Latin Church

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Latin Church
St. Peter's Basilica, burial place of Saint Peter
Classification Catholic
Orientation Western Christianity
Polity Episcopal
Leader Pope Francis
Region Rome and worldwide
Origin 1st century
Merger of Catholic Church
Separations Protestantism, Anglicanism, Old Catholicism
Members 1,197 million (Dec 2011)
Other name(s) Latin Catholic Church
Official website

The Latin Church is an autonomous or sui iuris particular church in communion with the Catholic Church. There are several such sui iuris particular churches within the Catholic Church. Other examples are the Maronite Church, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. They differ from each other in liturgy (ceremonies, vestments, chants, language), devotional traditions, theology, canon law, and pastors (even if in the same territory as another), but they all hold the same faith, and all see union with the bishop of Rome, the pope, as essential to being a Catholic.

The Latin Church is the largest of these, with a membership far greater than all the others taken together. It arose in Western Europe and North Africa, an area once encompassed by the Roman Empire, throughout which Latin was widely understood and spoken.[citation needed] It is sometimes called the Western Church. All the other sui iuris particular churches, of which there are 23, originated farther east and are, therefore, collectively known as the Eastern Catholic Churches. Because of the facility with which people can nowadays take up residence in a different country, members of all of these sui iuris particular churches are no longer confined to their areas of origin and can be found all over the world.


"Church" and "rite"

The 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches defines the use within that code of the words "church" and "rite" as follows:

Church: A group of Christian faithful united by a hierarchy according to the norm of law which the supreme authority of the Church expressly or tacitly recognizes as sui iuris is called in this Code a Church sui iuris.[1]
Rite: 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 Church sui iuris.[2]

In accordance with these definitions of usage within the code that governs the Eastern Catholic churches, the Latin Church is one such group of Christian faithful united by a hierarchy and recognized by the supreme authority of the Catholic Church as a sui iuris particular church. The Latin rite is the whole of the patrimony of that distinct particular church, by which it manifests its own manner of living the faith, including its own liturgy, its theology, its spiritual practices and traditions and its canon law.

A person is a member of or belongs to a particular church. A person also inherits or "is of",[3] a particular patrimony or rite. Since the rite has liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary elements, a person is also to worship, to be catechized, to pray and to be governed according to a particular rite.

Particular churches that inherit and perpetuate a particular patrimony are identified by metonymy with that patrimony. Accordingly, "rite" has been defined as "a division of the Christian church using a distinctive liturgy",[4] or simply as "a Christian Church".[5] In this sense, "rite" and "church" are treated as synonymous, as in the glossary prepared by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and revised in 1999, which states that each "Eastern-rite (Oriental) Church ... is considered equal to the Latin rite within the Church".[6] The Second Vatican Council likewise stated 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".[7] and spoke of patriarchs and of "major archbishops, who rule the whole of some individual church or rite".[8] It thus used the word "rite" as "a technical designation of what may now be called a particular church".[9] "Church or rite" is also used as a single heading in the United States Library of Congress classification of works.[10]

"Latin Catholic" and "Roman Catholic"

At times, the Holy See uses the term "Roman Catholic" (as well as simply "Catholic") to refer to the whole Catholic Church that is in communion with the Bishop and Church of Rome.[11][12] On his encyclical dated 26 July 1755, Allatae sunt, Pope Benedict XIV used the term "Roman" as equivalent to "Latin" Church.[13] Adrian Fortescue, on his article in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia, made distinction between "Roman Church" and "Church of Rome". He said that the expression "Church of Rome" commonly applied by non-Catholics to the Catholic Church but, according to him, it can only be used correctly to refer the diocese of Rome; and the term "Roman Church", in case of the patriarchate, can be used as equivalent to "Latin Church" : "A German Catholic is not, strictly speaking, a member of the Church of Rome but of the Church of Cologne, or Munich-Freising, or whatever it may be, in union with and under the obedience of the Roman Church (although, no doubt, by a further extension Roman Church may be used as equivalent to Latin Church for the patriarchate)."[14]

Some Eastern Catholics use the expression "Roman Catholic" to mean "Latin Catholic",[15] while others "are proud to call themselves Roman Catholics",[16] and "Roman Catholic" sometimes appears in the compound name of Eastern Catholic churches and parishes.[17]

Distinguishing characteristics

Liturgical patrimony

The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who would later be elected Pope Benedict XVI) spoke on 24 October 1998 of the Latin liturgical rites as follows: "Several forms of the Latin rite have always existed, and were only slowly withdrawn, as a result of the coming together of the different parts of Europe. Before the Council there existed side by side with the Roman rite, the Ambrosian rite, the Mozarabic rite of Toledo, the rite of Braga, the Carthusian rite, the Carmelite rite, and best known of all, the Dominican rite, and perhaps still other rites of which I am not aware".[18] Today, the most common Latin liturgical rites are the Roman Rite (either in its ordinary form (the post-Vatican II Mass of Pope Paul VI, officially authorized for present-day use) or in an extraordinary form (such as the Tridentine Mass); the Ambrosian Rite; the Mozarabic Rite; and variations of the Roman Rite (such as the Anglican Use). The 23 Eastern Catholic Churches share 5 families of liturgical rites. The Latin liturgical rites, like the Armenian, are used only in a single sui iuris particular church.

