Eastern and Western Rites of the Catholic Church

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There are two broad divisions within the Catholic Church (CCC, 1200-1203):

1. The Latin Church, most of which is associated with "The Roman Rite." We call the members of the Roman rite "Roman Catholics."

2. The Eastern Churches, each of which has its own associated rite, liturgical language, customs, spirituality, region, patriarch, episcopacy, and particular name. Each of these Catholic Churches has its own history, legal tradition, and culture. See below for a relatively complete list; cf. also "List of Eastern Catholic Churches." "Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions."[1]

I believe I have seven Western rites and twenty-three Eastern rites listed on this page. That suggests that there are roughly 30 different ways to be Catholic! The Anglican Ordinariate is a variation within the Roman rite at present and probably will remain so — but time will tell.


Liturgical traditions and the catholicity of the Church
From the first community of Jerusalem until the parousia, it is the same Paschal mystery that the Churches of God, faithful to the apostolic faith, celebrate in every place. The mystery celebrated in the liturgy is one, but the forms of its celebration are diverse.
The mystery of Christ is so unfathomably rich that it cannot be exhausted by its expression in any single liturgical tradition. The history of the blossoming and development of these rites witnesses to a remarkable complementarity. When the Churches lived their respective liturgical traditions in the communion of the faith and the sacraments of the faith, they enriched one another and grew in fidelity to Tradition and to the common mission of the whole Church.
The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church's mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture: in the tradition of the "deposit of faith," in liturgical symbolism, in the organization of fraternal communion, in the theological understanding of the mysteries, and in various forms of holiness. Through the liturgical life of a local church, Christ, the light and salvation of all peoples, is made manifest to the particular people and culture to which that Church is sent and in which she is rooted. The Church is catholic, capable of integrating into her unity, while purifying them, all the authentic riches of cultures.
The liturgical traditions or rites presently in use in the Church are the Latin (principally the Roman rite, but also the rites of certain local churches, such as the Ambrosian rite, or those of certain religious orders) and the Byzantine, Alexandrian or Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite and Chaldean rites. In "faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity, and that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way."69
- Latin (including Roman, Ambrosian, local churches, and some religious orders)
- Byzantine
- Alexandrian or Coptic
- Syriac (Antiochene)
- Chaldean (Antiochene tradition)
- Armenian (Byzantine and Antiochene)
- Maronite (Arabic and Antiochene)
#1208 [emphasis added]
The diverse liturgical traditions or rites, legitimately recognized, manifest the catholicity of the Church, because they signify and communicate the same mystery of Christ.

"The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous, self-governing (in Latin, sui iuris) particular Churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. They preserve some of the centuries-old liturgical, devotional, and theological traditions of the various Eastern Christian Churches they were once associated with. Although the Churches they formerly were associated with are not all in communion with one another, the Eastern Catholic Churches are in communion with each other 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."[2]


"The oldest version of Canon Law in the Church identified three patriarchs: The bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. Each patriarch governed a territory of the Church: The patriarch of Rome governed the whole Church in the West; the patriarch of Alexandria, the area of Egypt and Palestine; and the Patriarch of Antioch, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece and the remainder of the Church in the East. These three patriarchates were recognized as having a supreme place among the bishops by the Council of Nicea in 325.

"[After 451 AD,] the New Order of the Patriarchs then became in descending order Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Keep in mind that the patriarchs are considered equal in rank even though they may have a precedence of honor. Moreover, just to underscore an important point, even though the bishop of Rome is a patriarch, as pope he has supreme authority and governance over the whole Church."[3]

Today, the Eastern Rites are organized under four patriarchates: Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, and Chaldean [4]

"Pope Paul VI by his motu proprio, Ad Purpuratorum Patrum, of February 11, 1965, stipulated that the patriarchs of Oriental rite incorporated to the College of Cardinals would belong to the order of bishops and rank below the bishops of titles of suburbicarian sees. The cardinal patriarchs retain their patriarchal sees and are not assigned any suburbicarian see."[5]

Historical development
325 AD
Rome Western Church
Alexandria Egypt and Palestine
Antioch Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and the East
451 AD: New Order of Patriarchs
Constantinople Second only to Rome (according to Rome!)
Present patriarchates
325 AD
Rome Western Church
Alexandrian Egypt and Palestine
Antiochene Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and the East

East-West Schism

The mutual excommunications in 1054 AD were issued by the Pope, Patriarch of Rome, and the Patriarch of Constantinople, who felt that he should have primacy because Constantinople was the capital of the Roman Empire.[1]

Latin Rites

Roman rite

The Roman rite forms the largest part of the Catholic Church.

The Pope is the Patriarch of the Latin-rite Catholic Church. and is the "Patriarch of the West" (although that title is used sparingly in the pontificate of Bendict XVI).

