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The Latin Church is the largest particular church within the Catholic Church. It is a particular church not on the level of the local particular churches known as dioceses or eparchies, but on the level of autonomous ritual churches, of which there are 23, the remaining 22 of which are Eastern Catholic Churches.

The Latin Church developed in the Western Roman Empire (Western Europe and North Africa) where, from classical antiquity to the Renaissance, Latin was the principal language of education and culture. The various Latin liturgical rites that developed in that area also use or have used that language.


"Church" and "rite"

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Particular churches sui iuris

of the Catholic Church

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Roman cross and Byzantine Patriarchal cross
Particular churches are grouped by rite.
Latin Rite
Byzantine Rite
Albanian · Belarusian · Bulgarian
Croatia and Serbia · Greek · Hungarian
Italo-Albanian · Macedonian · Melkite
Romanian · Russian · Ruthenian
Slovak · Ukraine
Alexandrian Rite
Coptic · Ethiopian · Eritrean
Armenian Rite
West Syriac Rite
Maronite · Syro-Malankara · Syriac
East Syriac Rite
Chaldean · Syro-Malabar

The 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches defines its use 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.
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.

In accordance with these definitions, 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 an autonomous 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", 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.

"Latin Catholic" and "Roman Catholic"

At times, the Holy See has used the term "Roman Catholic" to refer to the whole Catholic Church, that is in communion with the Bishop and Church of Rome. It has never used the term "Roman Catholic" to refer exclusively to the Latin Church, and one would have to go back more than two and a half centuries to find a papal document that used "Roman" as equivalent to "Latin". The Holy See quite commonly uses the term "Roman" (again, not "Roman Catholic") with reference to the diocese of Rome, as in "Holy Roman Church". However, some Eastern Catholics use the expression "Roman Catholic" to mean "Latin Catholic", while others "are proud to call themselves Roman Catholics", and "Roman Catholic" sometimes appears in the compound name of Eastern Catholic churches and parishes.

Distinguishing characteristics

Liturgical patrimony

The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke on 24 October 1988 of the Latin rite 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". Today, the most common Latin liturgical rites are the Roman Rite, the Ambrosian Rite, the Mozarabic Rite, and variations of the Roman Rite such as the Anglican Use and the Tridentine extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. The 22 Eastern Catholic Churches share 5 families of liturgical rites: the Alexandrian Rite (shared by 2 churches), the Antiochene or West Syrian Rite (3 churches), the Armenian Rite (1 church), the Byzantine Rite (14 churches), and the Chaldean or East Syrian Rite (2 churches). The Latin rite is like the Armenian in being the rite of a single autonomous particular church.

Disciplinary patrimony

Canon law for the Latin Church was codified in the Code of Canon Law, of which there have been two editions, the first promulgated by Pope Benedict XV in 1917, and the second by Pope John Paul II in 1983. The Eastern Catholic Churches, which each have their own canon law, have in common the canons codified in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches of 1990.

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", 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." In the Eastern Churches these sacraments are usually administered immediately after baptism, even for an infant. Celibacy is obligatory for priests in the Latin Church (although exceptions are sometimes allowed), but in most of the Eastern Catholic Churches ordination to the priesthood (but not to the episcopate) may be conferred on married men. (There is no difference between the churches with regard to celibacy for males and females)

Bishops in the Latin Church are appointed by the Pope on the advice of the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia. The synods of Eastern patriarchal and major archiepiscopal Churches elect bishops for their own territory, receiving from the Pope only letters of recognition; although the Pope can in fact veto the decision, this rarely if ever happens. The bishops for other territories and those of lesser Eastern Catholic Churches are appointed in the same way as Latin bishops, on the advice of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Latin Church. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.