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Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic churches (that are in communion with Rome but still maintain Eastern liturgies), and the denominations descended from the Church of the East.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 260 million baptised members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. Roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest surviving religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.
The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, refers to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, which includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of Rome with universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, as well as a sovereign entity of international law.
Christian liturgy is a pattern for worship used by a Christian congregation or denomination on a regular basis. Although the term liturgy is used to mean public worship in general, the Byzantine Rite uses the term "Divine Liturgy" to denote the Eucharistic service.
Eastern Christianity also includes Reformed Eastern churches such as the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church which follows a reformed West Syriac Rite and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church that uses the Byzantine Rite.Historically called the Eastern Church in contrast with the (Latin) Western Church (which uses the Latin liturgical rites). But since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, Eastern Christianity is used in contrast with Western Christianity, comprising both the said Latin Church as well as Protestantism and Independent Catholicism. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.
The West Syriac Rite or West Aramean Rite, also called Syro-Antiochian Rite, is an Eastern Christian liturgical rite that uses the Divine Liturgy of Saint James in the West Syriac dialect. It is one of two main liturgical rites of Syriac Christianity. It is chiefly practiced in the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and churches related to or descended from it. It is part of the liturgical family known as the Antiochian Rite, which originated in the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch. It has more anaphoras than any other rite.
The Ukrainian Lutheran Church, formerly called the Ukrainian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, is a Byzantine Rite Lutheran Church based in Ukraine. The Eastern Christian denomination consists of 25 congregations within Ukraine, serving over 2,500 members and runs Saint Sophia Ukrainian Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ternopil in Western Ukraine.
Byzantine Rite Lutheranism refers to Lutheran Churches, such as those of Ukraine and Slovenia, that use a form of the Byzantine Rite as their liturgy. It is unique in that it is based on the Eastern Christian rite used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, while incorporating theology from the Divine Service contained in the Formula Missae, the base texts for Lutheran liturgics in the West.
The terms "Eastern" and "Western" in this regard originated with geographical divisions in Christianity mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latin West, and the political divide between the Western and Eastern Roman empires. Because the largest church in the East is the body currently known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the term "Orthodox" is often used in a similar fashion to "Eastern", to refer to specific historical Christian communions. However, strictly speaking, most Christian denominations, whether Eastern or Western, consider themselves to be "orthodox" (following correct beliefs) as well as "catholic" (or "universal"), as two of the Four Marks of the Church listed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (325 AD): "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic" (Greek : μία, ἁγία, καθολικὴ καὶ ἀποστολικὴ ἐκκλησία).
Greek East and Latin West are terms used to distinguish between the two parts of the Greco-Roman world, specifically the eastern regions where Greek was the lingua franca and the western parts where Latin filled this role. During the Roman Empire a divide had persisted between Latin- and Greek-speaking areas; this divide was encouraged by administrative changes in the empire's structure between the 3rd and 5th centuries, which led ultimately to the establishment of separate administrations for the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire.
In historiography, the Western Roman Empire refers to the western provinces of the Roman Empire at any time during which they were administered by a separate independent Imperial court; in particular, this term is used to describe the period from 395 to 476, where there were separate coequal courts dividing the governance of the empire in the Western and the Eastern provinces, with a distinct imperial succession in the separate courts. The terms Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire are modern descriptions that describe political entities that were de facto independent; contemporary Romans did not consider the Empire to have been split into two separate empires but viewed it as a single polity governed by two separate imperial courts as an administrative expediency. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476, and the Western imperial court was formally dissolved in 480. The Eastern imperial court survived until 1453.
The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in Europe. "Byzantine Empire" is a term created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire, or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".
There are several liturgical rites in use among the Eastern churches (excepting the non-liturgical dissenting bodies). These are the Alexandrian Rite, the Armenian Rite, the Byzantine Rite, the East Syriac Rite (also known as Persian or Chaldean Rite), and the West Syriac Rite (also called Antiochian Rite).
The Alexandrian Rite is the liturgical rite used by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, as well as by the three corresponding Eastern Catholic Churches.
The Armenian Rite is an independent liturgy used by both the Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Catholic Churches. It is also the rite used by a significant number of Eastern Catholic Christians in Georgia.
