Difference between Byzantine Catholic and Roman Catholic Church

December 21, 2015 by Editorial Team

The motto of the Catholic Church is “The faith is the same, but we express it differently.” In the following article we will take a closer look at the differences between the two branches of the Catholic Church – the Byzantine Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Definitions

Byzantine Catholic vs Roman Catholic Church
St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church in Columbus, Ohio

The Greek Byzantine Catholic Church is in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The Byzantine Catholic Church performs the Byzantine liturgy in the Greek language. The Byzantine rite, also known as the Rite of Constantinople, includes a number of divine liturgies and praying that are different from the Roman rite.

Byzantine Catholics include people of following ancestry: Albanian, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Hungarian, Italo-Albanian, Macedonian, Milkite (Middle Eastern), Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian and many others.

Roman Catholic Church
Pope Francis, elected in the papal conclave, 2013

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious institution among the Christian Churches. Its role is significant in the history of the Western world, the development of its institutions and cultural tendencies. The head of the Roman Catholic Church is the Pope. The current Pope is Francis, who succeeded Benedict in 2013.

Roman Catholic Map World
Roman Catholic Map World

Comparison chart

Byzantine CatholicRoman Catholic
The Priest faces East, along with the peopleThe Priest faces people across the altar
The Sign of the Cross is performed many timesThe Sign of the Cross is performed sparingly
The hymns during liturgies are sung a capella, no instruments usedMusic instruments are used during liturgies
Icons are the worshipping symbolsStatues are the worshipping symbols
In the United States, liturgy is performed in English and SlavonicLiturgy is performed in English and Latin
Prefers things that are received from ancestorsUses up-to-date buildings and services (depends what country you are in – see note below)
Prayers are repeated and involve both body and mindThe prayers are performed in simple, not repetitive manner
The religious thinking is more poetic and symbolicThe religious thinking is more linear
Jesus Christ is inspiring as a Divine being, but also he is humanJesus Christ is human, but also a Divine
Mari is the mother of God in the first placeMary is seen as Virgin and Mother
Bishops alongside with the Pope guarantee the Unity of the ChurchThe Pope is the head of the Church

Byzantine Catholic vs Roman Catholic

What is the difference between Byzantine Catholic and Roman Catholic?

  • During the Byzantine Catholic liturgy the Priest faces East along with people in the Church. This set-up signifies that people are gathering around the Lord’s table, here and now. During the Roman Catholic liturgy, on the other hand, the Priest normally faces people in the church across the altar. This disposition signifies that the Priest is leading the people to the Heavenly Liturgy in God’s Kingdom.
  • During the Byzantine Catholic liturgy, a ritual hand motion signifying the Cross is performed many times to acknowledge God’s blessings and confirm the Faith of Byzantine Catholics. During the Roman Catholic liturgy, on the other hand, The Sign of the Cross is performed sparingly.
  • The hymns to God are performed in a different fashion in the Byzantine Catholic Church and Roman Catholic Church. Byzantine liturgical tradition is about praising and addressing God with one’s own devices. This is why Byzantine Catholics sing prayers a capella, without using any musical instruments. In the Roman Catholic Church tradition, on the other hand, the organ is used as the principal musical instrument for solemn liturgical ceremonies. The type of organ ideally should be the classic pipe organ. Some other musical instruments, such as bells, are also used, and in modern services, guitars are even used.
  • In the Byzantine Catholic tradition, icons are used as symbols. The Greek tradition is rich in terms of painting a wide variety of icons, at times performed at the highest artistic level. Some prominent painters contributed to icons that are placed in the Byzantine Cathedrals. In Roman Catholic tradition, on the other hand, statues are used as symbols for worshipping God.
Virgin Mary
Statue of the Virgin Mary at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Presbytery in Junee.
  • In the United States, the liturgy in the Byzantine Catholic Church is performed in English. The canonic translation was done from Slavonic in the 1950s. Some hymns and seasonal greetings are still performed in Slavonic. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, used Latin throughout the world as the language of liturgy until the Vatican 2 ecumenical council, held between 1962-1965, after which it became common to use the vernacular (local language) in masses.
iconostasis
An iconostasis separates the sanctuary from the nave in Byzantine Rite churches.
  • The Byzantine Catholic Church tends to utilize services and church buildings inherited from ancestors. The Church buildings are usually based on timeless models. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, prefers things that are up-to-date. Church buildings and services reflect modern culture.
  • Religious thinking is more poetic and symbolic in the tradition of the Byzantine Catholic Church. Byzantine Catholics think about their religion in a more paradoxical way than Roman Catholics do. The latter have an inclination to a more linear and analytical manner of religious thinking that gives maximum philosophical clarity.
  • For Byzantine Catholics, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ are inspirational as the projection of his divine nature in the first place, and his human endeavors in the second place. For Roman Catholics, on the other hand, the actual life of Jesus Christ is in focus. His humanity invites people.
  • For Byzantine Catholics, Mary is the mother of God because Jesus Christ is God. Roman Catholics see Mary primarily as the Mother who shared her earthly life with Jesus Christ.
  • In the Byzantine Catholics Church Bishops share the responsibilities for the Unity of the Church alongside with the Pope. In the Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, the Pope is the one and the only guarantor of the Unity of the Church.