Often referred to as the Eastern Catholic Church, the Uniata is composed of numerous minor rites and churches. The Uniate Churches are self-governing autonomous churches, but they still belong to the Roman Catholic faith. These eastern churches also recognize the Holy See (the papal church in the Vatican as its mother church, although the unified churches have their canonical, liturgical and spiritual traditions.
ThCentury saw the beginning of the development of the eastern churches. Two Ukrainian Orthodox bishops of the Brest-Litovsk Union in 1596 established a union with the Vatican that recognizes papal primacy. Encouraged by this support, other independent Eastern Churches soon followed suit. Among these were the Melkites in 1724, the Ruthenians in 1592, the Chaldeans in 1681 and the Romanian Greek Catholic Church in 1698.
Today, the Uniate Churches count among their members around 20 million members. These can be divided into Byzantine, Armenian, Alexandrian, Chaldean and Antiochene families which form its five main churches. A patriarch is responsible for every member church. and on its own group of bishops, clergy and congregations. The Congregation for the Eastern Churches counts all the Patriarchs as members and is responsible for the communication of the Vatican with the Uniate Churches. The Ukrainian Catholic Church with about 5 million members, and is the largest in the union of the Uniate Churches. It was formed in 1596. The Maronites of Lebanon is also one of the largest group members and established its ties with the Vatican in the 12 thCentury. In 1700, the Habsburgs authorized the formation of the Romanian Church of Eastern rite.
The particular churches of 23 of the Uniate follow their own similar liturgies, which derive from different traditions that are synonymous with the respective Armenian, Antiochian, Alexandrian, Eastern Syrian and Byzantine rites. Although these churches are still under the juridical power of the papal seat, in essence the Uniata is managed by the Congregation for Eastern Churches which maintains communication between the Eastern Churches and the Vatican. The Pope appoints the members of the congregation for a period of five years. This congregation is led by the Cardinal Prefect, with 27 cardinal members, four bishops, an archbishop and the prefect’s secretary. The Eastern Churches are also represented in the congregation by its patriarchs. THE’
The year 1054 was the year of the great schism of the Catholic Church, which created the rift that led to the separation of the Eastern Orthodox Church from the Catholic Church, although there were already profound differences that eventually led to the 1054 event. Among these differences there was the use of leavened or unleavened bread in the Eucharist. Another was the universal claim of the Vatican to the general jurisdiction that replaced all the Catholic Churches.
The year 1053 saw the beginning of the Great Schism when Michele I Cerulario, who was then the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered the closure of all the Latin churches of the city. This was in direct response to the closure of all the Greek Churches in southern Italy by order of the Roman Church. The Vatican then sent a papal constitution to Constantinople which would have removed the title of Michele I Cerulario if it had not recognized the authority of Pope Leo IX. Cerulario refused, and the Great Schism occurred, and since then the two bodies have remained separate. The Eastern Orthodox Church eventually lost some of its member churches that they defected, and many of these and their derivatives later formed the Uniate Churches along with other independent Eastern Christian churches.