What is the Catholic Church?
The catholic church is the congregation of the faithfuls to the Christianity that is governed by the Pope . It is the largest church in the world, brings together more than 1,200 million faithful around the world.
According to the doctrine, it was founded by Jesus Christ and directed by the apostles in its early stages . For this reason, it proclaims itself as the only authentic Christian Church. Its main mission, apart from elaborating, imparting and propagating the teachings of Christ and preserving the unity of the faithful, is helping to travel the spiritual path towards God.
The word church comes from the Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklesía), which means ‘assembly’, which was the term used in the Old Testament to refer to the assembly of the people chosen by God, especially that which constituted the assembly of Sinai, which was where the The people of Israel received the law.
Catholic , on the other hand, also comes from the Greek καθολικός (katholikós), which means ‘universal’. This adjective is used to distinguish it from other churches, equally Christian, such as Anglican, Orthodox or Protestant, which differ from Catholicism because they are not subject to the authority of the pope.
Sometimes the Catholic Church is spoken of as a Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church . However, there are other Churches equally in communion with the Bishop of Rome whose liturgical traditions are different from the Roman one. Thus, the Roman Catholic Church would be, in a way, just a part of the entire Catholic Church.
The main seat of the Catholic Church is in Rome, in the Vatican City State , an enclave within the Italian capital. It is an independent State recognized internationally.
Doctrine of the Catholic Church
The doctrinal foundation of the Catholic Church as a religion is based on the following key aspects:
In the Apostles’ Creed , explained and commented on in the Catechism of the Catholic Church approved by John Paul II in 1992;
In Revelation , that is, in the theological truths transmitted by the Sacred Tradition and fixed in the Sacred Scriptures.
In the dogma of the Immaculate Conception , according to which Jesus was conceived by Mary without being reached by “original sin”;
In the effective spiritual authority of the Catholic Church for the forgiveness of sins and the remission of punishments, through the sacrament of penance and indulgences;
In the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist , thanks to the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
History of the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church was structured and organized by the followers of Christ during the first centuries of our era. Some of the most relevant events throughout the history of the Catholic Church were:
The expansion and consolidation of its domain throughout the Ancient Age and the Middle Ages in Europe, the Near East and North Africa;
The Great Schism between East and West in 1054, as a result of which Christianity would be divided into the Orthodox Church , in the East, and the Catholic Church, subject to the authority of the Pope, in the West;
The ultramarine expansion of European empires from the fifteenth century, which also involves the extension of the Catholic Church’s dominions to new territories, especially in America;
The movement led by Martin Luther in rejection of papal policies and corrupt practices within the Church, from which would emerge a new doctrinal current within Christianity not subject to the authority of the pope, known as Protestantism.
From the Modern Age to the present, the Catholic Church has undergone a series of changes and reforms that have progressively been bringing the institution up to date with the new times.
Organization of the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church is an institution composed, on the one hand, by the clergy, constituted by the bishops, priests and deacons , and, on the other, by the communion of the faithful .
It is a highly hierarchical institution. His head is the pope , chosen by the cardinals , who also have the function of assisting the pope in the pastoral action of the Church and in the administration of the Vatican and the Roman Curia. They form the College of Cardinals .
Next are the bishops , in charge of each diocese and assisted by the priests and deacons. The bishops meet in an assembly, presided over by the pope, known as the Ecumenical Council . In addition, bishops can be organized in each country around an Episcopal Conference or Assembly of Ordinaries (in the East). Not to mention interdiocesan organizations, which involve more than one country.
Religious congregations and orders are added to the organization of the Catholic Church. Although they are not an integral part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, they depend on the pope and the bishops.
Territorially, the Catholic Church is organized into dioceses or particular churches . Each diocese is under the authority of a bishop. Those of greater rank receive the name of archdiocese and are governed by an archbishop. It is estimated that there are currently around 2,845 dioceses and 634 archdioceses. The main diocese is that of Rome, which includes the Vatican City, the papal seat.
There are also nine patriarchates , three Latinos and six Orientals. Patriarchs are dioceses grouped around the authority of a bishop who holds the title of patriarch. There are also nine patriarchal exarchs and five territories dependent on patriarchs .
In addition, there are prelatures and territorial abbeys , which are constituted by territories not considered dioceses, although they function as such. In total, there are 42 territorial prelatures, 11 abbeys, a personal prelature, corresponding to the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei , 35 military ordinariates and 8 ordinariates for the faithful of oriental rites.