandatory clerical celibacy, as in the Latin Church: the India-based Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and the Ethiopian Catholic Church, which has a long widespread tradition of monasticism.

See also


  1. ^ The New York Times Guide To Essential Knowledge: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind, Page 499
  2. ^ "Note on the Expression 'sister Churches'", Section 11. Available online at: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000630_chiese-sorelle_en.html
  3. ^ Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, Section 3
  4. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church Section 1233
  5. ^ "Profile". Vatican.va. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/orientchurch/profilo/rc_con_corient_pro_20030320_profile.html. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  6. ^ "The Catholic Church is also called the Roman Church to emphasize that the centre of unity, which is an essential for the Universal Church, is the Roman See" (Thomas J. O'Brien, An Advanced Catechism of Catholic Faith and Practice, Kessinger Publishers, 2005, ISBN 1-4179-8447-3, page 70).
  7. ^ 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, 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.
  8. ^ Some Eastern Catholics who use the Byzantine liturgical rite and call themselves "Byzantine Catholics" deny that they are "Roman Catholics", using this word to mean either Catholics who use the Roman Rite or perhaps the whole of the Western Church, including those parts that use the Ambrosian Rite or other non-Roman liturgical rites: "We're Byzantine rite, which is Catholic, but not Roman Catholic" (Ukrainian church pastor honored).
  9. ^ Canon 27 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches In the original Latin the word for autonomous is "sui iuris": 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
  10. ^ "Canon 28 of the ''Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches''". Intratext.com. 2007-05-04. http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG1199/__PS.HTM. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  11. ^ "Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches ''Orientalium Ecclesiarum'', section 2". Vatican.va. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_orientalium-ecclesiarum_en.html. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  12. ^ Eastern Catholics in the United States of America available from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at: http://www.usccbpublishing.org/productdetails.cfm?sku=5-287&disccode=sum0625
  13. ^ "''Catholic Update: What All Catholics Should Know About Eastern Catholic Churches''". Americancatholic.org. http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0106.asp. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  14. ^ See "The Word 'Uniate'" from www.oca.org
  15. ^ The term was used by the Holy See (e.g., in the Ex Quo of Pope Benedict XIV), available online at: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pope0247m.htm. The 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia 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. Available online at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06752a.htm
  16. ^ "It should be mentioned that in the past the Eastern Catholic churches were often referred to as 'Uniate' churches. Since the term is now considered derogatory, it is no longer used." "The Catholic Eastern Churches" from the website of CNEWA: A Papal Agency for Humanitarian and Pastoral Support
  17. ^ Quoted in Richard John Neuhaus, Orthodoxy and "Parallel Monologues", in the March 2002 issue of First Things
  18. ^ "Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, Title 3, Canon 43". Intratext.com. 2007-05-04. http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG1199.HTM. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  19. ^ "Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches". Intratext.com. 2007-05-04. http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG1199.HTM. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  20. ^ "Codex canonum Ecclesiarium orientalium". Intratext.com. 2007-05-04. http://www.intratext.com/X/LAT0758.HTM. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  21. ^ "Theodore Balsamon on the Powers of the Patriarch of Constantinople". Fordham.edu. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/balsamon-cpl.html. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  22. ^ "In the third sitting of the Council, Julian, after mutual congratulations, showed that the principal points of dispute between the Greeks and Latins were in the doctrine (a) on the procession of the Holy Ghost, (b) on azymes in the Eucharist, (c) on purgatory, and (d) on the Papal supremacy" The Orthodox Response to the Latin Doctrine of Purgatory from the 1400s.
  23. ^ "Milton V. Anastos, ''Constantinople and Rome''". Myriobiblos.gr. http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/milton1_19.html. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  24. ^ "The Great Schism: The Estrangement of Eastern and Western Christendom". Orthodoxinfo.com. http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/greatschism.aspx. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  25. ^ "Patrimonium liturgicum, theologicum, spirituale et disciplinare cultura ac rerum adiunctis historiae populorum distinctum, quod modo fidei vivendae uniuscuiusque Ecclesiae sui iuris proprio exprimitur" (canon 28 §1 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches)
