- Catholic Church
Part of a series on the Catholic Church Organisation Pope – Pope Benedict XVI College of Cardinals – Holy See Ecumenical Councils Episcopal polity · Latin Church Eastern Catholic Churches Background History · Christianity Catholicism · Apostolic Succession Four Marks of the Church Ten Commandments Crucifixion & Resurrection of Jesus Ascension · Assumption of Mary Theology Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) Theology · Apologetics Divine Grace · Sacraments Purgatory · Salvation Original sin · Saints · Dogma Virgin Mary · Mariology Immaculate Conception of Mary Liturgy and Worship Roman Catholic Liturgy Eucharist · Liturgy of the Hours Liturgical Year · Biblical Canon Rites Roman · Armenian · Alexandrian Byzantine · Antiochian · West Syrian · East Syrian Controversies Science · Evolution · Criticism Sex & gender · Homosexuality Catholicism topics Monasticism · Women · Ecumenism Prayer · Music · Art Catholicism portal
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity. The Catholic Church is among the oldest institutions in the world and has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilisation. It teaches that it is the one true 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.[note 1] Catholic doctrine maintains that the Catholic Church is the original and true Church and is infallible when it dogmatically teaches a doctrine of faith or morals.[note 2] Catholic worship is centred on the Eucharist, in which the Church teaches that the sacramental bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ. The Church holds the Blessed Virgin Mary in special regard. Catholic beliefs concerning Mary include her Immaculate Conception and bodily Assumption at the end of her earthly life.[note 3]
The term "Catholic", derived from the Greek word καθολικός (katholikos), which means "universal" or "general", was first used to describe the Church in the early 2nd century. The term katholikos is equivalent to καθόλου (katholou), a contraction of the phrase καθ' ὅλου (kath' holou) meaning "according to the whole". Thus the full name Catholic Church roughly means "universal" or "whole" church.
Since the East-West Schism of 1054, the churches that remained in communion with the See of Rome (the diocese of Rome and its bishop, the Pope, the primal patriarch) have been known as "Catholic", while the Eastern churches that rejected the Pope's primal authority have generally been known as "Orthodox" or "Eastern Orthodox". Following the Reformation in the 16th century, the Church "in communion with the Bishop of Rome" continued to use the term "Catholic" to distinguish itself from the various Protestant churches that split off.
The name "Catholic Church" has been used on official documents such as the title of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is also the term that Paul VI used when signing the sixteen documents of the Second Vatican Council. However, Church documents produced by both the Holy See and by certain national episcopal conferences occasionally refer to the Church by the name "Roman Catholic Church". The Catechism of Pope Pius X published in 1908 also used the term "Roman" to distinguish the Catholic Church from other Christian communities.
Organisation and demographics
Catholic Church Major Sui Iuris Churches
Listed by Rite (Liturgical Tradition)
- Latin Church
Byzantine Tradition Antiochian or West Syrian Tradition Chaldean or East Syrian Tradition
- Chaldean Church
- Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Armenian Tradition Alexandrian Tradition Catholicism portal
Papacy and Roman Curia
The Church's hierarchy is headed by the Bishop of Rome, the pope, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church (which is composed of the Latin Rite and the Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the see of Rome). The current office-holder is Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected in a papal conclave on 19 April 2005.[note 4]
The office of the pope is known as the Papacy. His ecclesiastical jurisdiction is often called the "Holy See" (Sancta Sedes in Latin), or the "Apostolic See" (meaning the see of the Apostle Saint Peter). Directly serving the Pope is the Roman Curia, the central governing body that administers the day-to-day business of the Catholic Church. The pope is also head of state of Vatican City State, a sovereign city-state entirely enclaved within the city of Rome.
Following the death or resignation of a pope,[note 5] members of the College of Cardinals who are under age 80 meet in the Sistine Chapel in Rome to elect a new pope. The title Cardinal is a rank of honour bestowed by Popes on certain ecclesiastics, such as leaders within the Roman Curia, bishops serving in major cities and distinguished theologians. Although this election, known as a papal conclave, can theoretically elect any male Catholic as pope, since 1389 only fellow Cardinals have been elevated to that position.
Autonomous particular churches
The Catholic Church is made up of 23 autonomous particular churches, each of which accepts the paramountcy of the Bishop of Rome on matters of doctrine. These churches, also known by the Latin term sui iuris churches, are communities of Catholic Christians whose forms of worship reflect different historical and cultural influences rather than differences in doctrine. In general, each sui iuris church is headed by a patriarch or high ranking bishop, and has a degree of self-governance over the particulars of its internal organization, liturgical rites, liturgical calendar, and other aspects of its spirituality.
The largest of these is the Latin Church which reports over 1 billion followers. The Pope and Roman Curia is head of the Latin Church, which developed in Western Europe before spreading throughout the world. The Latin Church considered itself to be the oldest and largest branch of Western Christianity, a heritage of certain beliefs and customs shared by many Christian denominations that trace their originals to Protestant Reformation.
Relatively small in terms of adherents compared to the Latin Church, but important to the overall structure of the Church, are the 22 self-governing Eastern Catholic Churches with a membership of 17.3 million as of 2010. The Eastern Catholic Churches follow the traditions and spirituality of Eastern Christianity and are composed of Eastern Christians who have always remained in full communion with the Catholic Church or who have chosen to reenter full communion in the centuries following the East-West Schism and earlier divisions. Some Eastern Catholic Churches are governed by a patriarch who is elected by the synod of the bishops of that church, others are headed by a major archbishop, others are under a metropolitan, and others consist of individual eparchies. The Roman Curia has a specific department, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, to maintain relations with them.
