History of the Catholic Church

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The history of the Catholic Church is the formation, events, and change of the Catholic Church through time.

The Catholic Church began with Jesus Christ and his teachings. It is a continuation of the early Christian community established by the Disciples of Jesus. The Church believes its bishops to be the successors to Jesus's apostles and the Church's leader, the Bishop of Rome (also known as the Pope), to be the only successor to Saint Peter who ministered in Rome in the first century AD after his appointment by Jesus as head of the Church.

Christianity spread throughout the early Roman Empire, with all persecutions due to conflicts with the pagan state religion. In 313, the persecutions were lessened by the Edict of Milan with the legalization of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine I. In 380, under Emperor Theodosius, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire by the Edict of Thessalonica.

The battles of Toulouse preserved the Christian west against the Umayyad Muslim army, even though Rome itself was destroyed in 850, and Constantinople attacked. In the 11th century, already difficult relations between the mostly Greek church in the East, and the Latin church in the West, developed into the East-West Schism, partially due to conflicts over the Pope's authority. Before and during the 16th century, the Church started a process of reform and renewal. Reform during the 16th century is known as the Counter-Reformation. In later centuries, Catholicism spread widely across the world even though it experienced a reduction of European believers due to the growth of Protestantism and also because of religious doubt and distrust during and after the Enlightenment. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s introduced the most big changes to Catholic practices since the Council of Trent four centuries before.