Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church, officially known as the Catholic Church, [] ] Norman, p. 12] Pope Benedict XVI summarized this mission as a threefold responsibility to proclaim the word of God, celebrate the sacraments, and exercise the ministry of charity.] Schreck, pp. 264–5]

Sinning is considered the opposite to following Jesus, weakening a person's resemblance to God and turning their souls away from his love. Sins range from the less serious venial sins, to more serious mortal sins which end a person's relationship with God.]

Holy Spirit and Confirmation

Jesus told his apostles that after his death and resurrection he would send them the "Advocate", the "Holy Spirit", who " ...will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you". [] This final judgment, according to Church teaching, will bring an end to human history and mark the beginning of a new and better heaven and earth ruled by God in righteousness.Schreck, p. 397]

There are three states of afterlife in Catholic belief. Purgatory is a temporary condition for the purification of souls who, although saved, are not free enough from sin to enter directly into heaven. It is a state requiring penance and purgation of sin through God's mercy aided by the prayers of others. Heaven is a time of glorious union with God and a life of unspeakable joy that lasts forever. Finally, those who chose to live a sinful and selfish life, did not repent, and fully intended to persist in their ways are sent to hell, an everlasting separation from God.Barry, p. 105] The Church teaches that no one is condemned to hell without having freely decided to reject God and his love. He predestines no one to hell and no one can determine whether anyone else has been condemned. Catholicism teaches that through God's mercy a person can repent at any point before death and be saved "like the good thief who was crucified next to Jesus".] The Church constitution, Lumen Gentium, affirms that the fullness of "means of salvation" exists only in the Catholic Church but acknowledges that the Holy Spirit can make use of Christian communities separated from itself to bring people to salvation.Schreck, pp. 146–7] It teaches that Catholics are called by the Holy Spirit to work for unity among all Christians.

The Church operates numerous social ministries throughout the world, but teaches that individual Catholics are required to practice spiritual and corporal works of mercy as well. Corporal works of mercy include feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, immigrants or refugees, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick and visiting those in prison. Spiritual works require the Catholic to share knowledge, to give advice, comfort those who suffer, have patience, forgive those who hurt them, give correction to those who need it, and pray for the living and the dead. In conjunction with the work of mercy to visit the sick, the Church offers the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, performed only by a priest.Kreeft, p. 373] Church teaching on works of mercy and the new social problems of the industrial era led to the development of Catholic social teaching, which emphasizes human dignity and commits Catholics to the welfare of others.Barry, pp. 98–9]

Prayer and worship

Catholic liturgy is regulated by Church authoritySchreck, p. 141] and consists of the Eucharist and Mass, the other sacraments, and the Liturgy of the Hours. At a minimum, the Catechism requires every Catholic to attend Mass on Sundays, confess sins at least once a year, receive the Eucharist at least during Easter season, observe days of fasting and of abstinence as established by the Church, and help provide for the Church's needs. The Church teaches that the Old Testament promise of God's salvation for all peoples was fulfilled when Jesus established a New Covenant with humanity through the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper—a covenant then consummated by his sacrifice on the cross. It believes that the bread and wine brought to the altar at each Mass are changed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the true body and the true blood of Christ (termed transubstantiation) and that by consuming these, believers are spiritually nourished and deepen their union with Jesus, are helped to overcome and avoid sin, cleansed of venial sins, unite with the poor and promote Christian unity.Schreck, pp. 232–9] Kreeft, p. 328]

The most common celebration of the Eucharist, the Latin rite or ordinary form, is separated into two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.Kreeft, p. 325] and generally last from a half hour for a daily Mass to just over an hour for a Sunday Mass. According to professor Alan Schreck, in its main elements and prayers, the Catholic Mass celebrated today "bears striking resemblance" to the form of the Mass described in the Didache and First Apology of Justin Martyr in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries.Schreck, pp. 189–90, quote: "Some of the earliest Christian writings, such as the Didache, or the 'Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,' chapters 9–10 (late first and early second century), and the First Apology of Justin Martyr, chapters 65–67 (about A.D. 155), describe the primitive form of the Mass and its prayers in a way that bears striking resemblance to the basic format of the Mass today. In fact, the main elements of St. Justin's description of the Mass are almost identical to the form Catholics now employ."] []