The East Syriac Rite or East Syrian Rite, also called Assyrian Rite, Persian Rite, Chaldean Rite, or Syro-Oriental Rite, is an Eastern Christian liturgical rite that uses the East Syriac dialect as its liturgical language. It is one of two main liturgical rites of Syriac Christianity.
| Eastern Orthodoxy |
Dominant religion (more than 75%)
Dominant religion (50–75%)
Important minority religion (20–50%)
Important minority religion (5–20%)
Minority religion (1–5%)
| Oriental Orthodoxy |
Dominant religion (more than 75%)
Dominant religion (50–75%)
Important minority religion (20–50%)
Important minority religion (5–20%)
Minority religion (1–5%)
Eastern Christians do not share the same religious traditions, but do share many cultural traditions. Christianity divided itself in the East during its early centuries both within and outside of the Roman Empire in disputes about Christology and fundamental theology, as well as national divisions (Roman, Persian, etc.). It would be many centuries later that Western Christianity fully split from these traditions as its own communion. Major branches or families of Eastern Christianity, each of which has a distinct theology and dogma, include the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox communion, the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Assyrian Church of the East.
Christology, translated literally from Greek as "the word of Christ", is the study of the nature (person) and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus Christ's humanity and divinity, and the relation between these two natures; and the role he plays in salvation.
Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also deals with religious epistemology, asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.
Dogma is an official system of principles or doctrines of a religion, such as Roman Catholicism, or the positions of a philosopher or of a philosophical school such as Stoicism.
In many Eastern churches, some parish priests administer the sacrament of chrismation to infants after baptism, and priests are allowed to marry before ordination. While all the Eastern Catholic Churches recognize the authority of the Pope of Rome, some of them who have originally been part of the Orthodox Church or Oriental Orthodox churches closely follow the traditions of Orthodoxy or Oriental Orthodoxy, including the tradition of allowing married men to become priests.
Chrismation consists of the sacrament or mystery in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, as well as in the Assyrian Church of the East initiation rites. The sacrament is more commonly known in the West as confirmation, although Italian normally uses cresima ("chrismation") rather than confermazione ("confirmation").
Baptism is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.
The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the bishop of Rome and leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.
The Eastern churches' differences from Western Christianity have as much, if not more, to do with culture, language, and politics, as theology. For the non-Catholic Eastern churches, a definitive date for the commencement of schism cannot usually be given (see East–West Schism). The Church of the East declared independence from the churches of the Roman Empire at its general council in 424, which was before the Council of Ephesus in 431, and so had nothing to do with the theology declared at that council. Oriental Orthodoxy separated after the Council of Chalcedon in 451.
Since the time of the historian Edward Gibbon, the split between the Church of Rome and the Orthodox Church has been conveniently dated to 1054, though the reality is more complex. This split is sometimes referred to as the Great Schism, but now more usually referred to as the East–West Schism. This final schism reflected a larger cultural and political division which had developed in Europe and Southwest Asia during the Middle Ages and coincided with Western Europe's re-emergence from the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
The Ukrainian Lutheran Church developed within Galicia around 1926, with its rites being based on the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, rather than on the Western Formula Missae .
The Eastern Orthodox Church is a Christian body whose adherents are largely based in the Middle East (particularly Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine) and Turkey, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus (Georgia, Abkhazia, Ossetia etc.), with a growing presence in the western world. Eastern Orthodox Christians accept the decisions of the first seven ecumenical councils.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity identifies itself as the original Christian church (see early centers of Christianity) founded by Christ and the Apostles, and traces its lineage back to the early Church through the process of apostolic succession and unchanged theology and practice. Distinguishing characteristics of the Eastern Orthodox Church include the Byzantine Rite (shared with some Eastern Catholic Churches) and an emphasis on the continuation of Holy Tradition, which it holds to be apostolic in nature.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is organized into self-governing jurisdictions along geographical, national, ethnic or linguistic lines. Eastern Orthodoxy is thus made up of fourteen or sixteen autocephalous bodies. Smaller churches are autonomous and each have a mother church that is autocephalous.
All Eastern Orthodox are united in doctrinal agreement with each other, though a few are not in communion at present, for non-doctrinal reasons. This is in contrast to the Catholic Church and its various churches. Members of the latter are all in communion with each other, parts of a top-down hierarchy (see primus inter pares).
The Eastern Orthodox reject the Filioque clause as heresy, in sharp contrast with the majority of Catholics. Yet some Catholics who are not in communion with the Catholic Church side with the Eastern Orthodox here and reject this teaching, putting them in theological disagreement with the others.
It may also be noted that the Church of Rome was once in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church, but the two were split after the East–West Schism and thus it is no longer in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church.
