The Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches

One of the shortest decrees to emerge from Vatican II was the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches. This document gave Rome’s perspective on the six main Eastern Catholic churches: Chaldean, Syrian, Maronite, Coptic, Armenian, and Byzantine. It stated an ardent desire for reconciliation and clearly proclaimed the equality of the Eastern and Western traditions. It also dealt with the spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches, the Eastern patriarchs, sacraments, and divine worship. The Council Fathers stated that the Eastern Churches in union with Rome are autonomous in structure and, as such, have the right to rule their own affairs and to expand through missionary activity. The Eastern-rite bishops present at the Council proposed many items that became part of the legacy of Vatican II: liturgy in the vernacular; eucharistic concelebration; Communion under both species; the permanent diaconate; the establishment of the Synod of Bishops; and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. This document made clear that the Church is catholic in reality and not just in name.