The Catholic Church is a communion of churches, consisting of churches from the Eastern Tradition
and the Western Tradition. The Western tradition is also known as the Roman Catholics or the Roman rite.
The Eastern churches, often called the Eastern rites, help to complete the fullness of the Catholic Church,
historically and theologically. The churches are in full communion with each other and are distinct from
Orthodox Churches, which are not in full communion with the Universal Catholic Church. A 'Rite' is a
liturgical tradition that describes the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist and other
Mysteries (sacraments), and the general spiritual life of the Church. It is important to recognize that
many Orthodox Churches celebrate the Byzantine Rite of spirituality. All Byzantine Catholics follow the
Byzantine Rite; however, not all followers of the Byzantine Rite are Byzantine Catholic; nor are all
followers of the Byzantine Rite in full communion with the Universal Catholic Church.
Byzantine Catholics are in union with Rome. We share the same basic faith and the same sacraments;
however, the way of expressing them differs. The Byzantine church is one of many Eastern churches,
each with their own heritage of theology, liturgy and discipline developed with their own respective
languages and ecclesiastical organizations.
Blessed John Paul II has said, "The church must learn to breathe again with its two lungs, its Eastern
one and its Western one."
In his homily at the Divine Liturgy commemorating the 350th Anniversary of the Union of Uzhorod on
October 27, 1996, Pope John Paul II spoke with understanding and deep affection for the Byzantine Catholic
Ruthenian Church. Following are excerpts from that homily.
"It is with immense joy that I welcome you, the Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay faithful
of the Byzantine Catholic Ruthenian Church. You are the heirs of the evangelizing work of Sts. Cyril and
Methodius, the Apostles of the Slavs, and at the same time heirs of the act of ecclesiastical union
celebrated 350 years ago in the chapel of the Castle of Uzhorod, in Transcarpathian Ukraine, which was
then in the Kingdom of Hungary. "That was an act of profound faith and trust ... leading, under the impulse
of the divine Spirit, to new heights of fidelity to Christ and new efforts in the building up of his Body,
which is the Church (cf. Col 1:24). "You have paid dearly for this union. In fact, you have never been
without the experience of the Cross. Yet, as it was for St. Paul whose words we have just heard, this
is your boast: 'Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Gal 6:14).
"From the way in which the Ruthenian faithful have remained steadfast in the face of successive trials
and tribulations, the light of Christ has shone ever more brightly on your people, your families and
communities in Eastern Europe and in the New World. I am deeply moved to think that you are here today
with the Bishop of Rome, in communion of spirit with your martyrs, to give thanks for the new opportunities
now opening up before you... "Dear brothers and sisters: your spiritual identity is intimately connected
with the search for the unity of all Christians. Your special vocation is to work through love for the
fulfillment of the ardent prayer which the Lord Jesus Christ himself uttered on the eve of his Passover
of suffering and glory: 'that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you ... so
that the world may believe that you have sent me' (Jn 17:21). "This you do above all in your dealings
with your Eastern brethren, 'first of all by prayer, then by the example of your lives, by scrupulous
fidelity to the ancient traditions of the East, by better knowledge of each other, by working together,
and by a brotherly attitude towards persons and things' (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, n. 24). In this search,
your guide and comfort will be the Most Holy Theotokos whom you venerate with tender devotion in the
Liturgy... "May you who have suffered dearly for the faith put your whole trust in divine Providence which
has always guided your steps and will not fail you as you face the great challenges ahead. 'Peace and mercy
be upon you all!' (cf. Gal 6:16). "Amen."