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What is Greek Catholic?

By Larry Ray Palmer
Updated Feb 23, 2024
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Greek Catholic, which adheres to the Byzantine rite, is an officially recognized community in the Roman Catholic church. When the Greek Catholic community first began, it was in alignment with the Greek Orthodox religion, but eventually, the Greek Catholic community shifted alignments and accepted Latin theology. Although the Catholic religion, as a whole, is considered to be a Christian religion and has a specific set of beliefs, there are some minor differences that separate the Catholic church into its various branches.

The two major divisions of the Catholic church are the Greek, or Eastern, and the Latin, or Western. The Western Catholic branch is also known as the Roman Catholic church, and the Eastern Catholic branch is also known as the Greek Orthodox church. The two parts make up the world Catholic church.

Although the Greek Catholic community and the Greek Orthodox Catholic community are both followers of the Eastern rites, the Greek Catholic community is a separate entity from the Greek Orthodox community. This is because the Greek Catholic community accepts the leadership of the Roman Pope, and the Greek Orthodox community does not. In addition to the community's acceptance of the Pope, the Greek Catholic community has also adopted many of the rituals, prayers and other customs of the Western Catholic church.

The basic tenets of the Catholic faith remain the same for Catholics around the world, but the Eastern and Western Catholic branches and their subdivisions differ on some areas of theology. The Greek Catholic community accepts the Western traditions of purgatory and papal infallibility. The Greek Orthodox community, however, does not accept these Western theological concepts.

The Greek Catholic community adheres to the Byzantine rite, also called the rite of Constantinople. Although this community is considered to be in alignment with the Roman Catholic church, there are some distinguishing features in the Byzantine rite that set it apart. For example, the Greek Catholic church uses a leavened bread for communion, and it allows both married and single men to become priests.

In addition to these differences, the way the church worship sessions are handled is different from the Western Catholic worship session. Greek Catholics and the Greek Orthodox churches use chanting in their worship, but the Western Catholics lean toward the use of recitation. Greek Catholics usually stand throughout the worship service, but they are permitted to move about during the course of the service.

The Byzantine Catholic community strictly enforces fasting laws, which state that certain foods are prohibited on specific days. Followers of the Byzantine rite, including the Greek Catholics, are required to fast on a weekly basis. This is in addition to seasons of fasting that occur four times each year.

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