It is estimated that there are approximately 240 million Eastern Orthodox Christians in the world.Today, many adherents shun the term "Eastern" as denying the church's universal character. They refer to Eastern Orthodoxy simply as the Orthodox Church.
Oriental Orthodoxy refers to the churches of Eastern Christian tradition that keep the faith of the first three ecumenical councils of the undivided Christian Church: the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325), the First Council of Constantinople (381) and the Council of Ephesus (431), while rejecting the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon (451). Hence, these churches are also called the Old Oriental churches. They comprise the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Jacobite Syrian Church of Antioch and the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Oriental Orthodoxy developed in reaction to Chalcedon on the eastern limit of the Byzantine Empire and in Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia. In those locations, there are also Eastern Orthodox patriarchs, but the rivalry between the two has largely vanished in the centuries since the schism.
The twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches are in communion with the Holy See at the Vatican despite being rooted in the theological and liturgical traditions of Eastern Christianity. These churches were originally part of the Orthodox East, but have since been reconciled to the Roman Church.
Many of these churches were originally part of one of the above families and so are closely related to them by way of ethos and liturgical practice. As in the other Eastern churches, married men may become priests, and parish priests administer the mystery of confirmation to newborn infants immediately after baptism, via the rite of chrismation; the infants are then administered Holy Communion.
The Syro-Malabar Church, which is part of the Saint Thomas Christian community in India, follows East Syriac traditions and liturgy. Other Saint Thomas Christians of India, who were originally of the same East Syriac tradition, passed instead to the West Syriac tradition and now form part of Oriental Orthodoxy (some from the Oriental Orthodox in India united with the Catholic Church in 1930 and became the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church). The Maronite Church also claims never to have been separated from Rome, and has no counterpart Orthodox Church out of communion with the Pope. It is therefore inaccurate to refer to it as a "Uniate" Church. The Italo-Albanian Catholic Church has also never been out of communion with Rome, but, unlike the Maronite Church, it resembles Orthodox Church's liturgical rite.
Historically, the Church of the East was the widest reaching branch of Eastern Christianity, at its height spreading from its heartland in Persian-ruled Assyria to the Mediterranean, India, and China. Originally the only Christian church recognized by Zoroastrian-led Sassanid Persia—through its alliance with the Lakhmids, the regional rivals to the Byzantines and its Ghassanid vassal—the Church of the East declared itself independent of other churches in 424 and over the next century became affiliated with Nestorianism, a Christological doctrine advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, which had been declared heretical in the Roman Empire. Thereafter it was often known, possibly inaccurately, as the Nestorian Church in the West. Surviving a period of persecution within Persia, the Church of the East flourished under the Abbasid Caliphate and branched out, establishing dioceses throughout Asia. After another period of expansion under the Mongol Empire, the church went into decline starting in the 14th century, and was eventually largely confined to its founding Assyrian adherent's heartland in the Assyrian homeland, although another remnant survived on the Malabar Coast of India.
In the 16th century, dynastic struggles sent the church into schism, resulting in the formation of two rival churches: The Chaldean Church, which entered into communion with Rome as an Eastern Catholic Church, and the Assyrian Church of the East. The followers of these two churches are almost exclusively ethnic Assyrians. In India, the local Church of the East community, known as the Saint Thomas Christians, experienced its own rifts as a result of Portuguese influence.
The Assyrian Church of the East emerged from the historical Church of the East, which was centered in Mesopotamia/Assyria, then part of the Persian Empire and spread widely throughout Asia. The modern Assyrian Church of the East emerged in the 16th century following a split with the Chaldean Church, which later entered into communion with Rome as an Eastern Catholic Church.
The Church of the East was associated with the doctrine of Nestorianism, advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 – 431, which emphasized the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus. Nestorius and his doctrine were condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431, leading to the Nestorian Schism in which churches supporting Nestorius split from the rest of Christianity.
Many followers relocated to Persia and became affiliated with the local Christian community there. This community adopted an increasingly Nestorian theology and was thereafter often known as the Nestorian Church. As such, the Church of the East accepts only the first two ecumenical councils of the undivided Church—the First Council of Nicaea and the First Council of Constantinople—as defining its faith tradition, and rapidly took a different course from other Eastern Christians.
The Church of the East spread widely through Persia and into Asia, being introduced to India by the 6th century and to the Mongols and China in the 7th century. It experienced periodic expansion until the 14th century, when the church was nearly destroyed by the collapse of the Mongol Empire and the conquests of Timur. By the 16th century it was largely confined to Iraq, northeast Syria, southeast Turkey, northwest Iran and the Malabar Coast of India (Kerala). The split of the 15th century, which saw the emergence of separate Assyrian and Chaldean Churches, left only the former as an independent sect. Further splits into the 20th century further affected the history of the Assyrian Church of the East.
