We explain what Catholicism is, what its characteristics and beliefs are. In addition, we tell you its history and who its founder was.

Catholicism encompasses the Latin or Roman Catholic Church and 23 other Uniate churches.

What is Catholicism?

The Catholicism It is one of the main currents or churches of the Christian religion, the most numerous and oldest, made up of the Latin or Roman Catholic Church and 23 other Uniate Churches (Catholic Churches of Eastern tradition), all subject to the religious authority of the Pope in the Vatican. It is distinguished from the other Christian religions, which are Protestantism and Christian orthodoxy.

Of the currents of Christianity, Catholicism is probably the most monolithic and organized. This is because the catholic church is an ancient, formal and unified institutionwhich considers itself the sole heir to the doctrine taught by Jesus of Nazareth, the messiah of Christian dogma.

In fact, the term “catholic” comes from the late Latin catholicuswhich in turn comes from the Greek katholikós“universal”, and was a term adopted around the second century, to distinguish what was considered to be the “true” Christian church from dissident groups (such as the Ebionites, Marcionites, Valentinians and Apollinarians).

Like other forms of Christianity, Catholics believe in Christian dogma entirely, that is, that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah foretold by the ancient Hebrew prophecies of the Old Testament, and that his death was a sacrifice to shape a new world. covenant between the one God and humanity.

In addition, Catholicism believes that the return of Christ, as announced in the biblical texts, will bring about the universal judgment of humanity, and only the faithful will be saved. However, his conception of the church and Christian doctrine is notoriously different from the Protestant and Orthodox variants.

Catholicism is the majority Christian doctrine in the world, with more than 1.36 billion followers (around 18% of the world population), and a number of priests close to half a million. In addition, its historical and cultural role in the West has been central since before the fall of the Roman Empire, and it continues to be the main moral and religious current in Mediterranean Europe and Latin America, and has a growing number of followers in Africa and Asia. .

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Features of Catholicism

Catholicism Pope Francis
The Pope is considered the direct successor of the Apostle Peter, founder of the Catholic Church.

Broadly speaking, Catholicism is characterized by:

  • It is the majority of the three tendencies of Christianity in the world.
  • Its central institution is the Catholic Church and the highest pontiff is the Pope.who governs the faith from the Holy See of the Vatican.
  • It has its origins in the apostolate of Jesus Christand throughout more than two thousand years of history it has developed a sophisticated theological system and has spread from Europe to different corners of the world.
  • It is one of the major religions in the world.: its number of faithful is greater than that of the two remaining Christian slopes combined, and it also exceeds the total number of Buddhists or Hindus. It is only surpassed in total number of faithful by Islam.
  • His doctrine played a stellar role in European and Western inspiring great artistic and architectural works, fostering important moral debates and unleashing numerous wars and persecutions.
  • Like other Christian strands, its faithful practice the Holy Eucharist and Baptism, as well as other rites unique to Catholicism, such as confirmation, confession and extreme rites. Catholic rites must be taught by priests specifically and exclusively trained for it, to whom celibacy is imposed as an obligation.
  • Its sacred text is the Bible, both the Old and the New Testament.but it also has an extensive religious, mystical and theological bibliography that has emerged throughout its two thousand years of history.
  • Its rites and practices come from those practiced in the times of Ancient Rome.. In addition, the pope is considered the direct successor of the apostle Peter, who is considered the founder of the church.
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Origin and founder of Catholicism

Catholicism Saint Peter Founder
Saint Peter founded the Catholic Church following the instructions received from Jesus Christ.

The origin of Catholicism goes back to the organization of the apostles of Christ for the preservation and dissemination of his legacy. According to Catholic tradition, The founder of the Catholic Church was the Apostle Saint Peter, considered the first pope., based on the instructions received directly from the Messiah. This would have happened in the first century AD. C., and formalized the separation between rabbinical Judaism and primitive Christianity.

This first organized church (as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles) is what would later be called (around the year 100) the universal church, that is, the Catholic Church. The exact organization of this early church often varied up to the third century.going from an organization of three levels (bishops, priests and deacons) to one of seven, at the head of which was the bishop, and the bishop of Rome played a special role, since it was the capital of the Roman Empire.

Christianity was persecuted by the Romans until around the year 313.after the publication of the Edict of Milan that granted freedom of worship in the Empire, which allowed Christianity to be reformed and the official cult to be shaped, through the Councils of Nicaea (325), Ephesus I (431 ) and Chalcedon (451).

Nevertheless, Already from the year 380 Christianity became the official religion of the Roman state, after Emperor Theodosius I the Great’s Edict of Thessalonica. In these reforms, different primitive Christian variants, declared heretical, were expelled.

