The invasion of Ukraine has put the spotlight on Eastern Catholic churches. Adherents of these beautiful faith communities are in communion with the pope yet have liturgical and theological traditions resembling Orthodox Christianity.

The Great Schism of 1054 split Christianity into two divisions, Roman Catholic based in Rome and Orthodox based in Constantinople. Most Eastern Catholic Churches once belonged to the Orthodox, but for various reasons reestablished communion with the pope and western Christians.

Within Eastern Catholicism, there are 23 autonomous churches that share fundamental beliefs but have variations that developed in different regions.

For example, Oregon has three Eastern Catholic parishes. St. Irene in North Portland is part of the Ruthenian or Greek Catholic Church with roots in the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe. St. Sharbel in Southeast Portland is part of the Maronite tradition linked to Lebanon. Nativity of the Mother of God in Springfield is part of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the second largest after the Roman Catholic Church. A group of Chaldean Catholics, historically linked to Iraq, are discussing a Portland-area mission and eventually a parish.

Any Catholic in good standing can receive Communion in any Catholic parish, Eastern or Western.

Of the 1.3 billion Catholics on the planet, 98.5% belong to the Roman Church. But the Eastern Churches preserve ancient traditions full of beauty and importance. Some of them grew where Jesus and his apostles walked the earth.

Importantly, these churches are signs of unity between East and West, a prize coveted now in global politics but pursued by Christians for almost a millennium. St. John Paul II uttered a memorable metaphor when he said the church breathes best with both lungs, East and West. Same for the entire world.