Processional cross

Catholicism (from Greek καθολικισμός, katholikismos, "universal doctrine") is a term which in its broadest sense refers to the beliefs and practices of Christian denominations that describe themselves as Catholic in accordance with the Four Marks of the Church.

The most frequent uses refer to the faith and practices of the Catholic Church, consisting of the Latin Church and 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See of Rome. [1] "Catholic" and "Catholicism" are also especially claimed by some other denominations, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, and some Protestant denominations, notably Anglicanism, in addition to Independent Catholicism.

More generally, in the sense of indicating continuity of faith and practice from Early Christianity as delineated in the Nicene Creed, [2] the term "catholic" occur in some Methodist [3] Lutheran, [4] Moravian, [5] and Reformed denominations [6] in claiming to be "heirs of the apostolic faith", [7] These denominations consider themselves to be catholic, teaching that the term "designates the historic, orthodox mainstream of Christianity whose doctrine was defined by the ecumenical councils and creeds" and as such, most Reformers "appealed to this catholic tradition and believed they were in continuity with it." [4] For instance, within the Anglican Communion, the Oxford Movement of the 19th century promoted Anglo-Catholicism, which emphasized the importance of doctrines such as the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and apostolic succession, comparable to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. [8] [9]


Use of term

The term "catholicism" is the English form of Late Latin catholicismus, an abstract noun based on the adjective catholic. The Modern Greek equivalent καθολικισμός (katholikismos) is back-formed and usually refers to Roman Catholicism.

The Greek adjective katholikos means "universal". Directly from the Greek, or via Late Latin catholicus, the term catholic entered many other languages, becoming the base for the creation of various theological terms such as catholicism and catholicity (Late Latin catholicismus, catholicitas).

The use of the terms "catholicism" and "catholicity" is closely related to the use of Catholic Church. The earliest evidence of the use of that term is the Letter to the Smyrnaeans that Ignatius of Antioch wrote in about 108 to Christians in Smyrna. Exhorting Christians to remain closely united with their bishop, he wrote: "Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." [10] [11]

From the second half of the second century, the word "catholic" began to be used to mean "orthodox" (non-heretical), "because Catholics claimed to teach the whole truth, and to represent the whole Church, while heresy arose out of the exaggeration of some one truth and was essentially partial and local". [12] In 380, Emperor Theodosius I limited use of the term "Catholic Christian" exclusively to those who followed the same faith as Pope Damasus I of Rome and Pope Peter of Alexandria. [13] Numerous other early writers including Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315–386), Augustine of Hippo (354–430) further developed the use of the term "catholic" in relation to Christianity.

In Christian theology, and specially in ecclesiology, terms "Catholicism" and "Catholicity" are used in two basic forms, with capital "C" or just with small "c". When used with small "c", terms "catholicism" and "catholicity" generally designate theological doctrine of the "catholicity of the Church" without denominational connotations. On the other hand, when used with capital "C", terms "Catholicism" and "Catholicity" often designate a particular Christian denomination, depending on the personal views and theological positions of any particular author.

Catholics make up the single largest religion in the world with some 1.6 billion members. When combined with all Christian faiths the total number of people swells to over 2 billion people as these faiths add over 500 million people. The Muslim religion comes in second to Christians with about 1.5 billion people, of which about 1 billion are Sunni and Shia are about 250 million. Other Muslims faiths combine to make up the other 250 million people.

Summary of major divisions

Ancient statue of Saint Peter in the Basilica dedicated to him in the Vatican.

A common belief in Catholicism is institutional continuity with the early Christian church founded by Jesus Christ. Many churches or communions of churches identify singularly or collectively as the authentic church. The following summarizes the major schisms and conflicts within Christianity, particularly within groups that identify as Catholic; there are several competing historical interpretations as to which groups entered into schism with the original early church.

According to the theory of Pentarchy, the early undivided church came to be organized under the three patriarchs of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, to which later were added the patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem. The Bishop of Rome was at that time recognized as first among them, as is stated, for instance, in canon 3 of the First Council of Constantinople (381)—many interpret "first" as meaning here first among equals—and doctrinal or procedural disputes were often referred to Rome, as when, on appeal by Athanasius against the decision of the Council of Tyre (335), Pope Julius I, who spoke of such appeals as customary, annulled the action of that council and restored Athanasius and Marcellus of Ancyra to their sees. [14] The Bishop of Rome was also considered to have the right to convene ecumenical councils. When the Imperial capital moved to Constantinople, Rome's influence was sometimes challenged. Nonetheless, Rome claimed special authority because of its connection to Saint Peter [15] [16] and Saint Paul, who, all agreed, were martyred and buried in Rome, and because the Bishop of Rome saw himself as the successor of Saint Peter.

