The Six Patriarchates and 22 Churches of The Catholic Church
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught that the primary subsistence (manifestation) ofthe Church of Christ is in the Catholic Church. This Church is made up of the Roman or Latin Rite Church, which also includes the Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites, and the 21 Eastern Rite Churches which are in union with the Holy See.
The three elements that make these Churches Catholic are:
1. One Faith Handed down By the Apostles (All have the same Creed)
2. Seven Mysteries (All have the same Sacraments)
3. Unity with the Shepherd/Bishop of Rome (All are under the Holy Father, the Pope of Rome)
The MARONITE Church, as one of these twenty-one churches, is one of the oldest traditions of the Catholic Church. Many people when speaking of the Catholic Church are referring to the Roman or Latin Rite of the Western branch of the Catholic Church. However, the Church is not the same as a rite. Within the Catholic Church, there are twenty-two autonomous churches, which evolved from Jerusalem and developed through one of the six major centers of Christianity call Patriarchates.
Each of the twenty-two Catholic Churches has four elements that make them unique Catholic traditions.
1. Liturgy - the public prayer life and activity for accomplishing God's work of divinization.
2. Theology - the study of the relationship between God and human beings in human language.
3. Spirituality - the way of life expressed in words and deeds reflecting awareness of God.
4. Law - the guidelines for good order in church life and harmony among its members.
What is a RITE: It is a universal community of faith founded on or by an apostle and has its own patriarch, bishops and clergy having unique spiritual and cultural traditions and way of life which has converted an entire people to Jesus Christ. Therefore, applying the preceding definitions, the Maronite Church is a universal community of faith of the Antiochene-Edessan-Monastic tradition, founded by Peter and developed by Maron and his disciples, which is guided by its Patriarch and bishops, who are shepherding peoples of many different nations and cultures in the teachings of Jesus Christ