Inquisition can mean simply 'inquiry'. But The Inquisition was the legal agent of the Catholic Church against heresy in the Middle Ages. It did two main things. First, it issued a list (the Index) of published books banned because they contained heresy. The faithful were forbidden to read such books. Second, it prosecuted individuals thought guilty of heresy, and had the power to order executions. The standard method was to burn heretics alive.
The full name of the Inquisition was the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide) of the Catholic Church. This committee was founded in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV. It had branches in most European countries.
The word Inquisition comes from Latin quaerere. That means to to turn, to ask a question.
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