Devotional life, prayer, Mary and the saints

In addition to the Mass, the Catholic Church considers prayer to be one of the most important elements of Christian life. The Church considers personal prayer a Christian duty, one of the spiritual works of mercy and one of the principal ways its members nourish a relationship with God.Barry, pp. 86, 98] The "Catechism" identifies three types of prayer: vocal prayer (sung or spoken), meditation, and contemplative prayer. Quoting from the early church father John Chrysostom regarding vocal prayer, the "Catechism" states, "Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls." Meditation is prayer in which the "mind seeks to understand the why and how of Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking." Contemplative prayer is being with God, taking time to be close to and alone with him. Three of the most common devotional prayers of the Catholic Church are The Lord's Prayer, the Rosary and Stations of the Cross. These prayers are most often vocal, yet always meditative and contemplative. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a common form of contemplative prayer, whereas Benediction is a common vocal method of prayer. "Lectio divina", which means "sacred reading", is a form of meditative prayer. The Church encourages patterns of prayer intended to develop into habitual prayer. This includes such daily prayers as grace at meals, the Rosary, or the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as the weekly rhythm of Sunday Eucharist and the observation of the year-long liturgical cycle.cite web | last =Paragraph numbers 2697–724 | title =Catechism of the Catholic Church | publisher = Libreria Editrice Vaticana| year = 1994| url = http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p4s1c3a1.htm| accessdate=2008-02-08]

Prayers and devotions to the Virgin Mary and the saints are a common part of Catholic life but are distinct from the worship of God.Schreck, pp. 199–200] Explaining the intercession of saints, the "Catechism" states that the saints "... do not cease to intercede with the Father for us ... so by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped." The Church holds Mary, as ever Virgin and Mother of God" in special regard. She is believed to have been conceived without original sin, and was assumed into heaven. These dogmas, focus of Roman Catholic Mariology, are considered infallible. She is honored with many titles such as Queen of Heaven. Pope Paul VI called her Mother of the Church, because by giving birth to Christ, she is considered to be the spiritual mother to each member of the Body of Christ.Barry, p. 106] Because of her influential role in the life of Jesus, prayers and devotions, such as the Rosary, the Hail Mary, the Salve Regina and the Memorare are common Catholic practices.Barry, pp. 122–3] The Church has affirmed the validity of Marian apparitions (supernatural experiences of Mary by one or more persons) such as those at Lourdes, Fatima and GuadalupeSchreck, p. 368] while others such as Međugorje are still under investigation. Affirmed or not, however, pilgrimages to these places are popular Catholic devotions. [cite news | last =Baedeker | first =Rob | title =World's most-visited religious destinations | work =USA Today | year =2007 | url =http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2007-12-21-most-visited-religious-spots-forbes_N.htm | accessdate=2008-03-03] Several liturgical Marian feasts are celebrated throughout the Church Year.

Church organization and community

Although the Church considers Jesus to be its ultimate spiritual head, as an earthly organization its spiritual head and leader is the pope.Kreeft, p. 109] He governs from Vatican City in Rome, a sovereign state of which he is also the civil head of state. [cite web | title =Country profile: Vatican | work=BBC News | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1066140.stm |accessdate=2008-03-09] Each pope is elected for life by the College of Cardinals, a body composed of bishops and priests who have been granted the status of cardinal. The cardinals, who also serve as papal advisors, may select any male member of the Church as pope, but if the candidate is not already a bishop, he must become one before taking office. [cite web | last =Thavis | first =John | title =Election of new pope follows detailed procedure
work = Catholic News Service| year = 2005| url =http://www.catholicnews.com/jpii/stories/concl03.htm | accessdate=2008-02-11
] The pope is assisted in the Church's administration by the Roman Curia, or civil service. The Church community is governed according to formal regulations set out in the Code of Canon Law. The official language of the Church is Latin, although Italian is the working language of the Vatican administration. [cite web | title =Vatican Introduces Latin to 21st Century With New Dictionary | work = The New York Times| date =14 May 2003 | url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CEED6113FF937A25756C0A9659C8B63| accessdate=2008-05-13]

