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This article is about Catholic ecclesial communities. For local churches in other Christian denominations, see local church.
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In Catholic canon law, a particular Church (Latin: ecclesia particularis) is an ecclesiastical community headed by a bishop or someone recognised as the equivalent of a bishop.

There are two kinds of particular Churches:

  • Local particular Churches . A diocese is the most familiar form of such local particular Churches, but there are other forms, including that of a territorial abbacy, an apostolic vicariate and an apostolic prefecture:

    Particular Churches, in which and from which the one and only Catholic Church exists, are principally dioceses. Unless the contrary is clear, the following are equivalent to a diocese: a territorial prelature, a territorial abbacy, a vicariate apostolic, a prefecture apostolic and a permanently established apostolic administration.

    — Canon 368[1]
  • Autonomous particular Churches, also known as "sui iuris Churches". These are aggregations of local particular Churches that share a specific liturgical, theological and canonical tradition. They have also been called "particular Churches or rites".[2] The largest such autonomous particular Church is the Latin Church. The others are referred to collectively as the Eastern Catholic Churches. The larger Eastern Catholic Churches are headed by a bishop who has the title and rank of patriarch or major archbishop.

Autonomous particular Churches[edit]

There are 24 such autonomous Churches; one "Western" and 23 "Eastern", a distinction by now more historical than geographical. The term sui iuris means, literally, "of their own law", or self-governing. Although all of the particular Churches espouse the same beliefs and faith, their distinction lies in their varied expression of that faith through their traditions, disciplines, and Canon law. All 24 are in communion with the Holy See.

For this kind of "particular Church" the 1983 Code of Canon Law uses the unambiguous phrase "autonomous ritual Church" (in Latin Ecclesia ritualis sui iuris). The 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which is instead concerned principally with what the Second Vatican Council called "particular Churches or rites", has shortened this phrase to "autonomous Church" (in Latin, Ecclesia sui iuris), as in its canon 27: "A group of Christ’s faithful hierarchically linked in accordance with law and given express or tacit recognition by the supreme authority of the Church is in this Code called an autonomous Church."

Communion between particular Churches has existed since the Apostles: "Among these manifold particular expressions of the saving presence of the one Church of Christ, there are to be found, from the times of the Apostles on, those entities which are in themselves Churches, because, although they are particular, the universal Church becomes present in them with all its essential elements."[3]

Local particular Churches[edit]

In Catholic teaching, each diocese (Latin Church term) or eparchy (Eastern term) is also a local or particular Church, though it lacks the autonomy of the particular Churches described above: "A diocese is a section of the People of God entrusted to a bishop to be guided by him with the assistance of his clergy so that, loyal to its pastor and formed by him into one community in the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and the Eucharist, it constitutes one particular church in which the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active."[4]

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, which is concerned with the Latin Church alone and so with only one autonomous particular Church, uses the term "particular Church" only in the sense of "local Church", as in its canon 373: "It is within the competence of the supreme authority alone to establish particular Churches; once they are lawfully established, the law itself gives them juridical personality."[5]

The standard form of these local or particular Churches, each of which is headed by a bishop, is called a diocese in the Latin Church and an eparchy in the Eastern Churches. At the end of 2011, the total number of all these jurisdictional areas (or "sees") was 2,834.[6]

Theological significance[edit]

Unlike "families" or "federations" of Churches formed through the grant of mutual recognition by distinct ecclesial bodies,[7] the Catholic Church considers itself a single Church ("one Body") composed of a multitude of particular Churches, each of which, as stated, is an embodiment of the fullness of the one Catholic Church. For the particular Churches within the Catholic Church, whether autonomous ritual Churches (e.g., Coptic Catholic Church, Melkite Catholic Church, Armenian Catholic Church, etc.) or dioceses (e.g., Archdiocese of Birmingham, Archdiocese of Chicago, etc.), are seen as not simply branches, divisions or sections of a larger body. Theologically, each is considered to be the embodiment in a particular place or for a particular community of the one, whole Catholic Church. "It is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists."[8][9]

