Eastern Catholic Churches  

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The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous, self-governing (in Latin, sui iuris) particular churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome—the Pope. Along with the Latin Rite, together they compose the worldwide Catholic Church. They preserve some centuries-old eastern liturgical, devotional and theological traditions, shared in most cases with the various Eastern Christian churches they were once associated with, while a few have never been out of communion with the Pope, a claim made, for instance, by the Maronites. Although the churches most of them were formerly associated with are not all in communion with one another, the Eastern Catholic churches of whatever tradition are all in communion with each other and with the Latin or Western church. However, they vary in theological emphasis, forms of liturgical worship and popular piety, canonical discipline and terminology. They all recognize the central role of the Bishop of Rome within the College of Bishops and his infallibility when speaking ex cathedra. The communion of the members of these churches with the Church of Rome means that they are out of communion with the other Eastern Christian churches, which in general do not admit them to receive the Eucharist and the other sacraments.

Most Eastern Catholic churches thus have counterparts in other Eastern churches, whether Assyrian or Oriental Orthodox, from whom they are separated by a number of theological concerns, or the Eastern Orthodox churches, from whom they are separated by differences primarily in understanding the role of the Bishop of Rome in the church.

The Eastern Catholic Churches were located historically in Eastern Europe, the Asian Middle East, Northern Africa and India, but are now, because of migration, found also in Western Europe, the Americas and Oceania to the extent of forming full-scale ecclesiastical structures such as eparchies, alongside the Latin dioceses. One country, Eritrea, has only an Eastern Catholic hierarchy, with no Latin structure.

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