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Communion has been broken also because of disagreement about questions of authority or the legitimacy of the election of a particular bishop.

In these latter cases each side accused the other of schism, but not of heresy.

The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 16 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio (the annual directory of the Catholic Church), thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.2 billion members belonging to the (Western) Latin Church.

Full communion constitutes mutual sacramental sharing between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Latin Church, including Eucharistic intercommunion.

On the other hand, the liturgical traditions of the 23 Eastern Catholic churches, including Byzantine, Alexandrian, Armenian, East Syriac, and West Syriac, are shared with other Eastern Christian churches: the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East.

It later experienced a period of great expansion in Asia before collapsing after the Mongol invasion of the Middle East in the 14th century. Now they are relatively few in number and have divided into three Churches (the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with Rome, and two Assyrian Churches which are in communion neither with Rome, nor with each other); of these three, the Chaldean Catholic Church is the largest.

The groups of Assyrians who did not reunify with Rome remained and are known as the Assyrian Church of the East, which experienced an internal schism in 1968 which led to the creation of the Ancient Church of the East.

In the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO), A group of Christian faithful linked in accordance with the law by a hierarchy and expressly or tacitly recognized by the supreme authority of the Church as autonomous is in this Code called an autonomous Church (canon 27)." (canons 111 and 112), and also speaks of "a subject of an Eastern rite" (canon 1015 §2), "Ordinaries of another rite" (canon 450 §1), "the faithful of a specific rite" (canon 476), etc.

The Second Vatican Council spoke of Eastern Catholic Churches as "particular Churches or rites".

In 451 those who accepted the Council of Chalcedon similarly classified those who rejected it as Monophysite heretics.

The Churches that refused to accept the Council considered instead that it was they who were orthodox; they reject the description Monophysite (meaning only-nature) preferring instead Miaphysite (meaning one-nature).

Canon 112 of the Code of Canon Law uses the phrase 'autonomous ritual Churches' to designate the various Churches." And a writer in a periodical of January 2006 declared: "The Eastern Churches are still mistakenly called 'Eastern-rite' Churches, a reference to their various liturgical histories.

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