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The Latin Rite or Latin Church is the majority rite (in the sense of "church", not of "liturgical tradition") or particular church within the Catholic Church, comprising roughly 80% of its membership. The Latin Rite is one of the 23 sui iuris particular churches within the Catholic Church. This particular church developed in western Europe and north Africa, where, from antiquity to the Renaissance, Latin was the principal language of education and culture, and so also of the liturgy.


(For information on the liturgies of the Latin Church or Rite, see Latin liturgical rites.)

The term "Latin Rite" was once clearly synonymous with Western Church, a term that some continue to use exclusively of the Church in communion with the bishop and see of Romemarker. In this sense, "Western Church" is distinguished from the "Eastern Catholic Churches" (plural), whose liturgies use the languages and rituals that were dominant in their areas at the time of their formation, or modern languages such as Arabic. However, except in the context of the Catholic Church, "Western Church" is most frequently understood as synonymous with "Western Christianity" and as distinguished from "Eastern Christianity", making it necessary in such contexts to use the more specific term "Western Catholic Church". Latin Church is yet another term used for the particular Church in question. This term appears, for instance, in the opening canon of both the 1917 and the 1983 editions of the Code of Canon Law.

The Latin Church or Rite is now present in all continents and is the majority rite or particular church within the Catholic Church, comprising approximately 98% of its more than 1.1 billion faithful.

The term "Latin rite" is used also, in singular or plural ("a Latin rite" or "(the) Latin rites"), to refer to one or more of the forms of sacred liturgy used in different parts of this Latin Church. (See Latin liturgical rites.) They include the widely used Roman Rite, the Ambrosian Rite of Milan and neighbouring areas, and the Mozarabic Rite, in limited use in Spain, above all at Toledomarker. Anglican Use is also a liturgy of the Latin Rite. The Roman Rite replaced other Latin liturgical rites at various times: the Carolingian emperors favoured it in their territory; Pope Pius V in 1570 suppressed those with an antiquity of less than two centuries; and several religious orders abandoned their liturgical rites after the Second Vatican Council, when languages other than Latin began to be generally used in the Latin-Rite liturgies.

Relationship with the term "Roman Catholic"

Certain Catholic and non-Catholic sources use the term "Roman Catholic" to mean "Latin-Rite Catholic", and the Holy See was known in the eighteenth century to use "Roman Church" to refer to the Latin Church and "Greek Church" to refer to what was then considered a single Oriental Church that included not only Byzantine but also Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Catholics: 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".

In more recent times, this usage is not found in the Church's official documents. On the contrary, Church documents use the term "Roman Catholic Church" to refer to the worldwide Church as a whole, though by no means as frequently as the term "Catholic Church". This usage is found in the encyclicals Divini illius Magistri and Humani generis and in curial documents such as Notes on the correct way to present the Jews and Judaism in preaching and catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church. It is commonly used in agreements signed by the Pope together with the heads of other Churches.

Distinctiveness of the Latin Rite or Church

The Latin Church is distinguished from the other sui iuris Churches not only by the use of the aforementioned liturgies, but also by customs, practices and canon law distinct from those of the Eastern Churches. 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 canon law that the Eastern Catholic Churches have in common has been codified in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches of 1990.

In the Latin Church, Confirmation and Eucharist are normally administered only to people who have reached the age of reason, while in the Eastern Churches they usually are administered immediately after baptism, even for an infant. Celibacy is obligatory for priest in the Latin Church, but in the Eastern Catholic Churches ordination to priesthood (but not to the episcopate) may be conferred on married men. Bishop in the Latin Church are appointed by the Pope through the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia, while the synods of Eastern patriarchal and major archiepiscopal Churches elect bishops for their own territory (though not outside it), receiving from the Pope only letters of recognition.

See also


  1. See Rite#Christian
  2. "Latin Rite" is used in this sense in, for example, the decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum of the Second Vatican Council.
  3. cf., for instance,, The Text of the Mass, Anthony Gooley: The Eucharist and Ecclesial Community
  4. 1917 edition and 1983 edition
  5. For an instance of the use of "Latin rites" to cover "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", see Cardinal Ratzinger on the Old and New Mass
  6. For instance, "We are not Roman Catholics" ( Fran Colie: Roman or Melkite, What's the Difference, Byzantines dot net); "Byzantine Catholics hold the same beliefs as Roman Catholics, but often have different emphases" ( Saint Michaels Byzantine Catholic Church); etc.
  7. Encyclical Allatae sunt, 3)
  8. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches
  9. Even if a bishop administers baptism, the anointing with chrism that is part of the full ritual of baptism in the Latin Rite is not considered to be the sacrament of Confirmation or Chrismation.

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