Latin Rite, in the singular and accompanied, in English, by the definite article ("the Latin Rite"), is a term by which documents of the Catholic Church designate the Western Catholic Church that developed in western Europe and northern Africa, where Latin was the language of education and culture, as distinct from the Eastern Rite Churches. The Latin Church (again in the singular) is an alternative term, used, for instance, in the opening canon of both the 1917 and the 1983 editions of the Code of Canon Law.
The term Latin rite is used also, in singular or plural ("a Latin rite" or "(the) Latin rites"), to refer to one or more of the forms of sacred liturgy used in different parts of this Latin Church. They include the widely used Roman Rite, the Ambrosian Rite of Milan and neighbouring areas, and the Mozarabic Rite, in limited use in Spain, above all at Toledo. Other Latin liturgical rites have largely fallen into disuse, including most of the rites that some religious orders practised until shortly after the Second Vatican Council. On these, see Latin liturgical rites.
Sometimes, the term "Roman Catholic" is treated as synonymous with "Latin Rite", though never in official documents of the Catholic Church itself.
The Latin Rite (in the first-mentioned sense) is distinguished from others not only by the use of the Latin-rite liturgies, by also by characteristics such as Confirmation after reaching the age of reason (but not necessarily as late as pre-adolescence), obligatory celibacy of priests, and direct appointment of bishops by the Pope. The Eastern-Rite Catholic Churches differ, to varying extents, from the Latin Church in these respects. For instance, ordination to priesthood (but not to the episcopate) may be conferred on married men, and Eastern patriarchal and major archiepiscopal Churches elect bishops for their own territory (though not outside it), receiving from the Pope only letters of acknowledgement.