In the fifth century the Catholic Church had spread throughout the Empire, from Hispania to Syria and Africa, and in the following centuries the evangelization of the rest of Northern and Eastern Europe took place. Already then the Catholic Church was the only formal Christian church, and it remained so until the Great Schism of East and West in 1054 (which gave rise to Orthodox Catholic Christianity), and then the Protestant Reformation in 1517 (which gave rise to Protestantism). ).

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Main beliefs of Catholicism

Catholicism spreads the message of Christ and seeks to prepare the faithful for the encounter with God.

Christian dogma, as understood by Catholicism, is that Jesus Christ is the messiah sent by God to renew his old covenant with humanity and thus cleanse it of sins and prepare it for the coming judgment. In the latter, the faithful will be rewarded with the resurrection of the body and eternal life in paradise, while the guilty will be punished with the perpetual fire of hell.

The Catholic Church is, in this way, the institution in charge of spreading this message and preparing the faithful for the encounter with God, a task to which the priests, in their extensive hierarchy, dedicate themselves. to that end the Church administers the seven divine sacraments:

  • The baptismwhich initiates the faithful into the Catholic faith and cleanses them of original sin.
  • The confirmationwhich ratifies his commitment to God before the community of the faithful.
  • penancewhich purges the faithful of sins and allows their encounter with God.
  • the eucharistwhich recalls the last supper of Christ and through the divine mystery converts the wine into the blood of the Messiah and the sacred host into his body, so that when the faithful consume them they become one with God.
  • Marriagewhich consecrates the union of the couple under Catholic Christian precepts.
  • extreme unctionwho asks for the cure of the sick and prepares the spirit of the dying for his encounter with God.

On the other hand, Catholic dogma defends the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that is, the Holy Trinity, and also venerates the Christian martyrs and saints as intermediaries between God and the faithful. In this way, Catholicism founded a vast sainthood that, in the opinion of other Christian doctrines, resembles the pantheon of ancient pagan religions. In Catholic churches, the veneration of images of these saints is normal, as well as the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ.

Distinction between Catholicism and Christianity

The differences between Catholicism and Christianity have to do with the former being part of the latter. Namely, Catholicism is one of the three great branches of the Christian religionand therefore should not be equated with the totality of Christianity, since Orthodoxy and Protestantism are, in turn, forms of Christianity.

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A) Yes, we must understand by Christianity the religion that believes in Jesus of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) as the messiah of the Old Testament prophecies, the son of God sent to earth to bring the divine word to humanity. Catholicism, therefore, is one of the three great interpretations of that message.

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Differences between Catholicism and Protestantism

Protestantism arose as a movement critical of Catholicism in the 16th century, which claimed the need to return to a more “pure” and “original” Christianity, that is, more similar to what was described in the ancient biblical texts. This need arose from accusations of corruption and straying from the true path by the Catholic Church, and was so powerful that it opened the door for a diverse set of alternative churches, which came to be called “Protestants.”

The substantial differences between Protestantism and Catholicism can be summarized in:

Catholicism Protestantism
They believe in Jesus of Nazareth as the messiah, but also in the Catholic saints made up of martyrs and saints capable of interceding for the faithful before God. They believe in Jesus of Nazareth as the only possible intermediary between the parishioners and God. They consider Catholic saints false idols or even the work of the devil.
They have large elaborate altars in their churches and temples, in which the saints and the image of Jesus crucified are displayed. The altars of their churches are usually more discreet than the Catholic ones and have neither effigies of saints nor representations of Jesus Christ on the cross, but only the latter.
They read the Bible as a sacred text and also the work of Christian theologians, thinkers and mystics. They mostly read the Bible as a sacred text, and are wary of additional mystical texts or biblical interpretations.
They celebrate communion, baptism, confession, confirmation, marriage and all other Catholic rites. They celebrate baptism and communion, mainly, as well as some other minor rites of each church.
They understand their church as unique and universal for all Christians, whose spiritual leadership rests with the Pope, successor of Saint Peter according to tradition. They understand their church as the true practice of the holy gospel and have no spiritual leader in their doctrines.
They understand the church as a formal and official organization, which demands total dedication and celibacy from its members. They consider that the role of officiating the rites can be occupied by any of the faithful of the community, without the need to be specially invested.

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  • “Eastern Catholic Churches” on Wikipedia.
  • “Christianity” on Wikipedia.
  • “Catholicism” in the Dictionary of the Language of the Royal Spanish Academy.
  • “What makes Christianity different from Catholicism?” in National Geographic.
  • “What differences are there between Catholicism and Protestantism?” in Deutsche Welle.
  • “Roman Catholicism” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.