What can you tell me about the Byzantine rite of the Catholic Church?

By November 4, 2014 7 Comments

Full Question

What can you tell me about the so-called Byzantine rite of the Catholic Church? Are they in union with the pope? I have my doubts after hearing that their infants receive a sacrament called “Chrismation.”


The Byzantine rite is one of several Eastern rites recognized by and in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. Its origin can be traced to the ancient city of Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul), renamed Constantinople when the emperor Constantine relocated his capital city there from Rome in A.D. 330.
Although in full communion with the Church in the West, the Byzantine rite retains distinctive features. Byzantine churches are beautifully adorned with icons, and the sanctuary is separated from the congregation by an iconostasis, a screen covered with icons. Leavened bread is used for the consecration of the body of Christ in the liturgy (not called the “Mass” in Eastern rites), which is either the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or that of St. Basil the Great. Communion is received under both kinds and administered by the priest from a spoon.
Byzantine Catholics operate under a different code of canon law. They also celebrate a somewhat different liturgical year with some unique feasts and saints. In addition to Lenten fasting prior to Easter, they also fast before Christmas, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Assumption.
Chrismation is simply another term for the sacrament we know as Confirmation. Following ancient custom, it is administered in the East to infants at the time of their baptism, along with the Eucharist.
Latin-rite Catholics are often surprised when attending a Byzantine liturgy (which you are free to do at any time and which does fulfill your obligation to attend Mass) to find more prayers for the pope than in the Latin liturgy.


  • Peter R says:

    If you have not been to a Byzantine rite, I highly recommend it. I cannot stand the smell of incense, and the 2+ hour rite was one huge smoke pit. Furthermore, it is an exercise (and I mean exercise) in dancing around and chanting. For me, I was terribly bored, had a difficult time breathing, and just did not feel the love of Christ that I feel in the Roman Catholic Mass. To each her own. It was not for me.

  • gilad says:

    If you are not one of there Kind you are not welcomed! They are unfriendly, uncharitable, and lack hospitality! I mean if you are not Ethnically one of them they make you feel unwelcomed! Just like the Eastern Orthodox churchs!

  • Paul says:

    These responses above I feel lack great charity and regard for the Eucharist. “Boring” means lack of prayer. To be worried about how others great means to miss the mark of how Christ greets you. Incense has an important purpose in all liturgy, and I wish we would bring it back in the West. It is beautiful, and the smell with sightliness signifies prayers going up to Heaven. If I worry about length on a Sunday then my mind is not in the liturgy, for there is never enough time for liturgy. Further, there is no dancing in the Byzantine liturgies.

    • Rema says:

      Thanks for clarifying the misinformation that was presented in other comments. I find the Byzantine Liturgy beautiful and I have learned so much about my faith by worshipping there. Readers should give it a try. Also the Byzantine Rite has several distinct traditions like the Melkite (Lebanon) and the Carpatho-Ruthenian (Slavic).

  • Rema says:

    I regularly attend the Byzantine Church, The liturgy is so beautiful and reverent. The congregation participants in the chanting of the responsorial prayers throughout the liturgy. I have not found the incense to be overwhelming and the liturgy lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The exception is if there is a Baptism, a Procession or special day. I have found the people to be welcoming and accepting. The people work hard for their Church and their life revolves around their Byzantine Life.

  • Ayuka Joseph says:

    Catholic Church is Catholic church. Christ Himself is the Head. Praise be God

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