The 431 Council of Ephesus, the third ecumenical council, was chiefly concerned with Nestorianism, which emphasized the distinction between the humanity and divinity of Jesus and taught that, in giving birth to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary could not be spoken of as giving birth to God. This Council rejected Nestorianism and affirmed that, as humanity and divinity are inseparable in the one person of Jesus Christ, his mother, the Virgin Mary, is thus Theotokos, God-bearer, Mother of God. The first great rupture in the Church followed this Council. Those who refused to accept the Council's ruling were largely Persian and are represented today by the Assyrian Church of the East and related Churches, which, however, do not now hold a "Nestorian" theology. They are often called Ancient Oriental Churches.

The next major break was after the Council of Chalcedon (451). This Council repudiated Eutychian Monophysitism which stated that the divine nature completely subsumed the human nature in Christ. This Council declared that Christ, though one person, exhibited two natures "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation" and thus is both fully God and fully human. The Alexandrian Church rejected the terms adopted by this Council, and the Christian Churches that follow the tradition of non-acceptance of the Council—they are not Monophysite in doctrine—are referred to as Pre-Chalcedonian or Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The next great rift within Christianity was in the 11th century. Longstanding doctrinal disputes, as well as conflicts between methods of Church government, and the evolution of separate rites and practices, precipitated a split in 1054 that divided the Church, this time between a "West" and an "East". Spain, England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Poland, Bohemia, Slovakia, Scandinavia, the Baltic states, and Western Europe in general were in the Western camp, and Greece, Romania, Russia and many other Slavic lands, Anatolia, and the Christians in Syria and Egypt who accepted the Council of Chalcedon made up the Eastern camp. This division between the Western Church and the Eastern Church is called the East–West Schism.

In 1438, the Council of Florence convened, which featured a strong dialogue focussed on understanding the theological differences between the East and West, with the hope of reuniting the Catholic and Orthodox churches. [17] Several eastern churches reunited, constituting some of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Another major division in the Church occurred in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation, after which many parts of the Western Church rejected Papal authority, and some of the teachings of the Western Church at that time, and became known as " Reformed" or " Protestant".

A much less extensive rupture occurred when, after the Roman Catholic Church's First Vatican Council, in which it officially proclaimed the dogma of papal infallibility, small clusters of Catholics in the Netherlands and in German-speaking countries formed the Old-Catholic (Altkatholische) Church.

Other Languages
Acèh: Katolik
Alemannisch: Katholizismus
العربية: كاثوليكية
aragonés: Catolicismo
arpetan: Catolicismo
azərbaycanca: Katolisizm
Bân-lâm-gú: Kong-kàu
Basa Banyumasan: Katolik
башҡортса: Католицизм
беларуская: Каталіцтва
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Каталіцтва
brezhoneg: Katoligiezh
català: Catolicisme
Чӑвашла: Католицизм
čeština: Katolicismus
Cymraeg: Catholigiaeth
Deutsch: Katholizismus
español: Catolicismo
Esperanto: Katolikismo
euskara: Katolizismo
français: Catholicisme
furlan: Catolicisim
galego: Catolicismo
한국어: 가톨릭주의
hrvatski: Katoličanstvo
Bahasa Indonesia: Katolik
interlingua: Catholicismo
Basa Jawa: Katulik
ქართული: კათოლიციზმი
қазақша: Католицизм
Kiswahili: Katoliki
Кыргызча: Католицизм
latviešu: Katoļticība
Lëtzebuergesch: Katholizismus
lietuvių: Katalikybė
lingála: Mumpɛ́
lumbaart: Catolicesim
magyar: Katolicizmus
Malagasy: Katolisisma
მარგალური: კათოლიციზმი
Bahasa Melayu: Katolik
Baso Minangkabau: Katolik
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Tiĕng-cuō-gáu
Mirandés: Catolicismo
монгол: Католик
Nederlands: Katholicisme
нохчийн: Католицизм
norsk bokmål: Katolisisme
Nouormand: Catholicisme
олык марий: Католицизм
Patois: Kiaklikizim
Piemontèis: Catolicésim
Tok Pisin: Katolik
polski: Katolicyzm
português: Catolicismo
qırımtatarca: Katoliklik
română: Catolicism
русский: Католицизм
Simple English: Catholicism
slovenčina: Katolicizmus
slovenščina: Katolištvo
српски / srpski: Католицизам
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Katoličanstvo
suomi: Katolisuus
svenska: Katolicism
Tagalog: Katolisismo
татарча/tatarça: Католицизм
Türkçe: Katolik
українська: Католицтво
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: Katolik dini
Tiếng Việt: Công giáo
文言: 天主教
Winaray: Katolisismo
吴语: 天主敎
ייִדיש: קאטאליציזם
粵語: 天主敎
Zazaki: Katolisizm
žemaitėška: Katalėkībė
中文: 天主教