Irish Catholic

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A Celtic Christian Cross, a symbol of the Catholic Church and Christianity in Ireland

Irish Catholics are those who are both Roman Catholic and Irish (or of Irish descent). This is not a separate creed or sect in the sense that "Anglo-Catholic", "Old Catholic", "Eastern Orthodox Catholic" might be. There is no Autonomous ("sui iuris") Particular Church/Rite, such as Greek Catholic or Chaldean Catholic.

Divisions between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants (both those who would eventually be called the Protestant Ascendancy and those Protestants of more humble societal position) have played a major role in the history of Ireland from the 16th century (especially the Reformation in Ireland) to the 20th century (especially the Easter Rising, Irish Civil War and The Troubles). While religion broadly marks the delineation of these divisions, the contentions were primarily political and related to access to power. For example, while the majority of Irish Catholics saw themselves as having an identity independent of Britain, and were excluded from power, a number of the instigators in rebellions against British rule were in fact Protestant. During the Irish Rebellion of 1798 both Catholics and Protestants, other than those of the established or British state church with few exceptions, found common cause, as they both endured discrimination based on their "dissenter" status.

Irish Catholics can be found in many countries around the world, the English-speaking world especially. Emigration was often initiated by duress as was the case with the Great Irish Famine in the late 1840s, following which the population declined by over half in the following century (from approx. over 8 million to just over 4 million) in the short term due to death from starvation and disease, but in the long term due to the pattern of immigration begun then. The term has currency in the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some of these nations had, or have, a majority of Protestants; thus, both aspects – being Catholic, and being Irish – at times separated them from the mainstream culture. In the United States, hostility to both these aspects was expressed through the Know-Nothing movement and Nativism in general.

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