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The Roman Rite is the manner of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice, administering Sacraments, reciting the Divine Office, and performing other ecclesiastical functions (blessings, all kinds of Sacramentals, etc.) as used in the city and Diocese of Rome.
The Roman Rite is the most wide-spread in Christendom. That it has advantages possessed by no other the most archaic antiquity, unequalled dignity, beauty, and the practical convenience of being comparatively short in its services will not be denied by any one who knows it and the other ancient liturgies. But it was not the consideration of these advantages that led to its extensive use; it was the exalted position of the see that used it. The Roman Rite was adopted throughout the West because the local bishops, sometimes kings or emperors, felt that they could not do better than use the rite of the chief bishop of all, at Rome. And this imitation of Roman liturgical practice brought about in the West the application of the principle (long admitted in the East) that rite should follow patriarchate.
Apart from his universal primacy, the pope had always been unquestioned Patriarch of the West. It was then the right and normal thing that the West should use his liturgy. The irregular and anomalous incident of liturgical history is not that the Roman Rite has been used, practically exclusively, in the West since about the tenth or eleventh century, but that before that there were other rites in the pope's patriarchate. Not the disappearance but the existence and long toleration of the Gallican and Spanish rites is the difficulty (see RITES).
Like all others, the Roman Rite bears clear marks of its local origin. Wherever it may be used, it is still Roman in the local sense, obviously composed for use in Rome. Our Missal marks the Roman stations, contains the Roman saints in the Canon (See CANON OF THE MASS), honours with special solemnity the Roman martyrs and popes. Our feasts are constantly anniversaries of local Roman events, of the dedication of Roman churches (All Saints, St. Michael, S. Maria ad Nives, etc.). The Collect for Sts. Peter and Paul (29 June) supposes that it is said at Rome (the Church which "received the beginnings of her Faith" from these saints is that of Rome), and so on continually. This is quite right and fitting; it agrees with all liturgical history. No rite has ever been composed consciously for general use. In the East there are still stronger examples of the same thing. The Orthodox all over the world use a rite full of local allusions to the city of Constantinople.
The Roman Rite evolved out of the (presumed) universal, but quite fluid, rite of the first three centuries during the (liturgically) almost unknown time from the fourth to the sixth. In the sixth we have it fully developed in the Leonine, later in the Gelasian, Sacramentaries. How and exactly when the specifically Roman qualities were formed during that time will, no doubt, always be a matter of conjecture (see LITURGY; LITURGY OF THE MASS). At first its use was very restrained. It was followed only in the Roman province. North Italy was Gallican, the South, Byzantine, but Africa was always closely akin to Rome liturgically.
From the eighth century gradually the Roman usage began its career of conquest in the West. By the twelfth century at latest it was used wherever Latin obtained, having displaced all others except at Milan and in retreating parts of Spain. That has been its position ever since. As the rite of the Latin Church it is used exclusively in the Latin Patriarchate, with three small exceptions at Milan, Toledo, and in the still Byzantine churches of Southern Italy, Sicily, and Corsica.
During the Middle Ages it developed into a vast number of derived rites, differing from the pure form only in unimportant details and in exuberant additions. Most of these were abolished by the decree of Pius V in 1570 (see LITURGY OF THE MASS). Meanwhile, the Roman Rite had itself been affected by, and had received additions from, the Gallican and Spanish uses it displaced. The Roman Rite is now used by every one who is subject to the pope's patriarchal jurisdiction (with the three exceptions noted above); that is, it is used in Western Europe, including Poland, in all countries colonized from Western Europe: America, Australia, etc., by Western (Latin) missionaries all over the world, including the Eastern lands where other Catholic rites also obtain.
No one may change his rite without a legal authorization, which is not easily obtained. So the Western priest in Syria, Egypt, and so on uses his own Roman Rite, just as at home. On the same principle Catholics of Eastern rites in Western Europe, America, etc., keep their rites; so that rites now cross each other wherever such people live together. The language of the Roman Rite is Latin everywhere except that in some churches along the Western Adriatic coast it is said in Slavonic and on rare occasions in Greek at Rome (see RITES). In derived forms the Roman Rite is used in some few dioceses (Lyons) and by several religious orders (Benedictines, Carthusians, Carmelites, Dominicans). In these their fundamentally Roman character is expressed by a compound name. They are the "Ritus Romano-Lugdunensis", "Romano-monasticus", and so on.
For further details and bibliography see BREVIARY; CANON OF THE MASS; LITURGY; MASS, LITURGY OF THE; RITES.
APA citation. (1912). The Roman Rite. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13155a.htm
MLA citation. "The Roman Rite." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13155a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Catharine Lamb. Dedicated to the memory of my mother, Ruth F. Hansen.