The Saint Thomas Christians are an ancient body of Christians on the southwest coast of India who trace their origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.By the 5th century the Saint Thomas Christians were part of the Church of the East, or Nestorian Church. Until the middle of the 17th century and the arrival of the Portuguese, the Thomas Christians were all one in faith and rite. Thereafter, divisions arose among them, and consequently they are today of several different rites.
In addition to these four mainstream branches, there are a number of much smaller groups which originated from disputes with the dominant tradition of their original areas. Most of these are either part of the more traditional Old Believer movement, which arose from a schism within Russian Orthodoxy, or the more radical Spiritual Christianity movement. The latter includes a number of diverse "low-church" groups, from the Bible-centered Molokans to the anarchic Doukhobors to the self-mutilating Skoptsy. None of these groups are in communion with the mainstream churches listed above, aside from a few Old Believer parishes in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. There are also national dissidents, where ethnic groups want their own nation-church, such as the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church; both are domiciles of the Serbian Orthodox Church. There are also some Reformed Churches which share characteristics of Eastern Christianity, to varying extents.
Starting in the 1920s, parallel hierarchies formed in opposition to local Orthodox churches over ecumenism and other matters. These jurisdictions sometimes refer to themselves as being "True Orthodox". In Russia, underground churches formed and maintained solidarity with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia until the late 1970s. There are now traditionalist Orthodox in every area, though in Asia and the Middle East their presence is negligible.
Protestant Eastern Christianity comprises of a collection of reformed denominations which are mostly the result of Protestant Churches adopting reformed variants of Orthodox Christian liturgy and worship.Some others are the result of reformations of Orthodox Christian beliefs and practices, inspired by the teachings of Western Protestant missionaries. Denominations of this category include the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, Believers Eastern Church, Evangelical Orthodox Church, and etc.
Byzantine Rite Lutheranism arose in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church around 1926.It sprung up in the region of Galicia and its rites are based on the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The church suffered persecution under the Communist régime, which implemented a policy of state atheism.
Ecumenical dialogue since the 1964 meeting between Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I has awoken the nearly 1000-year hopes for Christian unity. Since the lifting of excommunications during the Paul VI and Athenagoras I meeting in Jerusalem there have been other significant meetings between Popes and Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople. One of the most recent meetings was between Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I, who jointly signed the Common Declaration. It states that "We give thanks to the Author of all that is good, who allows us once again, in prayer and in dialogue, to express the joy we feel as brothers and to renew our commitment to move towards full communion".
In 2013 Patriarch Bartholomew I attended the installation ceremony of the new Roman Catholic Pope, Francis, which was the first time any Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople had ever attended such an installation.
At a meeting in Balamand, Lebanon in June 1993, the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church declared that these initiatives that "led to the union of certain communities with the See of Rome and brought with them, as a consequence, the breaking of communion with their Mother Churches of the East … took place not without the interference of extra-ecclesial interests";and that what has been called "uniatism" "can no longer be accepted either as a method to be followed nor as a model of the unity our Churches are seeking" (section 12).
At the same time, the Commission stated:
There has been a significant Christian migration in the 20th century from the Near East. Fifteen hundred years ago Christians were the majority population in today's Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. In 1914 Christians constituted 25% of the population of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the 21st century Christians constituted 6–7 percent of the region’s population: less than 1% in Turkey, 3% in Iraq, 12% in Syria, 39% in Lebanon, 6% in Jordan, 2.5% in Israel/Palestine and 15–20% in Egypt.
As of 2011 Eastern Orthodox Christians are among the wealthiest Christians in the United States.They also tend to be better educated than most other religious groups in America, having a high number of graduate (68%) and post-graduate (28%) degrees per capita.
Christians especially Nestorian contributed to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the Ummayads and the Abbasids by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic.They also excelled in philosophy, science (such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, Qusta ibn Luqa, Masawaiyh, Patriarch Eutychius, Jabril ibn Bukhtishu etc.) and theology (such as Tatian, Bar Daisan, Babai the Great, Nestorius, Toma bar Yacoub etc.) and the personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were often Assyrian Christians such as the long serving Bukhtishu dynasty. Many scholars of the House of Wisdom were of Christian background.
