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Ask Fr. Francis: Maronite, Coptic, etc., are these legit for Roman Catholics?

The following is an excerpt from askfrfrancis.org. Fr. Francis Ching, CC answers tough questions about the Catholic faith.

Fr. Francis Ching PortraitQuestion:

What are the various Catholic churches with names like Maronite, Coptic, and Slovak Catholic Church. In the Nicene Creed, "I believe one holy catholic and apostolic church", so are churches just like CMCC serving the ethnic groups? Are these churches legit for Roman Catholics? How about Eastern Orthodox?

Fr. Francis' answer: 

Within the family of the Catholic Church, there are currently 25 different “rites”, and the “Roman” Catholic, or the “Latin” rite, is only one of them. All of these are united under one Pope, who happens to be of the Latin rite.

The proper distinction is therefore not different “churches”, but different “rites”.

The word “rite” refers to the ritual and liturgies. We have to remember that in the early Church, they did not have email or telephone, and communication and transportation were often disrupted for long periods of time due to wars and unrest. The early Church also did not already have a standardized way to celebrate Mass or perform baptism etc. In fact, they often had to start from bits and pieces. As a result, different locale would have to develop their own custom of worship, sacraments and prayer, using their own local languages and culture. In the East especially, since most of the early Church thinkers were from that area, each local community would typically embrace the liturgy developed by their heroes. So the Coptics Egyptians would embrace St. Athanasius’ liturgy, while the Greeks would embrace St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom, the Melkite and Maronite would have their own. Those evangelized in Kerala, India by St. Thomas, being so far away, would develop something quite distinct. As well, each distinct locale would also use their own language and expression, their own way to celebrate and their music.

“If you get a chance, visit your local Greek Catholic or Maronite Catholic Church and participate in their Sunday liturgy. You will quickly notice how different it is, but at the same time how similar. The rituals are different, but it is the same liturgy: same structure, same contents, same Church, same Pope.”

As you probably have figured out now, we Roman Catholics are free to share in the liturgies and sacraments of the Catholics of other rites...

Read the full answer here!

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