In an area like Butts county, where the vast majority of the people are non-Catholics, I guess, it’s fitting to help the general public understand the makeup of the universal Catholic Church. Thus the followers of other faith traditions — like Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikh and Parsis — and other Christian denominations may have a better perception of the worldwide Catholic Church.
According to the census of 2019 Pontifical Yearbook, the world Catholic population at the end of 2017 was 1.3 billion. Though the Catholic Church looks like a monolithic pyramid-like structure with the pope as its supreme pastor, in reality, the universal Catholic Church is a communion of 24 individual Churches (sui iuris) of which 23 are of Eastern Rite. The vast majority of the Catholics belong to the Latin/Western Rite. These 24 individual churches come under six Rites. In the Catholic Communion, each rite is equally important. This would mean the vastness of the membership of people in a particular rite doesn’t determine the dignity and status of a particular rite. Irrespective of the number of followers in each rite in the Catholic Communion, all these rites are considered of equal status and dignity.
The Psachal mystery — passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ — is celebrated in every place in the world wherever the Catholic Church exists. The mystery celebrated in the various (Catholic) churches/traditions is one, but the forms of its celebration vary based on the geography and culture.
Faithful to the apostolic faith, the one and the same mystery of Christ is celebrated in various parts of the world through particular expressions characterized by the culture of the place. This came to be known as the various liturgical traditions (rites) in the Catholic Church. In the document of the Second Vatican Council it says: “Catholic Church is a communion of individual Churches.”
The 1990 Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches clearly defines the difference between “Church” and “Rite.”
Canon number 27 says: “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.”
Number 28 defines rite in the following way: “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.”
Following are the six rites in the universal Catholic Church, accompanied by which sui iuris churches are contained within them.
1. Latin (or Roman) Catholic Church
1. Coptic Catholic Church
2. Eritrean Catholic Church
3. Ethiopian Catholic Church
West Syrian (or Antiochene) Rite
1. Maronite Catholic Church
2. Syriac Catholic Church
3. Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
1. Armenian Catholic Church
East Syrian (or Chaldean) Rite
1. Chaldean Catholic Church
2. Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Constantinopolitan (or Byzantine) Rite
1. Albanian Catholic Church
2. Belarusian Catholic Church
3. Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church
4. Byzantine Church of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro (or Križevci Catholic Church)
5. Greek Byzantine Catholic Church
6. Hungarian Greek Catholic Church
7. Italo-Albanian Catholic Church
8. Macedonian Catholic Church
9. Melkite Greek Catholic Church
10. Romanian Catholic Church
11. Russian Catholic Church
12. Ruthenian Catholic Church (also known as the Byzantine Catholic Church in America)
13. Slovak Catholic Church
14. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
In the Archdiocese of Atlanta there are at least five Eastern rite parishes belonging to three different ritual families. They are: St. John Chrysostom Melkite Catholic Church in Atlanta and Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church in Conyers (Byzantine Rite); St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church, Atlanta (Antiochean Rite); St. Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and Holy Family Knanaya Catholic Church, both in Loganville (Chaldean Rite).
Of all the Eastern Catholic Churches the Ukrainian Church has the largest number of faithful followed by the Syro-Malabar Church.
A misperception largely prevalent among the followers of the various Christian denominations is that the Catholics worship Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. As a Catholic priest I categorically assert and state that the Catholics worship the only One God revealed in three persons — Father, Son and the Holy Spirit — the triune God. It’s true that the Catholics venerate and honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. Remember, veneration and honor never amount to worship. And the Catholics never ever worship statues as being widely taught and preached in churches of the various non-Catholic Christian denominations.
If our brothers and sisters of other denominations have further questions regarding the Catholic faith and practices, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.