Disciplinary patrimony

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Canon law for the Latin Church is codified in the Code of Canon Law, of which there have been two codifications, the first promulgated by Pope Benedict XV in 1917, and the second by Pope John Paul II in 1983.[19]

In the Latin Church, the norm for administration of confirmation is that, except when in danger of death, the person to be confirmed should "have the use of reason, be suitably instructed, properly disposed, and able to renew the baptismal promises",[20] and "the administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children requires that they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the body of Christ with faith and devotion."[21] In the Eastern Churches these sacraments are usually administered immediately after baptism, even for an infant.[22]

Celibacy, as a consequence of the duty to observe perfect continence, is obligatory for priests in the Latin Church.[23] Rare exceptions are permitted for men who, after ministering as clergy in other churches, join the Catholic Church.[24] This contrasts with the discipline in most Eastern Catholic Churches ordination. In the Latin Church, a married man may not be admitted even to the diaconate unless he is legitimately destined to remain a deacon and not become a priest.[25] Marriage after ordination is not possible, and attempting it can result in canonical penalties.[26]

Bishops in the Latin Church are appointed by the Pope on the advice of the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia; specifically the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (for countries in its care), the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State (for appointments that require the consent or prior notification of civil governments), and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (in the areas in its charge, even for the appointment of Latin bishops).[citation needed][citation needed]

See also


  1. CCEO, canon 27
  2. CCEO, canon 28 §1
  3. Code of Canon Law, canons 383 §2, 450 §1, 476, 479 §2, 1021
  4. Rite, Merriam Webster Dictionary<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Rite, Collins English Dictionary<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Glossary of Church Terms
  7. Decree on the Eastern Rite Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2
  8. Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 10
  9. William W. Bassett, The Determination of Rite, an Historical and Juridical Study (Gregorian University Bookshop, 1967 ISBN 978-88-7652129-4), p. 73
  10. Library of Congress Classification - KBS Table 2
  11. "The terms 'Roman Church' and 'Roman Catholic Church' date from at least the early Middle Ages, but the stress on these terms became prominent after the Protestant Reformation. The reason was to emphasize the distinctive quality of being not only a Christian, because baptized, but of being a Catholic, because in communion with the Pope " (John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary).
  12. Pope Pius XII taught in Humani generis that "the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing" (Encyclical Humani generis, 27). Pope Benedict XVI called the Church "the Roman Catholic Church" at a meeting in Warsaw on 25 May 2006 and in joint declarations that he signed with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on 23 November 2006 and with Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople on 30 November 2006.
  13. The 1755 papal encyclical Allatae sunt said: "The Oriental Church is composed of four rites - Greek, Armenian, Syriac, and Coptic; all these rites are referred to by the single name of the Greek or Oriental Church, just as the name of the Latin or Roman Church signifies the Roman, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic rites, as well as the special rites of different Regular Orders" (Encyclical Allatae sunt, 3)
  14. Adrian Fortescue, "Latin Church" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1910)
  15. For instance, "We are not Roman Catholics" (Fran Colie: Roman or Melkite, What's the Difference); "Byzantine Catholics hold the same beliefs as Roman Catholics, but often have different emphases" (Saint Michaels Byzantine Catholic Church); Richard P. McBrien, Catholicism, HarperCollins: 1994. pp. 4-5, etc.
  16. "Surrounded by Mussulmans, schismatics, and heretics, they are proud to call themselves Roman Catholics" (Catholic Encyclopedia, article Maronites).
  17. Even excluding Wikipedia, its mirrors and citations from it, a Google search turns up about 9,670 references to "Maronite Roman Catholic".
  18. Address on 24 October 1998 for the tenth anniversary of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei
  19. Codes of Canon Law
  20. Code of Canon Law, canon 889 §2
  21. Code of Canon Law, canon 913 §1
  22. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canons 695 §1 and 710
  23. Code of Canon Law, canon 277 §1
  24. Anglicanorum coetibus, VI §§1-2
  25. Code of Canon Law, canon 1042
  26. Code of Canon Law, canon 1087

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