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The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide . As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within Rome, Italy.

Catholic theology is based on the Nicene Creed. The Catholic Church teaches that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ, that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles, and that the Pope is the successor to Saint Peter to whom primacy was conferred by Jesus Christ. It maintains that it practises the original Christian faith, reserving infallibility, passed down by sacred tradition. The Latin Church, the twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches, and institutes such as mendicant orders and enclosed monastic orders reflect a variety of theological and spiritual emphases in the church.

Of its seven sacraments the Eucharist is the principal one, 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. The Virgin Mary is venerated in the Catholic Church as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, honoured in dogmas and devotions. Its teaching includes sanctification through faith and evangelisation of the Gospel as well as Catholic social teaching, which emphasises voluntary 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 health care in the world.

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Pietro Ottoboni, the last Cardinal Nephew, painted by Francesco Trevisani

A cardinal-nephew (Latin: cardinalis nepos; Spanish: valido de su tío; French: prince de fortune) is a cardinal elevated by a pope who is that cardinal's uncle, or more generally, his relative. The practice of creating cardinal-nephews originated in the Middle Ages, and reached its apex during the 16th and 17th centuries Pope Boniface IX, the second pope of the Western Schism, did not appoint cardinal-nephews. Until Pope Innocent XII, the only other exceptions were: Pope Innocent XI (who attempted to abolish the practice), popes who did not appoint cardinals (Pope Pius III, Pope Marcellus II, Pope Urban VII, Pope Leo XI), and Pope Adrian VI (who appointed one cardinal).The institution of the cardinal-nephew evolved over seven centuries, tracking developments in the history of the Papacy and the styles of individual popes. From 1566 until 1692, a cardinal-nephew held the curial office of the Superintendent of the Ecclesiastical State, known as the Cardinal Nephew, and thus the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. The curial office of the Cardinal Nephew as well as the institution of the cardinal-nephew declined as the power of the Cardinal Secretary of State increased and the temporal power of popes decreased in the 17th and 18th centuries.
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Credit: Detroit Publishing Co.

A ca. 1890–1900 photochrom of St. Alexander's Church (Kościół św. Aleksandra in Polish), a Catholic church in Warsaw, Poland, before its destruction in World War II. After the war it was rebuilt on a smaller scale.

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1722 facsimile of first page of Cotton manuscript of Asser's 'Life of King Alfred'

Asser (d. 908/909) was a Welsh monk from St. David's, Dyfed, who became Bishop of Sherborne in the 890s. In about 885 he was asked by Alfred the Great to leave St. David's and join the circle of learned men which Alfred was recruiting for his court. After spending a year at Caerwent due to an illness, he accepted. In 893 Asser wrote a biography of Alfred, called the Life of King Alfred. The manuscript survived to modern times in only one copy, which was part of the Cotton library. That copy was destroyed in a fire in 1731, but transcriptions that had been made earlier, allied with material from Asser's work that was included by other early writers, have enabled the work to be reconstructed. The biography is now the main source of information about Alfred's life, and provides far more information about Alfred than is known about any other early English ruler. Asser also assisted Alfred in his translation of Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, and possibly with other works. Asser is sometimes cited as a source for the legend of Alfred having founded the University of Oxford, which is now known to be false. A short passage making this claim was interpolated by William Camden into his 1603 edition of Asser's Life. Doubts have also been raised periodically about whether the entire Life is a forgery, written by a slightly later writer, but it is now almost universally accepted as genuine.
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Barasoain Church

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Feast Day of December 12

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Clonard Statue St Finian Selection 2007 08 26.jpg

St Finnian of Clonard ('Cluain Eraird') (470 - 549) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. He founded Clonard Abbey in modern-day County Meath. He might have been born at Myshall, County Carlow. At an early age he was supposedly placed under the care of St. Fortchern, by whose direction, it is said, he proceeded to Wales to perfect himself in holiness and sacred knowledge under the great saints of that country. After a long sojourn there, of thirty years according to the Salamanca MS., he returned to his native land and went about from place to place, preaching, teaching, and founding churches, until he was at last led by an angel to Cluain Eraird, which he was told would be the place of his resurrection. Here he built a little cell and a church of clay and wattle, which after some time gave way to a substantial stone structure, and entered on a life of study, mortification, and prayer. The fame of his learning and sanctity was soon noised abroad, and scholars of all ages flocked from every side to his monastic retreat -- young laymen and clerics, abbots, and bishops.

St. Finnian and his pupils in a stain glass window at the Church of St. Finian in Clonard

In the Office of St. Finnian it is stated that there were no fewer than 3000 pupils getting instruction at one time in the school in the green fields of Clonard under the broad canopy of heaven. The master excelled in exposition of the Sacred Scriptures, and to this fact must be mainly attributed the extraordinary popularity which his lectures enjoyed. The exact date of the saint's death is uncertain, but it was probably 552, and his burial-place is in his own church of Clonard. For centuries after his death the school continued to be renowned as a seat of Scriptural learning, but it suffered at the hands of the Danes, especially in the eleventh century, and two wretched Irishmen, O'Rorke of Breifney and Dermod McMurrough, helped to complete the unholy work which the Northmen had begun. With the transference by the Norman Bishop of Rochfort, in 1206, of the See of Meath from Clonard to Trim, the glory of the former place departed forever.


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Henry Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster


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Divine Mercy

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