A hospital and medical training center existed at Gundeshapur. The city of Gundeshapur was founded in AD 271 by the Sassanid king Shapur I. It was one of the major cities in Khuzestan province of the Persian empire in what is today Iran. A large percentage of the population was Syriacs, most of whom were Christians. Under the rule of Khusraw I, refuge was granted to Greek Nestorian Christian philosophers including the scholars of the Persian School of Edessa (Urfa), also called the Academy of Athens, a Christian theological and medical university. These scholars made their way to Gundeshapur in 529 following the closing of the academy by Emperor Justinian. They were engaged in medical sciences and initiated the first translation projects of medical texts.The arrival of these medical practitioners from Edessa marks the beginning of the hospital and medical center at Gundeshapur. It included a medical school and hospital (bimaristan), a pharmacology laboratory, a translation house, a library and an observatory. Indian doctors also contributed to the school at Gundeshapur, most notably the medical researcher Mankah. Later after Islamic invasion, the writings of Mankah and of the Indian doctor Sustura were translated into Arabic at Baghdad. Daud al-Antaki was one of the last generation of influential Arab Christian writers.
Arab Christians and Arabic-Speaking Christians especially Maronites played important roles in Al-Nahda, and because Arab Christians formed the educated upper and bourgeois classes, they have had a significant impact in politics, business and culture, and most important figures of the Al-Nahda movement were Christian Arabs.
Chalcedonian Christianity refers to the Christian denominations adhering to the christological definitions and ecclesiological resolutions of the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council held in 451. Chalcedonian Christians follow the Definition of Chalcedon, a religious doctrine concerning the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. The great majority of Christian communions and confessions in the 21st century are Chalcedonian, but from the 5th to the 8th centuries the ascendancy of Chalcedonian Christology was not always certain.
Full communion is a communion or relationship of full understanding among different Christian denominations that share certain essential principles of Christian theology. Views vary among denominations on exactly what constitutes full communion, but typically when two or more denominations are in full communion it enables services and celebrations, such as the Eucharist, to be shared among congregants or clergy of any of them with the full approval of each.
The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian autonomous particular churches in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. They are united with one another and with the Latin or Roman Church. In particular, they recognize the central role of the Bishop of Rome within the College of Bishops and his infallibility when speaking ex cathedra. The majority of the Eastern Catholic Churches are groups from the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, and the historic Church of the East that have returned to communion with the Bishop of Rome, either due to theological concerns or due to understanding the role of the Bishop of Rome as head of church. As such the five liturgical traditions of the twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches, including the Alexandrian Rite, the Armenian Rite, the Byzantine Rite, the East Syriac Rite, and the West Syriac Rite, are shared with other Eastern Christian churches. Consequently, the Catholic Church consists of six liturgical rites; including the aforementioned five liturgical traditions of the Eastern Catholic Churches along with the Latin liturgical rites of the Latin Church.
The Syriac Orthodox Church, or Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church established by Severus of Antioch in Antioch in 518 A.D., influenced by Jacob Baradaeus, while tracing its history to Antioch by Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the 1st century, according to its tradition. The Church uses the Divine Liturgy of Saint James, associated with Saint James, the "brother" of Jesus and patriarch among the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem. Syriac is the official and liturgical language of the Church based on Syriac Christianity. The primate of the church is the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch currently Ignatius Aphrem II since 2014, seated in the Cathedral of Saint George, Bab Tuma, Damascus, Syria.
The Assyrian Church of the East, officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, is an Eastern Christian Church that follows the traditional christology and ecclesiology of the historical Church of the East. It belongs to the eastern branch of Syriac Christianity, and uses the Divine Liturgy of Saints Mar Addai and Mar Mari belonging to the East Syrian Rite liturgy. Its main spoken language is Syriac, a dialect of Eastern Aramaic, and the majority of its adherents are ethnic Assyrians.
A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. The Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy, meaning the large majority, all self-describe as churches, whereas many Protestant denominations self-describe as congregations or fellowships. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, ecclesiology, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.
Catholicos, plural Catholicoi, is a title used for the head of certain churches in some Eastern Christian traditions. The title implies autocephaly and in some cases it is the title of the head of an autonomous church. The word comes from ancient Greek καθολικός, pl. καθολικοί, derived from καθ' ὅλου from κατά and ὅλος, meaning "concerning the whole, universal, general"; it originally designated a financial or civil office in the Roman Empire. The name of the Catholic Church comes from the same word - however, the title "Catholicos" does not exist in its hierarchy.
