Portal:Catholicism

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The dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

Catholicism is the entirety of the beliefs and practices of the Western and Eastern Churches that are in full communion with the pope as the Bishop of Rome and successor of Saint Peter the Apostle, united as the Catholic Church.

The first known written use of "Catholic Church" appears in a letter by St.Ignatius of Antioch about A.D. 107 to the church of Smyrna, whose bishop, Polycarp, visited Ignatius during his journey to Rome as a prisoner: in his letter to Smyrna, Ignatius wrote, "Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8) His use of "Catholic Church" suggests that it was already in current use, for he sees no need to explain himself and uses the expression as one already known to his readers. It gives expression to St. Paul's teaching that all baptized in Christ are one body in Christ (Gal.3:28; Eph.4:3-6, 12-16). Dissenting groups breaking away from this universal unity were already known to the Apostles: in his letters Paul refers to the "Judaizers" (those requiring observance of the Jewish Law), and in his Book of Revelation St. John calls them "Nicolaitans". It is a small step for those faithful to the teaching of the Apostles to identify themselves as the Catholic Church ("the one Church everywhere"), and not to include those dissenting and breaking away from unity with her.

The term Catholic Christianity entered into Roman law by force of edict under the Roman Emperor Theodosius on February 27 AD 380 in the Theodosian Code XVI.i.2: "It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our clemency and moderation, should continue the profession of that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one Deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation and the second the punishment of [as] our authority, in accordance with the will of heaven, shall decide to inflict."

[Extract of English translation from Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church (London: Oxford University Press, 1943), p. 31, cited at Medieval Sourcebook: Theodosian Code XVI by Paul Halsall, Fordham University. Retrieved Jan 5, 2007. The full Latin text of the code is at IMPERATORIS THEODOSIANI CODEX Liber Decimus Sextus (170KB download), archived from George Mason University. Retrieved Jan 5, 2007.]

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A 15th-century painting by Pietro Perugino depicting Jesus giving the keys of heaven to the apostle Peter.

The Roman Catholic Church, officially known as the Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, representing over half of all Christians and one sixth of the world's population. It is made up of one Western and 22 Eastern Catholic churches and divided into 2,782 jurisdictional areas around the world. These Churches look to the Pope, currently Pope Francis I, as their highest visible authority in matters of faith, morals, and church governance. The primary mission of the Catholic Church is to spread the message of Jesus Christ, found in the four Gospels, and to administer sacraments that aid the spiritual growth of its members. To further its mission, the Church operates social programs and institutions throughout the world. These include schools, universities, hospitals, missions and shelters, as well as Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities that help the poor, families, the elderly and the sick.
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Oil-on-panel portrait of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527)
Thomas More was a lawyer and political figure in 16th century England, best remembered as Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor.

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Augustine in Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin in 1882.

Augustine of Canterbury (died May 26, 604) was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 598. He is considered the "Apostle to the English", a founder of the English Church, and a patron of England.Augustine was the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission to Britain to convert the pagan King Æthelberht of Kent to Christianity. Kent was probably chosen because it was near the Christian kingdoms in Gaul, and because Æthelberht had married a Christian princess, Bertha, daughter of Charibert, the King of Paris, who was expected to exert some influence over her husband. Although the missionaries considered turning back before they reached Kent, Gregory urged them on, and in 597 Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet and proceeded to Æthelberht's main town of Canterbury.
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Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, Cardinal Basilios Bessarion

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Eusebius of Caesarea
Every prophet, every ancient writer, every revolution of the state, every law, every ceremony of the old covenant points only to Christ, announces only him, represents only him.

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