Part of a series on
- Examples of Eastern Catholic Churches can be found in the side bar "Major Sui Iuris Churches".
Jesus · Christ Virgin birth · Crucifixion · Resurrection · Easter · Jesus in Christianity Foundations Apostles · Church · Creeds · Gospel · Kingdom · New Covenant Bible Old Testament · New Testament ·
Books · Canon · Apocrypha
Theology Apologetics · Baptism · Christology · Father · Son · Holy Spirit ·
History of theology · Salvation · Trinity
History and traditions Timeline · Mary · Peter · Paul ·
Fathers · Early · Constantine the Great ·
Ecumenical councils · Missions ·
East–West Schism · Crusades ·
Denominations and movements Western Adventist · Anabaptist · Anglican · Baptist · Calvinism · Evangelicalism · Holiness · Independent Catholic · Lutheran · Methodist · Old Catholic · Protestant · Pentecostal · Roman Catholic Eastern Nontrinitarian General topics Art · Criticism · Ecumenism · Liturgical year · Liturgy · Music · Other religions · Prayer · Sermon · Symbolism
Dioceses, parishes and religious orders
Individual countries, regions, or major cities are served by local particular churches known as dioceses or eparchies, each overseen by a Catholic bishop. Each diocese is united with one of the worldwide "sui iuris" particular churches, such as the Latin Church, or one of the many Eastern Catholic Churches. As of 2008, the Catholic Church (both East and West) comprised 2,795 dioceses. The bishops in a particular country or region are often organised into an episcopal conference, which aids in maintaining a uniform style of worship and co-ordination of social justice programs within the areas served by member bishops.
Dioceses are further divided into numerous individual communities called parishes, each staffed by one or more priests, deacons, and/or lay ecclesial ministers. Parishes are responsible for the day to day celebration of the sacraments and pastoral care of the Catholic laity.
Ordained Catholics, as well as members of the laity, may enter into consecrated life either on an individual basis, as a hermit or consecrated virgin, or by joining an institute of consecrated life (a religious institute or a secular institute) in which to take vows confirming their desire to follow the three evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. Examples of institutes of consecrated life are the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Missionaries of Charity, and the Sisters of Mercy.
Total church membership (both lay and clerical) in 2007 was 1.147 billion people, increasing from the 1950 figure of 437 million and the 1970 figure of 654 million. On 31 December 2008, membership was 1.166 billion, an increase of 11.54% over the same date in 2000, only slightly greater than the rate of increase of the world population (10.77%). The increase was 33.02% in Africa, but only 1.17% in Europe. It was 15.91% in Asia, 11.39% in Oceania, and 10.93% in the Americas. As a result, Catholics were 17.77% of the total population in Africa, 63.10% in the Americas, 3.05% in Asia, 39.97% in Europe, 26.21% in Oceania, and 17.40% of the world population.
Of the world's Catholics, the proportion living in Africa grew from 12.44% in 2000 to 14.84% in 2008, while those living in Europe fell from 26.81% to 24.31%. Membership in the Catholic Church is attained through baptism or reception into the Church (for individuals previously baptised in non-Catholic Christian churches). For some years until 2009, if someone formally left the Church, that fact was noted in the register of the person's baptism.
At the end of 2007, Vatican records listed 408,024 Catholic priests in the world, 762 more than at the beginning of the year. The main growth areas have been Asia and Africa, with 21.1 percent and 27.6 percent growth respectively. In North and South America, numbers have remained approximately the same, while there was a 6.8 percent decline in Europe and a 5.5 percent decrease in Oceania from 2000 to 2007.
Worship and liturgy
Among the 23 autonomous (sui iuris) churches, numerous forms of worship and liturgical traditions exist, called "rites", which reflect historical and cultural diversity rather than differences in belief. In the definition of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, "a rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each Church sui iuris", but the term is often limited to liturgical patrimony. The most commonly used liturgy is the Roman Rite, but even in the Latin Catholic Church a few other rites are in use, and the Eastern Catholic Churches have distinct rites.
Celebration of the Eucharist
In all rites the Mass, or Divine Liturgy, is the centre of Catholic worship. Catholics believe that at each Mass, the bread and wine are supernaturally transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ by the words of consecration spoken by the priest. The words of consecration are drawn from the three synoptic Gospels and a Pauline letter. The Church teaches that Christ established a New Covenant with humanity through the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, as described in these biblical verses.
Because the Church teaches that Christ is present in the Eucharist, there are strict rules about who may celebrate and who may receive the Eucharist. The sacrament can only be celebrated by an ordained Catholic priest or bishop. Those who are conscious of being in a state of mortal sin are forbidden from receiving the sacrament until they have received absolution through the sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance). Catholics are normally obliged to abstain from eating for at least an hour before receiving the sacrament.
Catholics are not permitted to receive the Eucharist as celebrated in Protestant churches, which in the view of the Catholic Church lack the sacrament of Holy Orders, and thus also lack a valid Eucharist. Likewise, Protestants are not normally permitted to receive communion in the Catholic Church. This is because unity with the Catholic faith is seen as necessary before one can partake of the Church's sacraments. In relation to the churches of Eastern Christianity not in communion with the Holy See, the Catholic Church is less restrictive, declaring that "a certain communion in sacris, and so in the Eucharist, given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not merely possible but is encouraged."
Western liturgical rites
Catholic Church Structure of the
Roman Rite of Mass
The Roman Missal and Communion Chalice
A. The Introductory Rites B. The Liturgy of the Word C. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
See also: Eucharist in the Catholic Church
D. The Concluding Rites Source: General Instruction of the Roman Missal