The local particular Church of Rome[edit]

The Holy See of Rome is seen as the central local Church. Its bishop, the Pope, is considered to be, in a unique sense, the successor of Saint Peter, the chief (or "prince") of the Apostles. Quoting the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen gentium, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, 'is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.'"[10]

All the particular Catholic Churches – eastern or western, autonomous (rites) or local (dioceses or eparchies) – are by definition in full communion with the see or local particular Church of Rome.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 368
  2. ^ Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2
  3. ^ Communionis Notio, 7)
  4. ^ Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus,11
  5. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 373
  6. ^ Central Statistics Office (March 2012). Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. p. 1142. ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0. 
  7. ^ Also unlike the situation of those countries within the Commonwealth that consider the British monarch to be their head of state, but are nonetheless fully independent and quite distinct states, not just one state.
  8. ^ Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Decree on the Church Lumen gentium, 23
  9. ^ "The particular Churches, insofar as they are 'part of the one Church of Christ' (Second Vatican Council: Decree Christus Dominus, 6/c), have a special relationship of mutual interiority with the whole, that is, with the universal Church, because in every particular Church 'the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active' (Second Vatican Council: Decree Christus Dominus, 11/a). For this reason, the universal Church cannot be conceived as the sum of the particular Churches, or as a federation of particular Churches. It is not the result of the communion of the Churches, but, in its essential mystery, it is a reality ontologically and temporally prior to every individual particular Church" (Communionis notio, 9).
  10. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 882

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particular_Church — Please support Wikipedia.
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1412 news items

Salina Journal
Sun, 04 Oct 2015 01:03:45 -0700

... founding of our country. For a few unelected judges today to say it is unconstitutional what the writers of the Constitution promoted, it is a farce. It's not a particular church we're talking about. We're talking about the biblical authority, the ...

The Queensland Times

The Queensland Times
Fri, 02 Oct 2015 13:03:45 -0700

My mother was still an active member of the Lutheran Church of Australia, which she was when she was in Marburg, but she hadn't worshipped at that particular church in that particular congregation for probably 15 years." Ipswich Queensland Times. church.

National Catholic Reporter

National Catholic Reporter
Sat, 03 Oct 2015 04:15:00 -0700

"Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church?" "What knowledge do Christians have today of the teachings of Humanae Vitae on responsible parenthood? … Is this moral teaching accepted?" "What questions do divorced and ...
Crux: Covering all things Catholic
Sun, 27 Sep 2015 18:41:15 -0700

Q. I am having a hard time understanding why a Catholic church closed by a bishop can no longer be used for Masses, weddings, and funerals. For more than 100 years, this particular church — built by my great-great-grandparents — was considered sacred ...


Fri, 02 Oct 2015 22:03:45 -0700

“We would call on him for families who weren't religious or who weren't affiliated with a particular church,” said Patt Delgado Robles, who worked with Patlan many times through the Angelus Funeral Home. “He wanted to make the service as personal as he ...

Crux: Covering all things Catholic

Crux: Covering all things Catholic
Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:48:52 -0700

I am 99 percent certain that this particular church sign was responding to the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. That, at this moment, is the hottest of all hot issues, the flashiest of all flash points. That church sign was saying for ...

Local Memphis

Local Memphis
Fri, 02 Oct 2015 14:33:45 -0700

"This is the first time in our history that we have done a professional campaign we have done smaller campaigns focused on one particular church," president of the seminary Jay Earheart said. Ellen Hudson has been studying there for nearly four years.
Hot Air
Fri, 18 Sep 2015 05:06:01 -0700

But if Roof had set forth a bunch of specific plans to attack that particular church, showed Meek the gun and told him he'd gotten it for that specific purpose, etc. then I suppose a conviction could be gotten. But why would Roof give up his friend ...

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