Language Latin
Origin Diocese of Rome; 1st century; revised 5th century.
Region Western Europe; North America; Asia; Pacific
United to Rome n/a

Anglican-Catholic Ordinariates

Anglican Ordinariates are regulated by the norms given in the "Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus: Providing For Personal Ordinariates For Anglicans Entering Into Full Communion with The Catholic Church":

"This Apostolic Constitution provides the general normative structure for regulating the institution and life of Personal Ordinariates for those Anglican faithful who desire to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in a corporate manner." ...
"Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared."
In keeping with the discipline of the Latin rite, only those vowed to celibacy may be ordained to the priesthood. An exception to this general rule may be made for the ordination of married Anglican priests who wish to enter the Catholic Church with their congregations.

Ambrosian (Milanese) rite

Language Latin and Italian (I think).
Origin St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan in the 4th century; well attested by 8th century.
Region Archdiocese of Milan, in some parishes of the Diocese of Como, Bergamo, Novara, Lodi and in about fifty parishes of the Diocese of Lugano, in the Canton Ticino, Switzerland.
United to Rome Never separated.

Mozarabic Rite

"The Mozarabic, Visigothic, or Hispanic Rite is a form of Catholic worship within the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, and in the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church (Anglican). Its beginning dates to the 7th century, and is localized in the Iberian Peninsula (the Roman Hispania). Mozarab is the term for the Christian population living under Muslim rulers in Al-Andalus."[2]

Language Arabic
Origin St. Isidore, 7th century
Region Iberian Peninsula
United to Rome Never separated.

Carmelite Rite

"The Rite of the Holy Sepulchre, commonly called the Carmelite Rite, is the liturgical rite that was used by the Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre, Hospitallers, Templars, Carmelites and the other orders founded within the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.[6]

Language Latin
Origin Latin Patriachate of Jerusalem, 1210 AD.
United to Rome Never separated.

Dominican Rite

Language Latin
Origin 1215
United to Rome Never separated.

Bragan Rite

Language Latin
Origin 12th century or earlier
Region Archdiocese of Braga in Portugal
United to Rome Never separated.

Carthusian Rite

Language Latin
Origin St. Bruno, 1084
United to Rome Never separated.

Eastern Rite Catholic Churches

"The Eastern Rite Church:" "The Second Vatican Council's 'Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches' emphasized, 'The Catholic Church values highly the institutions of the Eastern Churches, their liturgical rites, Ecclesiastical traditions and their ordering of Christian life. For in those churches, which are distinguished by their venerable antiquity, there is clearly evident the tradition which has come from the Apostles through the Fathers and which is part of the divinely revealed, undivided heritage of the Universal Church' (No. 1)."

"These reunited Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, except the Maronite Rite, all have counterparts remaining in the Orthodox Churches."[3]

Byzantine Rite Churches

"The Byzantine Rite, the largest Eastern Rite, is based on the Rite of St. James of Jerusalem with the later reforms of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. These rites employ the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. This parent rite comprises many rites, which are themselves highly ethnic-oriented. ... The three largest of the Byzantine Rites are the Melkite, Ruthenian and Ukrainian."[4]

Ruthenian Rite

Also known as the "Carpatho-Russian Rite."[]

Language Old Slavonic and English
Region Ukraine, United States, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Australia, and North and South America.
United to Rome Union of Brest-Litovsk in 1596 and the Union of Uzhorod in 1646.

Hungarian Rite

Language Greek, Hungarian, and English
Region Hungary, Europe, the Americas.
United to Rome 1646

Melkite Rite

The Melkites reunited with Rome during the Crusades, but due to impediments caused by the Muslim occupations, more officially reunited in the early 1700s.

Language Greek, Arabic, English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Region Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, United States, Brazil, Venezuela, Canada, Australia, and Mexico.
United to Rome Crusades and early 1700s.

Ukrainian Rite

Language Old Slavonic and Ukrainian
Region Ukraine, Poland, the United States, Canada, England, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina.
United to Rome 1595; forcibly united to Russian Orthodox Church under Stalin in 1943; reunited after Ukraine gained independence (after 1989???).

Greek Rite

Language Greek.
Region Greece and Turkey with congregations also in Asia Minor and Europe.
United to Rome 1829

Albanian Rite

Language Albanian
Region Albania
United to Rome 1628

Belarussian (Byelorussian) Rite

Language Old Slavonic
Region Belarussia with large populations in Europe, North and South America, and Australia.
United to Rome 1600s

Bulgarian Rite

Language Old Slavonic.
Region Bulgaria
United to Rome 1861

Croatian Rite

Language Old Slavonic
Region Croatia and the United States.
United to Rome 1611

Italo-Albanian Rite

Language Italo-Albanian languages
Region Italy and the Americas
United to Rome Never separated from Rome.

Romanian Rite

Language Modern Romanian
Region Romania and the United States.
United to Rome 1697; forced to join Romanian Orthodox Church in 1948 but later returned to union with Rome.

Russian Rite

Language Old Slavonic
Region Russia and China with congregations in Europe, Australia, and North and South America.
United to Rome 1905

Georgian Rite

Language Georgian
Region The former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
United to Rome 1329-1507; 1917.

