Welcome to our Eastern Catholicism specialty store. We are pleased to be able to provide resources to the faithful of the Eastern Catholic churches and to others who are interested in the traditions, practices and theology of the Eastern Catholic churches. Although it is not commonly known in our Western world, the Catholic Church is actually a communion of Churches. According to the Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, the Catholic Church is understood to be “a corporate body of Churches,” united with the Pope of Rome, who serves as the guardian of unity (LG, no. 23). At present there are 22 Churches that comprise the Catholic Church. The new Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, uses the phrase “autonomous ritual Churches” to describe these various Churches (canon 112). Each Church has its own hierarchy, spirituality, customs, and theological perspective. Because of the particularities of history, there is only one Western Catholic Church, while there are 21 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Western Church, known officially as the Latin Church, is the largest of the Catholic Churches – approximately 94% of Catholics belong to this ritual church.The Latin Church is immediately subject to the Roman Pontiff as Patriarch of the West. The Eastern Catholic Churches are each led by a Patriarch, Major Archbishop, or Metropolitan, who governs their Church together with a synod of bishops. Through the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the Roman Pontiff works to assure the health and well-being of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
While this diversity within the one Catholic Church can appear confusing at first, it in no way compromises the Church’s unity. In a certain sense, it is a reflection of the mystery of the Trinity. Just as God is three Persons, yet one God, so the Church is 22 Churches, yet one Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:
“From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of those who receive them… Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions. The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church’s unity” (CCC no. 814). Another way to think about the “diversity in unity” of the Catholic Church is to consider Our Lord’s words “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.”
Although there are 22 Churches, there are only eight “Rites” that are used among them. A Rite is a “liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony,” (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 28). “Rite” best refers to the liturgical and disciplinary traditions used in celebrating the sacraments. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For instance, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies but they both use the Byzantine Rite. At present, our Eastern Catholicism specialty store carries products of interest primarily to Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine Rite. In the future we hope to be able to offer books and religious goods to Eastern Catholics of non-Byzantine rites.