Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
In ecclesiastical law a church is a sacred structure devoted to divine worship for the principal purpose of being used by all the faithful for public divine worship. An oratory is different from a church in that it is not principally destined for public worship by all the faithful even though, in the case of a public oratory, they have the right to go there. So, too, a shrine, if principally destined to honor a particular saint in a given locality, is not technically a church.