Slovak Rite

Language Old Slavonic
Region Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Canada.
United to Rome

Serbian Rite

I haven't found a good source for information on the Serbian rite — just the assertion that it exists and is part of the Byzantine rite.

Region Serbia
United to Rome

Alexandrian Rite Churches

"The Alexandrian Rite is officially called the Liturgy of St. Mark. (St. Mark is traditionally considered the first bishop of Alexandria.) Their present liturgy contains elements of the Byzantine Rite of St. Basil and the liturgies of Sts. Mark, Cyril, and Gregory Nazianzen."[5]

Coptic Rite

Language Coptic and Arabic
Region Egypt
United to Rome 1741

Ge'ez (Ethiopian) Rite

Language Ge'ez
Region Ethiopia, Jerusalem, and Somalia
United to Rome 1846

Antiochene (Syriac) Rite Churches

"It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11:26).

"The Antiochene Rite is the Liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem."

Maronite Rite

Language Syriac and Arabic
Origin St. John Maron
Region Lebanon, Cyrpus, Egypt, and Syria but with large populations of the faithful also in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, and Canada.
United to Rome Never severed ties with Rome.

Syrian Rite

Language Syriac and Arabic
Region Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Syria, with healthy communities in Asia, Africa, Australia, and North and South America.
United to Rome 1781

Malankar Rite

Language Syriac and Malayalam
Origin St. Thomas the Apostle; 1st century AD.
Region India
United to Rome 1930

Chaldean Rite Churches

"The Chaldean Rite, also technically a distinct rite, also originated from the Antiochene Rite."

Chaldean Rite

Language Syriac and Arabic
Region Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and the United States.
United to Rome 1692

Syro-Malabar Rite

Language Syriac and Malayalam
United to Rome No formal schism; lost touch with Rome until the "Thomas Christians" were rediscovered in the 1500s.

Armenian Rite

"The Armenian Rite, technically a distinct rite, derived from the Antiochene Rite and is an older form of the Byzantine Rite. Although it uses a different language, this rite is technically called the Greek Liturgy of St. Basil."[6]

Language Classical Armenian
Region Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, France, Greece, Romania, Armenia, Argentina and the United States.
United to Rome During the Crusades.

Byzantine Rites Liturgical Year


  • The liturgical year begins on September 1.
  • The Paschal cycle varies from year to year because the date of Easter is calculated by a Revised Julian calendar in conjunction with the date of the first spring moon.
  • The Eastern rites celebrate the same Twelve Great Feasts as found in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

"Syrian, Maronite, and Malankara Liturgical Year."

The Divine Liturgy

Wikipedia, "Byzantine Rite: Divine Liturgy."

  • The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is the one most commonly celebrated throughout the year.
  • The Liturgy of St. Basil is celebrated on all Sundays in Great Lent (Palm Sunday is not considered part of Great Lent), on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday, on the Eves of Christmas and Theophany, and on January 1, which is the feast day of St. Basil. (For those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, January 1 falls on January 14 of the modern Gregorian Calendar.)
  • The Liturgy of St. James is rarely celebrated today. Only a few jurisdictions make use of it, most notably the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and then primarily on December 26, the day the Church commemorates this saint.
  • The Liturgy of St. Mark is rarely celebrated today.
  • The Liturgy of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions is almost never celebrated today.
  • The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is not technically a Divine Liturgy, since there is no Consecration of the Gifts; instead, it consists primarily of an enhanced Vespers service with the distribution of Holy Communion from the Reserved Sacrament. It is celebrated only on weekdays of Great Lent: on Wednesdays, Fridays and any of the more important feast days which may occur (however, if the Great Feast of the Annunciation occurs on a weekday of Great Lent, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated). It is also served on the first three days of Holy Week.


  • I count a total of 30 rites, not including the Anglican Ordinariate: 7 in the West, 23 in the East.
  • The Church wishes to preserve the rites.
  • There is complete communion among the Catholic Churches. A Catholic may receive communion in any of the rites.
  • Intermarriage is permitted between members of different rites.
  • The Eastern rites universally preserve the tradition of ordaining married men.

Liturgical languages

Both the Eastern rites and the early history of the Latin rites show a history of flexibility and adaptation to local languages and cultures. Latin was the language of the people. The Greek liturgy and scriptures were translated into Latin, and the form of the liturgy was modified to suit Latin taste, sometimes epitomized as "noble simplicity." In the Eastern traditions, many local languages were woven into the liturgy.

Some of the more notable languages used in the Eastern rites of the Church. These areas probably never had Latin as a liturgical language:

  • Greek
  • Old Slavonic
  • Albanian
  • Armenian
  • Italo-Albanian
  • Romanian
  • Georgian
  • Coptic
  • Arabic
  • Syriac
  • Ge'ez (Ethiopian)
  • Malayalam (an Indian language)

The use of the vernacular in liturgy, therefore, is a very ancient tradition of the Church. In the West, which was conditioned to the use of Latin as the universal language of the its liturgical tradition, the adoption of vernacular languages seems contrary to tradition because of the fourteen or fifteen centuries during which Latin was the predominant liturgical language.