I was recently asked if there was a difference between the “Catholic Church” and the “Roman Catholic Church”. Are they the same thing? What is the correct name of our Church?

So I provided this simple answer (PDF version here).

The official name of our church is “Catholic Church”. But the Church has 23 different rites. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a rite as “The diverse liturgical traditions in which the one catholic and apostolic faith has come to be expressed and celebrated in various cultures and lands.”

As part of this one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Catholic Church there are twenty-three individual rites which are equally valid with different liturgical traditions with different forms of liturgy, often based on cultural and language differences, but all in union with the Bishop of Rome.

Those of us in the West, are mostly members of the Latin or Roman Rite, which is named the Roman Catholic Church. There are others rites with unique names within the Catholic Church: the Maronite Catholic Church , the Greek Catholic Church, the Melkite Catholic Church, etc.

Roman Catholic Church is not the name of the whole Church, only the name of the Roman rite of the Catholic Church.

So the official name of our universal Church is “Catholic Church”. Roman Catholic Church is the Roman rite within the larger Catholic Church. But all the various liturgical rites are one and in union with Rome.

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This is very different than the Orthodox churches of the East which are in schism from the Catholic Church, having broken their union with Rome in 1054 A.D. They broke with the Universal Catholic Church and took a new name—Orthodox Church(es). It should be remembered that there is no such thing as “the Orthodox Church”; rather, there are Orthodox churches that are divided up along national lines. So there is the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, etc. They are not in union with each other like the rites of the Catholic Church.

Here is the list of rites that are integral parts of the one, Holy, Catholic and apostolic Church:

For a more detailed history and explanation, click here.


This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Richard Pinion

    I was associated with Byzantine Catholic Mission in our area for several years. I have a deep love and respect for the Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine Catholic Church.


    The Eastern Churches are Unique … There is much more going on within their Liturgies.

    Roman Catholics should do themselves a favor and attend any Eastern Rite Liturgy in their area.

    Pope St. John Paul II encouraged That we do so.

    So, I am doing so.

    I have been to six Byzantine Rites. Of the others, I am only missing the Ethiopians & The Syro-Malankars.

    STEVE RAY HERE: I have also visited many of the Byzantine, Eastern Rite churches. I have visited many of them not only in the United States but around the world. I commend you for your benevolence and awareness of all of our Catholic brothers and sisters.

  3. Elaine west


    Is the wonderful color-coded chart, regarding the 23 rites, above available for purchase.

    Talk about diversity,

    Thank you for the wonderful info.

    STEVE RAY HERE: I found the chart on the Internet and don’t know if it’s available for purchase or not. Do a search on the Internet for “23 rites of the Catholic Church“ and you’ll find lots of different shirts. Diversity indeed!

  4. Elisa

    Thanks for this wonderful and informative post!
    From what I've read, 1054 was one in a series of events contributing to the split between East and West. Communication continued for awhile after 1054 before completely breaking down within 3 centuries. James Hitchcock's "History of the Catholic Church" has a chapter on it.

    I've visited and prayed in Serbian Orthodox Churches in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia. These were in major cities so a Catholic parish was nearby, depending where in the area, so I went there too.
    It's my ongoing prayer to Ss. Peter and Andrew for unity with East and West.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Thanks Elisa!

  5. ignacio

    Dear Steve – thank you! Praise the Lord! I didn’t know this was what the Lord wanted to say to me today but as soon as I saw this, His message was clear.

    Jesus Christ at the center. Unity.

    Peter as foundation and all recognize that there is an office not a dynasty

    Make disciples of all nations…. (it’s NOT the great suggestion)

  6. James

    The Uniates teach dogmas and venerate saints which contradict the Latin Church. The Latin popes don't care, all they wanted is submission and obedience to the papacy. The Latin Church has simplified everything down to this: do you submit to the Pope of Rome or not? They don't care if you teach false dogmas or venerate Orthodox saints, it's all about submission to Rome. This blind fanatical obedience is insane. There's only true unity within the true faith, and Rome no longer teaches the true faith.

    STEVE RAY HERE: I find here a lot of wild assertions without an ounce of proof or documentation. At Rome wants is submission? I find many people I love to make up damning assertions but seldom do they have proof.

  7. Tommy

    I’m confused how we get the count of 23. The colorful graphic doesn’t seem to match the list at the end of the post.

    1. Stan

      That’s because the article confuses liturgical rites and the Catholic churches of the east. There are 23 eastern Catholic churches, so there are a total of 24 Catholic Churches in the world. The Roman(Latin) Church practices the Roman Rite, the Dominican Rite, and a few others. Each of the eastern Catholic churches practice the given liturgical rite(s) proper to their church and their history. Most of the eastern Catholic churches practice the Byzantine Rite. Catholics do not belong to rites. They belong to churches. Most Catholics belong to the Roman Church. Some belong to the Ruthenian Church, the Ukrainian Church, or one of the other “eastern” Catholic Churches. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_particular_churches_and_liturgical_rites

  8. Sunny Thomas

    Hi John Rondina,

    There are many Malankara Catholic Parishes in the U.S. There is also a Malankara Catholic bishop for North America and he resides in Elmont, New York. You could watch their liturgy on You tube.
    Thanks for your interest.

  9. John Jamieson

    When I was in high school in the early sixties, before Vatican II, our sodality was invited to a Russian Rite mass. Very different. I would suggest to traditional Latin mass types who do not accept the novus ordo mass go to one of the eastern rite churches to appreciate that there is no one liturgy within the Catholic church.

  10. Danielle

    Maybe Novus Ordo “types” should visit an eastern rite church to appreciate that there is no one liturgy. It is the traditional Latin Mass that is being persecuted, not the other way around. Perhaps a visit to an eastern rite church would give Novus Ordo “types” more of an appreciation of tradition.

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