When you say that you are Catholic, everyone assumes that you are Roman Catholic. This assumption can be completely wrong. It is based on several misconceptions of the Catholic Church.
There are twenty three Churches besides the Roman Church that make up the Catholic Church. Some of these Churches are older than Rome and have great historical significance to the Early Church. The six largest Eastern Churches include:
- the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) (Byzantine Rite),
- the Syro-Malabar Church (East Syriac Rite),
- the Maronite Church (West Syriac Rite),
- the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (Byzantine Rite),
- the Chaldean Catholic Church (East Syriac Rite),
- and the Armenian Catholic Church (Armenian Rite).
These six Churches are in full communion with Rome, have their own Divine Liturgies, Histories and Traditions. Yet they are 100% Catholic. In his 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Pope St. John Paul II describes the unity of the Church, saying, “The Church must breathe with her two lungs!” Here, he speaks of the mutual interdependence and healthy tension that should exist between the East and West so that the Church, as a whole, fully can benefit and her mission become more effective.
This is an article about misconceptions about the Catholic Church. To begin with let us look at one of the biggest misconceptions we are taught in public school.
All people going to school in the United States learn somewhere in their history classes about Manifest Destiny and Horace Greeley’s famous quote, “Go West Young Man.” The problem is he may never have been the first person to say that line.
Though Greeley was always interested in Western emigration, he only went to the Far West once, in 1859 during the Colorado Gold Rush. Originally a utopian experimental community, Greeley, Colorado, fifty miles north of Denver, was named after him in 1869. The newspaperman often published advice urging Americans to shout “Westward, ho!” if they couldn’t make it on the East Coast. Yet his own trip through Kansas and over the Rockies to California showed him not just the glories of the West (like Yosemite) but some of the dark side of settlement.
Greeley did write, “Fly, scatter through the country — go to the Great West,” he wrote in 1837. Years later, in 1872, he was still editorializing: “I hold that tens of thousands, who are now barely holding on in the East, might thus place themselves on the high road to competence and ultimate independence in the West.”
The morale of this part of the story is that the truth is out there, we just have to find it. Speaking of such, today we will look at the Ten Common Misconceptions About The Eastern Catholic Church.
- Eastern Catholics are not Catholics.
This is a common belief. Eastern Catholics are Catholics and are in common with Rome. Going to a Divine Liturgy will meet your obligation to attend Mass. Roman Catholics are fully welcomed to take the Eucharist at an Eastern Catholic Church.
- Eastern Catholic’s Divine Liturgy Is Not Roman
Of course not, most Eastern Catholic Churches’ Liturgy will predate the Roman Catholic Mass. Each Divine Liturgy will be based on three parts- The Service of the Word, The Pre-Anaphora, and Then The Anaphora.
- The First Christian Liturgies Where Done In Latin
Latin was not the language of Jews nor the language of the early Catholic Church. That language was Syriac. The first Christian Liturgies were done in Syriac and performed in the Levant. The Eastern Catholic Churches use Syriac or the language that Jesus and his disciples used.
- Roman Catholic Church Was The First Catholic Church
The Church was established in the East and moved to Rome not vice versa. Peter who was the first Bishop of Rome actually was the Bishop at Antioch before he went to Rome. Therefore, the First Pope was actually a Bishop in the East First.
- The Roman Empire Was The First Christian Nation
Although many people claim that Rome was the first to be called a Christian Nation with the Edict of Milan (313). This Edict did not establish the Church in the Roman Empire, it only allowed it to operate freely along with other religions. Armenia (301) was the first Christian Nation. Karli (Later to become Georgia 326) was the second Christian Nation. The Roman Empire became a Christian State on Feb. 27, 380.
- The Roman Catholic Branch Was Always The Largest Group Of Christians
The Five Bishops of the Early Church were located in: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The Early Church was centered in the East not in Rome. However, by the end of May 1453 with the fall of Constantinople to the Arabs, the only one city left under control of the Christians was Rome.
- Roman Catholics Are The Only Catholic Church
In his 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint, Pope St. John Paul II describes the unity of the Church, saying, “The Church must breathe with her two lungs!” Here, he speaks of the mutual interdependence and healthy tension that should exist between the East and West so that the Church, as a whole, fully can benefit and her mission become more effective. As the Eastern Church became entangled with being conquered and fighting off the Ottoman Turks, The Muslim Arabs, and Mongols. All of the original major cities in the East-became lost to Christian rule- Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Jerusalem leaving Rome as the only major city and Church center.
- The Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy- Does It Count?
Yes, it does. It is no different than going to any other Catholic Church when it comes to fulfilling your obligation for Church attendance.
- The Eastern Church Divine Liturgy Is Much Different Than A Roman Catholic Mass
More incense, more chanting, more responses from the congregation along with a different Liturgical Seasons than the Roman Church. The Eastern Churches have retained their customs from their historical roots. Many of these Divine Liturgies will pre-date the Masses used in the Roman Church
- The Eastern Catholic Churches Are Just For People From Certain Countries
Just as the Catholic Church is universal in all sense of the word, so are the Eastern Churches. The idea that you had to be from one country or another is not part of the Eastern Catholic Church at all. They have kept their customs from where they were from, but they have taken these Churches all over the world in the past one hundred years. Wheter, it was Armenians fleeing the ravages of the Genocide, the Maronites fleeing the brutality of the Ottoman Turks or Civil Wars in Lebanon, and the Ukrainians fleeing Soviet Union’s starvation during the Holomodor- they all left their homeland and in return brought a piece of their homeland along with them- their Church.
Celebrate the Catholic in all of us
Celebrate the diversity of the Catholic Faith
Celebrate the spirituality of the Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy
Celebrate the unity among the Catholic Church
Come Celebrate one Divine Liturgy In Catholic Church
Horace Greeley may or may not have said Go West Young Man, but I have no trouble at all saying, “Go East to the true source of our Spirit, Unity, and Beauty of Diversity. Come to the Eastern Catholic Church.” Amen.``