The Catholic Church is a denomination of Christianity. It is the largest denomination of Christians, with roughly 1 billion people. It is the world's second-largest religious group after Sunni Islam It teaches that it is the same Church started by Jesus Christ and his followers about 2,000 years ago. The Catholic Church is based in the Vatican City.
The word catholic comes from the Greek word "katholicos", which means "universal." It was first used in the Nicene Creed. Other Christian communities separate from the Catholic Church also consider themselves part of the "one universal Church" mentioned in the Creed, because they believe the concept of "Church" to include all the elect, which they believe exist in many Christian denominations. Often, the word Roman is added - incorrectly - due to its headquarters in Vatican City, which is in the city of Rome, Italy. Typically, people who call themselves 'Catholic' mean that they are a member of the Catholic Church. It also means that they follow the teachings of the Church.
People in the Roman Catholic Church are all over the world, but many Catholics live in Latin America, but also in United States, Canada, Western Europe, Southern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines, India, South Korea and Oceania.
The Roman Catholic Church is led by the Pope, who lives in the Vatican City. According to Catholics, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, who also guides the Pope. The Church teaches that when the Pope speaks in order to affirm a Catholic belief('ex cathedra') he cannot be wrong. This infallibility the Popes have used throughout history; some examples include the Tome of St. Leo, the declaration of the Immaculate Conception, and various anathemas (religious condemnations issued by the Popes against certain heresies).
According to the Catholic Church, the first Pope was Saint Peter, because in the Gospel it is written that Jesus Christ would make Peter the "rock" (foundation) of the Church (Gospel of Matthew 16:18, you are Peter ('rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church). Right now the pope is Pope Francis.
Faith and morals[change | edit source]
Catholics should follow the example of love Jesus Christ both teaches and gives: to love each other so much that one is even willing to die for another.
The Pope[change | edit source]
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church is called the Pope, which literally means "father". Catholics say Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church, and appointed the first Pope, a person named Saint Peter, to lead all Christians.
In addition to the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope also leads the Eastern Catholic churches. Together with the Roman Catholic Church, they are known as the Catholic Church.
Catholics believe that some of the official statements that the Pope makes about faith and morals of their religion are true and cannot be proved incorrect, an idea called infallibility. Infallibility only occurs when the Pope speaks "Ex Cathedra" which is Latin for "from the chair".
Worship practices[change | edit source]
Their main form of worship is called the Mass. It is celebrated every day. Catholics are required to attend on Sunday and on a few Holy Days of obligation. In the United States, the Holy Days of Obligation are: Mary, Mother of God (January 1), The Assumption of Mary (August 15), The Immaculate Conception (of Mary) (December 8), The Ascension of Jesus (40 days after Easter), Christmas (December 25) and All Saints Day (November 1). These can be remembered by the following phrase: 3 for Mary, 2 for Jesus and 1 for all the saints.
While these are all practices of Roman Catholics, other Christian churches also use many or all of these same practices.
Catholics put more emphasis on the Virgin Mary (Jesus's mother) than many other Christians, calling her the "Mother of God," "The Queen of Heaven," and praying to her regularly, as "Mediatrix of graces" at a level higher than other saints.
Sacraments[change | edit source]
The Catholic Church celebrates seven sacraments. A sacrament is "an outward sign instituted (started) by Christ to give grace" (a supernatural gift of God that someone did nothing to deserve).
The seven sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony (marriage). The Holy Eucharist is the most important of the sacraments, because Catholics believe that Jesus Christ becomes truly present in the form of bread and wine. This happens through transubstantiation which takes place in the Mass.
Catholics interpret the Bible (God-given book) according to Tradition. Tradition is the transmission of the early church's life and teaching, as especially recorded in the writings of the Fathers of the Church who lived in the first centuries. At that time the holy books where accepted in the Bible, which is the collection of the books considered revealed.
A basic rule for Catholics is that "Truth cannot contradict truth". They translate the Bible with this in mind. No interpretation can be accepted if it contradicts another revealed truth.
Nicene Creed[change | edit source]
"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again in fulfilment of the scriptures: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, He is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."
Eastern Orthodox and Protestant people believe many of the same things. They sometime disagree on the role of Mary (the mother of Jesus) and other saints, on what a priest can do, and on how exactly God should be worshipped, among other things.
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References[change | edit source]
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