Historically, the leadership of the Latin Church, i.e., the Holy See, has been viewed as one of the five patriarchates of the Pentarchy of early Christianity, along with the patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Due to geographic and cultural considerations, the latter patriarchates developed into churches with distinct Eastern Christian traditions. The majority of Eastern Christian churches broke full communion with the bishop of Rome and the Latin Church, following various theological and leadership disputes in the centuries following the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. These included notably the Nestorian Schism (Church of the East), Chalcedonian Schism (Oriental Orthodoxy), and the East-West Schism (Eastern Orthodoxy). The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century saw an analogous schism. Until 2005, the Pope claimed the title "Patriarch of the West"; Pope Benedict XVI lifted this title for ecumenical purposes while continuing to exercise a direct patriarchal role over the Latin Church.
The Latin Church is notable within Western Christianity for its sacred tradition and seven sacraments. In the Catholic Church, in addition to the Latin Church directly headed by the Pope as Latin patriarch, there are 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, self-governing particular churches sui iuris with their own hierarchies. These churches trace their origins to the other four patriarchates of the ancient pentarchy, but either never historically broke full communion or returned to it with the Papacy at some time. These differ from each other in liturgical rite (ceremonies, vestments, chants, language), devotional traditions, theology, canon law, and clergy, but all maintain the same faith, and all see full communion with the Pope, as Bishop of Rome, as essential to being Catholic as well as part of the one true church as defined by the Four Marks of the Church in Catholic ecclesiology.
The approximately 13 million Eastern Catholics represent a minority of Christians in communion with the Pope, compared to more than 1 billion Latin Catholics. Additionally, there are roughly 250 million Eastern Orthodox and 86 million Oriental Orthodox around the world. Unlike the Latin Church, the Pope does not exercise a direct patriarchal role over the Eastern Catholic churches and their faithful, instead encouring their internal hierarchies separate from that of the Latin Church, analogous to the traditions shared with the corresponding Eastern Christian churches in Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy.
The church is called the Latin Church in most available sources, albeit some sources indicate that is occasionally referred to as the "Roman Catholic Church", for instance by some Eastern Catholics. In an historical context, it is sometimes also referred to as the Western Church.
The 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches defines the use within that code of the words "church" and "rite". In accordance with these definitions of usage within the code that governs the Eastern Catholic churches, the Latin Church is one such group of Christian faithful united by a hierarchy and recognized by the supreme authority of the Catholic Church as a sui iuris particular church. The Latin rite is the whole of the patrimony of that distinct particular church, by which it manifests its own manner of living the faith, including its own liturgy, its theology, its spiritual practices and traditions and its canon law. A person is a member of or belongs to a particular church. A person also inherits, or "is of", a particular patrimony or rite. Since the rite has liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary elements, a person is also to worship, to be catechized, to pray and to be governed according to a particular rite.