Uniat (or Uniate) churches are Eastern Christian churches in communion with Rome who have retained their own liturgies, liturgical language, and ecclesiastical customs and rites—e.g., Communion in both kinds, baptism by immersion, marriage of the clergy. The name is derived from the Latin unio through the Polish unia, and was used in a derogatory sense by Russian and Greek Orthodox opponents of the Union of Brest-Litovsk (1595-96), when Byzantine Christians in the province of Kiev adhered to the Roman see. The term is now a common expression for all Roman Catholics of any Eastern rite. Its hostile flavor has not been lost, and it is not used in any Roman Catholic documents or by the groups so designated. The churches fall into several categories:
(1) Antiochene Rite. (a) The Maronites* were the earliest Uniates, being Syrian Christians named from John Maron, patriarch of Antioch (eighth century), originally Monothelites* who renounced Monothelitism and united with Rome (1182). They use the Syriac “St. James” and other Anaphoroas,* and elect their own patriarch whose see town is Jebeil. (b) The Syrian Uniates are descended from the “Jacobites”* (Monophysites) who established relations with Rome in the sixteenth century, but who seem to have disappeared c.1700. The present church owes its existence to Mar Michael Garweh, a Roman Catholic who became archbishop of Aleppo (1783). (c) The Malankarese Church dates from 1930, resulting from an amalgamation of some* with Jacobites in the seventeenth century, who negotiated for reunion with Rome in 1925.
(2) Chaldean Rite. (a) Armenian Uniates. There were always some Armenians who recognized Rome’s authority, but during the Crusades (1198-1291) there was more formal contact under the patriarch of Cilicia at Beirut. From 1741 they had their own hierarchy and a patriarch at Constantinople. (b) Chaldean Uniates. Descended from the ancient Nestorians,* a group of which from Turkey and Persia were united with Rome in 1551, they had their first patriarch of Babylon at Mosul in George Hormuzd, appointed by Pope Pius VIII (1830). (c) The Malabar Christians: see separate article.
(3) Alexandrine Rite. (a) The Coptic Uniates, a small church numbering c.4,000 date from 1741 when Athanasius, Coptic bishop of Jerusalem, joined the Roman Catholics. (b) The Ethiopian Uniates, dating from 1839, live mostly in Eritrea and are governed by a vicar-apostolic. They observe the rites and canon law of the old church of Ethiopia.*
(4) Byzantine Rite. (a) The Ruthenians* of E Galicia and Subcarpathian Russia date from the Union of Brest-Litovsk (1595-96). Since 1946 they have been aggregated to the. (b) The Rumaics, or Romanians of Transylvania, linked up with Rome under the archbishop of Abba Julia (1701). Since 1948 they have been aggregated to the Orthodox Church of Romania.* (c) There are also very small groups of Hungarians (reunited with Rome in 1595), Yugoslavs (1611), Melchites* (1724), Bulgars (1860), Greeks (1860).
(5) The Italo-Greek-Albanian community of S Italy, which has never separated from Rome, are permitted to follow similar practices, under the bishop of Lungro.
Bibliography: B.J. Kidd, The Churches of Eastern Christendom (1927); D. Attwater, The Catholic Eastern Churches (1935) and Theof the East (2 vols., 1961-62).