Syriac Christianity is the form of Eastern Christianity whose formative theological writings and traditional liturgy are expressed in the Syriac language. Syriac Christianity consists of two liturgical rites, the East Syriac Rite and the West Syriac Rite. The main Anaphora of the East Syriac tradition is the Holy Qurbana of Saints Addai and Mari, while that of the West Syriac tradition is the Divine Liturgy of Saint James. Along with Latin and Greek, Syriac became one of "the three most important Christian languages in the early centuries" of the Common Era.
Nicene Christianity is a set of Christian doctrinal traditions which reflect the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and amended at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381.
The Holy Qurbana or Holy Qurbono, refers to the Eucharist as celebrated in Syriac Christianity. This includes various Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. Syriac Christianity consists of two liturgical rites, the East Syriac Rite and the West Syriac Rite. The main Anaphora of the East Syriac tradition is the Holy Qurbana of Saints Addai and Mari, while that of the West Syriac tradition is the Divine Liturgy of Saint James.
The Chaldean Syrian Church of India is an Eastern Christian Church based in Thrissur, India. It is an archbishopric of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and is in full communion with Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Gewargis III.
Antiochene Rite or Antiochian Rite designates the family of liturgies originally used in the Patriarchate of Antioch.
Christians in Syria make up about 10% of the population. The country's largest Christian denomination is the Eastern Orthodox Church of Antioch, closely followed by the Melkite Catholic Church, one of the Eastern Catholic Churches, which has a common root with the Eastern Orthodox Church of Antioch, and then by an Oriental Orthodoxy churches like Syriac Orthodox Church and Armenian Apostolic Church. There are also a minority of Protestants and members of the Assyrian Church of the East and Chaldean Catholic Church. The city of Aleppo is believed to have the largest number of Christians in Syria. In the late Ottoman rule, a large percentage of Syrian Christians emigrated from Syria, especially after the bloody chain of events that targeted Christians in particular in 1840, the 1860 massacre, and the Assyrian genocide. According to historian Philip Hitti, approximately 900,000 Syrians arrived in the United States between 1899 and 1919. The Syrians referred include historical Syria or the Levant encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
The term Protestant Eastern Christianity encompasses a range of heterogeneous Protestant Christian denominations that developed outside of the Occident from the latter half of the nineteenth century and keeps some or most of all elements of Eastern Christianity. Most of these denominations came into being when existing Protestant Churches adopted Protestant reformed variants of Orthodox Christian liturgy and worship; while others are the result of reformations of Orthodox Christian beliefs and practices, inspired by the teachings of Western Protestant missionaries. Some Protestant Eastern Churches are in communion with similar Western Protestant Churches. However, Protestant Eastern Christianity within itself, does not constitute a single communion. This is due to the diverse polities, practices, liturgies and orientations of the denominations which fall under this category.
Christianity has been, historically a Middle Eastern religion with its origin in Judaism. Eastern Christianity refers collectively to the Christian traditions and churches which developed in the Middle East, Egypt, Asia Minor, the Far East, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Northeastern Africa and southern India over several centuries of religious antiquity. It is contrasted with Western Christianity which developed in Western Europe. As a historical definition the term relates to the earliest Christian communities and their long standing traditions that still exist.
The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a group of Christian churches adhering to miaphysite Christology and theology, and together have 60 to 70 million members worldwide. As some of the oldest religious institutions in the world, the Oriental Orthodox Churches have played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian body of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, and its doctrines can be summarized in that the churches recognize the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Catholic Church:
Since Eastern Christianity is difficult to define, or even to describe, the subject parameters of the proposed works will be somewhat open-ended.
It is interesting to note, however, that the Nicene Creed, recited by Roman Catholics in their worship, is also accepted by millions of other Christians as a testimony of their faith — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and members of many of the Reformed Churches.
A revised Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is also celebrated in Ukraine by members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. This Church was organized originally in 1926 in the “Galicia” region of Ukraine, which was at that time under the government of Poland. The liturgical rites used by the Ukrainian Lutherans reflected their Byzantine tradition. They did not use a Lutheran revision of the Latin Mass in their services, but instead they used a Lutheran revision of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
In the Byzantine world, however, this pattern of worship would not be informed by the liturgical history of the Latin church, as with the Reformation-era church orders, but by the liturgical history of the Byzantine church. (This was in fact what occurred with the Ukrainian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, which published in its 1933 Ukrainian Evangelical Service Book the first ever Lutheran liturgical order derived from the historic Eastern Rite.)