If you’re like me, you probably grew up hearing very little or even nothing about the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church. Maybe you’ve heard something about there being married Catholic priests, or lots of incense at a daily liturgy. Maybe you found my blog because you were looking for more information.
Well you’ve come to the “rite” place! Here at TheByzantineLife.com, we talk about Christian family living with an Eastern flair. We live in a blended Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Greek family, which gives us a chance to “breath with both lungs of the Church.” Drawing from the rich history of Catholicism, our family celebrates the beauty of the rites of the Catholic Church. In fact, this blog began as a way to share my ever growing appreciating for Byzantine theology and traditions. I grew up unaware of the Orthodox or the Eastern Catholic rites. Discovering the history and formation of the Christian Churches of the East has deepened my relationship with God in glorious and unexpected ways. I hope that learning more about the Eastern Churches will increase your spiritual growth too.
Who are these Byzantine Catholics?
Well, to be matter of factual, they are the members of the following churches: Albanese, Belarussian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Greek-Melkite, Hungarian, Italo-Albanese, Macedonian, Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Slovak, and Ukrainian (hey that’s us!). You can see the number of Bishops in each of these churches, as well as in the other rites of the Church at http://www.gcatholic.org/dioceses/rites.htm.
Byzantine Catholic Churches are all descendants of the Constantinopolitan Rite of the early church. This means that our liturgies all come from the same original form used in Constantinople. The theological traditions of the East have formed our own traditions. The school of Antioch is the source of many of these traditions. Another major influence in the development of Byzantine traditions as they are today were renewals made in response to the Iconoclast persecutions. (http://www.traditionalcatholicpriest.com/2014/03/22/iconoclast-persecution-of-the-catholic-church-image-breaking/)
St. Andrew [Link to St Profile] is said to be the founder of the seat of the see in Constantinople. This city was formerly called Byzantium, which is where we get the name Byzantine from. (Byzantium was its name before St. Constantine inspired the name Constantinople for the city’s name).
How Did They Come to be Byzantine Catholic?
An in-depth reading of history would take several posts (subscribe if you are interested in reading about this in a future series), although Catholic Answers has a good basic history of the development of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. https://www.catholic.com/tract/eastern-orthodoxy This covers the Great Schism, (the mutual excommunication of the pope and patriarch of Constantinople of each other in the 11th century) which built steam with the rifts between the Eastern Churches and Rome. Reconciliation efforts occurred on and off throughout the centuries. When the Byzantine Empire broke apart in the mid 1400s, the scope of the rift between the churches became clear: the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church were not in union with each other.
Many of the Churches who became separated from Rome at the height of the schism desired to return to communion. In 1595 the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was established through the Union of Brest. Many of the previously Orthodox Bishops signed this agreement, bringing their eparchies into union with the Holy See of Rome. The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church joined by signing the same agreement the following year. The most recent formation of a Byzantine Church are the Russian Greek Catholics in 1905, although other Eastern Churches have united themselves to Rome Since then.
A visual of the historic development of the Eastern Churches can be viewed here.
A post about other Eastern Churches: Catholic Education.org – The Other Eastern Churches
Want to read about some differences between the Roman Rite and the Byzantine Church? Check out my articles on Holy Week, 7 Things to Love About Byzantine Catholicism and Why Everybody Needs an Icon Corner.
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