Catholic Church

This article is about the church headed by the pope. For churches with shared beliefs and traditions, see Catholicism. For other uses, see Catholic Church (disambiguation).
"Roman Catholic Church" redirects here. For other uses, see Roman Catholic Church (disambiguation).
Emblem of the Holy See
Catholic Church
Latin: Ecclesia catholica
Saint Peter's Basilica
Classification Catholic
Polity Episcopal [1]
Head Pope Francis
Administration Holy See via the Roman Curia
Churches
sui iuris
Latin Church
Eastern Catholic churches: 23
Dioceses Archdioceses: 640
Regular dioceses: 2,851
Region Worldwide
Headquarters Vatican City
Founder Jesus Christ, according to
Catholic tradition
Origin 1st century[ citation needed]
Jerusalem,[ dubious ] Judea, Roman Empire
Members 1.27 billion [2]
Clergy Bishops: 5,237
Priests: 415,792
Deacons: 44,566
Website Holy See

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with more than 1.27 billion members worldwide. [2] As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilisation. [3] Headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, [4] its doctrines are summarised in the Nicene Creed. The Catholic Church is notable within Western Christianity for its sacred tradition and seven sacraments.

The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true church founded by Jesus Christ, [5] [note 1] [8] that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles, and that the pope is the successor to Saint Peter. [9] The Catholic Church maintains that the doctrine on faith and morals that it declares as definitive is infallible. [10] [note 2] The Latin Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as institutes such as mendicant orders and enclosed monastic orders, reflect a variety of theological and spiritual emphases in the Church. [11] [12]

Of the seven sacraments, [13] the principal one is the Eucharist, celebrated liturgically in the Mass. The church teaches that through consecration by a priest the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. [14] The Catholic Church practises closed communion, with only baptised members in a state of grace ordinarily permitted to receive the Eucharist. [15]

Mary is venerated in the Catholic Church as Queen of Heaven and honoured in numerous Marian devotions. [16] The Catholic Church has defined four Marian dogmas: the Immaculate Conception, the dogma that Mary was conceived without original sin; her status as the Mother of God; [17] her perpetual virginity; and her bodily assumption into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. [18]

The Catholic Church has influenced Western philosophy, science, art and culture, and from the Middle Ages until the Modern Age acted as the principal force of unity in the Western world.

Catholic spiritual teaching includes spreading the Gospel while Catholic social teaching emphasises support for the sick, the poor and the afflicted through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and medical services in the world. [19]

From the late 20th century, the Catholic Church has been criticised for its doctrines on sexuality, its refusal to ordain women and its handling of sexual abuse cases.

Name

Saint Ignatius of Antioch first used the term "Catholic Church" (literally meaning universal church) in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans around 100 AD. [20]
Further information: Catholic (term) and Roman Catholic (term)

The word catholic is derived from the Greek word καθολικός (katholikos), which means "universal". Katholikos is associated with the adverb καθόλου (katholou), a contraction of the phrase καθ' ὅλου (kath' holou), which means "according to the whole". [21]

Catholic was first used to describe the church in the early 2nd century. [22] The first known use of the phrase "the catholic church" (he katholike ekklesia) occurred in the letter from Saint Ignatius of Antioch to the Smyrnaeans, written about 110 AD. [note 3] In the Catechetical Discourses of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (circa 350), the name "Catholic Church" was used to distinguish it from other groups that also call themselves the church. [23] [24]

The word "church" represents the Greek word ecclesia, originally meaning "meeting, assembly", the usual Septuagint translation of Hebrew qahal, "congregation [of Israel]", as in Deuteronomy 31:30 and elsewhere. [25]

Since the East–West Schism of 1054, the Eastern Church has taken the adjective "Orthodox" as its distinctive epithet (however, its official name continues to be the "Orthodox Catholic Church" [26]) and the Western Church in communion with the Holy See has similarly taken "Catholic", keeping that description also after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, when those who ceased to be in communion became known as "Protestants". [27] [28]

The use of the adjective "Roman" to describe the Church as governed especially by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) became more widespread after the fall of the western Roman Empire and into the early Middle Ages. For example, the mid-eighth-century document purporting to be the " Donation of Constantine" repeatedly declares that its grant of imperial prerogatives and patriarchal primacy is made to "the most holy Roman Church". This document, though not an authentic 4th century imperial document, [note 4] became a crucial theoretical statement in the Middle Ages "to defend the universality and supremacy of Roman jurisdiction over lay rulers and their subjects in Western Christendom." [31]

"Roman Catholic Church" has occasionally been used by officials of the Catholic Church within the context of ecumenical dialogue where the dialogue partner has a reason to prefer this usage, as a kind of irenic concession, including documents produced both by the Holy See [note 5] and by certain national episcopal conferences. [note 6] Nonetheless, the preference for "Catholic Church" is clear: the last official document of papal magisterium to do otherwise was issued under Pope Pius XII in 1950, and only "Catholic Church" appears in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The name "Catholic Church" is the most common designation used in official church documents, [32] and only the website of the Holy See. It is also the name which Pope Paul VI used when signing documents of the Second Vatican Council. [33]