  26. ^ paragraph 12
  27. ^ paragraph 3
  28. ^ paragraph 16
  29. ^ "The Eastern Catholic Churches, 2008" (PDF). http://www.cnewacanada.ca/source-images/Roberson-eastcath-statistics/eastcatholic-stat08.pdf. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  30. ^ Ronald Roberson (source: Annuario Pontificio) (August 22, 2010). "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2010". Catholic Near East Welfare Association. http://www.cnewa.us/source-images/Roberson-eastcath-statistics/eastcatholic-stat10.pdf. 
  31. ^ Orientalium Dignitas, opening paragraph
  32. ^ The Uniate Eastern Churches, by Adrian Fortescue, George D. Smith (2001 reprint ISBN 0-9715986-3-0), p. 40
  33. ^ Orientalium Dignitas, I
  34. ^ "English translation of ''Orientalium Ecclesiarum''". Vatican.va. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_orientalium-ecclesiarum_en.html. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  35. ^ De iuribus Sedium patriarchalium, cfr. Conc. Nicaenum, I can. 6 de Alexandria et Antiochia, et can. 7 de Hierosolymis: Conc. I Oec. Decr., p. 8. Conc. Later. IV, anno 1215, Constit. V: De dignigate Patriarcharum: ibid. p. 212.-| Conc. Ferr.-Flor.: ibid. p. 504.
  36. ^ New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law: Study Edition, by John P. Beal, James A. Coriden (Paulist Press 2002 ISBN 0-8091-4066-7), p. 27
  37. ^ New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law: Study Edition, by John P. Beal, James A. Coriden (Paulist Press 2002 ISBN 0-8091-4066-7), p. 998
  38. ^ Section 5 of the Instruction
  39. ^ "Ritus praestantior" means "preeminent rite".
  40. ^ Section 24 of the Instruction
  41. ^ "The Maronite Patriarchate". Bkerkelb.org. http://www.bkerkelb.org/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  42. ^ "Syro-Malankara Catholic Church". Catholicate.net. http://www.catholicate.net/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  43. ^ "Armenian Catholic Church". Armeniancatholic.org. http://www.armeniancatholic.org/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  44. ^ "Chaldean Catholic Church". St-adday.com. http://www.st-adday.com/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  45. ^ "Syro-Malabar Church". Smcim.org. http://www.smcim.org/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  46. ^ [http://www.catholic-bg.org The Catholic Church in Bulgaria (in Bulgarian)
  47. ^ http://krizevci.hbk.hr/ Novi slavonsko-srijemski vikarijat
  48. ^ "Ελληνική Καθολική Εξαρχία". Elcathex.com. http://www.elcathex.com/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  49. ^ "www.atanaz.hu". www.atanaz.hu. http://www.atanaz.hu/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  50. ^ "Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Lebanon". Pgc-lb.org. 2004-01-01. http://www.pgc-lb.org/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  51. ^ "BRU.ro". BRU.ro. 1999-02-22. http://www.bru.ro/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  52. ^ "Католики византийского обряда в России". Rkcvo.ru. http://www.rkcvo.ru/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  53. ^ "Welcome to". Byzcath.org. http://www.byzcath.org/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  54. ^ "Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh". Archeparchy.org. http://www.archeparchy.org/page/metropolia/metropolia.htm. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  55. ^ "Мукачівська греко-католицька єпархія". Mgce.uz.ua. http://www.mgce.uz.ua/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  56. ^ http://www.exarchat.cz/
  57. ^ "Gréckokatolícke arcibiskupstvo Prešov - Úvod". www.grkatpo.sk. http://grkatpo.sk/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  58. ^ Українська Греко-Католицька Церква. "Українська Греко-Католицька Церква: Головна". Ugcc.org.ua. http://www.ugcc.org.ua/. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  59. ^ "A Concise History of the Georgian Byzantine Catholic Church". Stmichaelruscath.org. 1999-01-21. http://www.stmichaelruscath.org/outbound/incommunion/georgiahist.php. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  60. ^ Syracuse University Press 2001, pages 224 and following
  61. ^ "In Memory of the Victims of the Solovky embarkation point". Helsinki.org.ua. http://www.helsinki.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1161684988. Retrieved 2011-04-27. 
  62. ^ Oriente Cattolico (Vatican City 1974), page 194
  63. ^ For instance, Small Catholic community comes to life in former Communist country
  64. ^ canon 40 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches
  65. ^ canon 701 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. This imperfect English translation of the Code omits the word "optabiliter" of the original text.
  66. ^ canons 451 and 517 §2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches
  67. ^ canon 40 §3 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. The defective translation in the source gives "is excused" instead of "is excepted" as a translation of "excipitur".
  68. ^ Can. 1248 §1 of the Code of Canon Law; canons 881 and 883 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches
  69. ^ Acta Sanctae Sedis, vol. 1891/92, p.390
  70. ^ Collectanea No. 1966
  71. ^ Faulk, Edward (2007). 101 Questions & Answers on Eastern Catholic Churches. New York: Paulist Press, pp.87-88. ISBN 978-0-8091-4441-9. 

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