Roman Catholic Church


August 19, 2022

The Roman Catholic Church or, simply, the Catholic Church, is the main church and religious denomination of Christianity. In 2019 there were almost 1.1 billion baptized Catholics worldwide. The Catholic Church is a communion of Western, or Latin Rite churches, and 22 autonomous Eastern Catholic churches, called particular churches, with a total of 2,795 dioceses in 2008. The highest authority of the Church in earthly affairs of faith, morality and governability is the Bishop of Rome, also called the Pope. The Roman Catholic Church establishes the origin of the apostolic succession of the pope with Saint Peter and the apostles. Currently, the pope is Francis, who has supreme authority in collaboration with the College of Bishops, of which he is the head. The Catholic community is composed of an ordained ministry and the laity, and members of both groups can belong to the organization of religious communities. The Church defines its mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, the administration of sacraments and the exercise of charity. It operates in social programs and institutions around the world, including Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, missions and shelters, as well as helping families, the poor, the elderly and the sick. With a history that spans nearly two thousand years, the Church is "the oldest and greatest institution in the world", and has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilization since at least the 4th century. In the eleventh century, a major division, which has been called the Great Schism, occurred between Eastern and Western Christianity. Of these Eastern churches, those that maintained or re-established communion with the Pope are known as Eastern Catholic Churches, while those that remain independent of papal authority are known as Orthodox. In the 16th century, partly in response to the rise of the Protestant Reformation, the Church began its own substantial process of reform and renewal, known as the Counter-Reformation.


The word "church" (ekklesia, from the Greek ek-kalein - "to call out") means "summoning". It designates the assembly of the people, of a religious nature. It is the term often used in the Greek text of the Old Testament to designate the assembly of the chosen people in the presence of God, especially when it comes to the assembly at Sinai, where Israel received the Law and was constituted by God as his holy people. Giving itself the name "Church", the first community of those who believed in Christ recognizes itself as the heir of that assembly. In it, God "summons" his people from all the ends of the earth. The term Kiriaké, which derives the words church, in English, and Kirche, in German, which means "which belongs to the Lord". The term "Catholic" comes from the Greek καθολικός (katholikós), which means universal. Ignatius of Antioch gives the oldest testimony of this name in the year 110: "Where the bishop is, there is the crowd, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." In the first three centuries of the Church Christians said "Christian is my name, Catholic my nickname". Later the term "Catholic" was used, to distinguish from other Christian groups whose doctrines differed from the main line (like the Gnosticisms).


The Catholic Church sees itself and proclaims itself as the congregation of all those who believe in Christ, within which men can travel the spiritual path to God by living reciprocal love and through the administration of sacraments (baptism, eucharist, confirmation, penance, canonical marriage, priestly ordination and anointing of the sick), through which God bestows grace on the believer. The Catholic Church considers that it is entrusted with the mission of elaborating, imparting and propagating the e