Roman Catholic Church

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The Catholic Church is, literally, the Universal Church of Jesus Christ (from the Greek katholikos, "universal"). The Roman Catholic Church is headed by the pope, the bishop of Rome, currently Pope Benedict XVI. It is one of the largest religions in the world, with more than 1 billion adherents (In the United States more than 64 million.) The Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the western world. The Roman Catholic faith teaches the Pope is the successor of Saint Peter.

To belong to the Catholic Church one must accept as factually true the gospel of our lord Jesus Christ. "The chief teachings of the Catholic church are: God’s objective existence; God’s interest in individual human beings, who can enter into relations with God (through prayer); the Trinity; the divinity of Jesus; the immortality of the soul of each human being, each one being accountable at death for his or her actions in life, with the award of heaven or hell; the resurrection of the dead; the historicity of the Gospels; and the divine commission of the church. In addition the Roman Catholic Church stresses that since the members, living and dead, share in each other’s merits, the Virgin Mary and other saints and the dead in purgatory are never forgotten." [1] The presence of Christ is believed to be present in the Eucharist, the bread and wine is Jesus himself. Another essential belief is the veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus as the Blessed Virgin Mary and veneration of the saints.

The principal sources for the essential beliefs of the Catholic Church are the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible), Sacred Tradition, and Living Magisterium of the Church.

The term Catholic is frequently applied to the Roman Catholic Church, though many Protestants object to Roman Catholics monopolizing the term "Catholic". Conversely, many Roman Catholics dislike the adjective "Roman" because it implies, contrary to (Roman) Catholic doctrine, that their church is not the universal Church of Christ.

Catholics in the world.


According to Catholic claims, the original Christian community was founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ and led by the Apostles. St. Paul the Apostle was, together with Saint Peter, the most notable of Early Christian missionaries. After an initial period of persecution, Christianity was legalized in the fourth century by Constantine I. In 380, Emperor Theodosius I accepted Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages the Church underwent a time of missionary activity and expansion. This Catholic Christian Church underwent in 1054 a great schism that divided the Church into a Western (Latin) branch, which has been called as the Catholic Church and an Eastern branch, which has become known as the Orthodox Church. The second schism was the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. During the First Vatican Council (1869–1870) and the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) the Catholic Church undertook the most comprehensive reforms. She stretched relations with other Christian communities and other religions. She also issued directions for a revision of the liturgy.

Different churches

The term "The Catholic Church" refers to any one of several Rites, but in the United States is often used synonymously for the largest Rite, the Roman Catholic Church. Other Rites include the Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, and Chaldean Rites. Some Eastern rites have significant differences in liturgy, history, discipline and hierarchy from the Roman Catholic Church, but still recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) and are in communion with Rome. These Eastern Rite churches are Catholic and do not belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Eastern branches do not have a single umbrella organization. They include the Eastern Orthodox Church and a number of Eastern Catholic Churches. Despite important differences in doctrine, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern churches recognize each other as part of the universal, or Catholic Church. For example, each of them accepts each others' Holy Orders (priesthood) as valid.

The Roman Catholic Church historically regarded Protestant Christianity as heretical, that is, being against Roman doctrine. However, this changed in the 1960's when Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council, where the doors of the Church were opened wide, and Protestants referred to as "our separated brethren". This was an exciting period for Catholics and Protestants alike as moves were made to bring the separated churches back together.

John Paul II

The Anglican Church (Episcopalian in the United States) occupies an odd situation, because it encompasses within it factions ("Low Church") that emphasize its Protestant aspects and factions ("High Church") that emphasize its Catholic aspects. Anglo-Catholics regard the Anglican church as part of the Catholic Church, and in the unbroken line of the Apostolic Succession. The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern branches take a position that could be described as saying that the Anglican Church is almost but not quite Catholic. There have long been unification overtures, and Anglican priests who wish to adopt Catholic Holy Orders are often provided with an abbreviated path to that goal.

The Nicene Creed, the great historical statement of Christian belief, contains the line "I [or we] believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic church". The Apostles' Creed contains a similar affirmation. However, Protestants and Catholics place different interpretations on the term "universal", or "catholic". Protestants believe that it refers to the general, over-arching spiritual unity of all Christian believers, Jew or gentile, which transcends individual churches and denominations. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that the Roman Catholic Church, as the single true church founded by Christ, is the universal Catholic Church in which their is neither Jew nor gentile. Some prefer not to refer to their own church as the "Roman" Catholic Church, on the grounds that such formulations implicitly deny this point of doctrine.

Saint Paul's Writings

St. Paul is the second most prolific contributor to the New Testament. Thirteen letters are attributed to him and fully known as the "Catholic (or Universal) Epistles of Paul". The letters are written in Greek. The epistles contain the basis of Christian doctrine, interpretation and commentary from earlier scriptures. They are full of expositions of what Christians should believe and how they should live.

St. Paul reminded the Christians how they should live. They should think about the things in heaven (Colossians 3:2), because they belong with Christ (Colossians 3:3-4). They should not do evil deeds (Colossians 3:5-11). Instead, they should love other people (Colossians 3:12-14). And they should serve God (Colossians 3:15-17). If we invite Jesus into our lives, we will become friends of God (Colossians 1:15-23).

St. Paul's influence on Christian thinking has been more significant than any other single New Testament author.


St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan from 374 to 397, was one of the most illustrious Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and fitly chosen, together with St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Athanasius, to uphold the venerable Chair of the Prince of the Apostles in the tribune of St. Peter's at Rome. [2]


Cerro de los Angeles, Madrid, Spain.

There has been much controversy in recent years about Catholic priests in relation to the abuse of children in their care. Cases of pedophilia and ephebophilia have both been discovered in many churches across the world[3]. Many instances of abuse occurred with little or no repercussion for priests involved. In some cases, bishops were aware of the abuse but did not effectively deal with it, allowing the abusive priest to continue to remain in contact with minors.

See also

External links

Virgin Mary and Child


  1. The Columbia Encyclopedia
  2. St. Ambrose Catholic Encyclopedia.