Worldwide, the Catholic Church comprises a Western or Latin church and 22 Eastern Catholic autonomous particular churches. The Church is divided into jurisdictional areas known as dioceses, or sees. These are known as eparchies in the Eastern Churches. In 2007, there were 2,782 sees in the Catholic Church, both Eastern and Western.Vatican, "Annuario Pontificio" p. 1172] Each is headed by a bishop, patriarch or eparch, appointed by the pope.

Each diocese is divided into individual communities called parishes, each staffed by one or more priests.Barry, p. 52] The community is made up of ordained members and the laity. Members of religious orders such as nuns, friars and monks are considered lay members unless individually ordained as priests. [cite web |title=Canon 207 |url=http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_PS.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09]

Ordained members and Holy Orders

Lay men become ordained through the sacrament of Holy Orders, and form a three-part hierarchy of bishops, priests and deacons. All of the bishops, along with the pope, cardinals, patriarchs, primates, archbishops and metropolitans, comprise the College of Bishops and are considered the successors of the apostles. [cite web |title=Canon 42 |url=http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG1199/_P16.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] [cite web |title=Canon 375 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1D.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] Only bishops are able to perform the sacrament of Holy Orders, and Confirmation is ordinarily reserved to them as well (though priests may do it under special circumstances).Barry, p. 114] While bishops are responsible for teaching, governing and sanctifying the faithful of their diocese, priests and deacons have these same responsibilities at a more local level, the parish, subordinate to the ministry of the bishop. Although all priests, bishops and deacons preach, teach, baptize, witness marriages and conduct funeral services, only priests and bishops may celebrate the Eucharist or administer the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick. [cite web |title=Frequently Asked Questions About Deacons |url=http://www.usccb.org/deacon/faqs.shtml |author=Committee on the Diaconate |publisher=United States Conference of Catholic Bishops|accessdate=2008-03-09]

Married men may become deacons, but only celibate men are ordained as priests in the Latin Rite. [cite web |title=Canon 1037 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3R.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] [cite web |title=Canon 1031 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3Q.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] Clergy who have converted from other denominations are sometimes exempted from this rule. [cite web |last=Cholij| first=Roman |title=Priestly Celibacy in Patristics and in the History of the Church|url=http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_01011993_chisto_en.html |publisher=Vatican |year=1993 |accessdate=2008-04-06] The Eastern Catholic Churches ordain both celibate and married men. [cite web | last =Niebuhur | first =Gustav | title =Bishop's Quiet Action Allows Priest Both Flock And Family | work =The New York Times | date =16 February 1997 | url =http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C07EEDD133FF935A25751C0A961958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all | accessdate=2008-04-04] [cite web | title = 1990 Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, Canons 285, 373, 374, 758| publisher =Libreria Editrice Vaticana |date= 1990| url = http://www.gwo.cz/pravda/1990_Code_of_Canon_Law.htm| accessdate =2008-09-12 ] All rites of the Catholic Church maintain the ancient tradition where marriage is not allowed after ordination. Men with transitory homosexual leanings may be ordained deacons following three years of prayer and chastity, but homosexual men who are sexually active, or those who have deeply rooted homosexual tendencies cannot be ordained.cite news|url=http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20051104_istruzione_en.html|author=Pope Benedict XVI|publisher=Vatican|year=2005|title=Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders|accessdate=2008-03-09] #tag:ref|The Church tradition of abstinence traces its beginnings to both Jesus, who encouraged his apostles to be celibate if they were able to do so, and to St. Paul, who wrote of the advantages celibacy allowed a man in serving the Lord.Bainton, p. 64] Thus, from the Church's beginnings, clerical celibacy was "held in high esteem" and is considered a kind of spiritual marriage with Christ, a concept further popularized by the early Christian theologian Origen.Bokenkotter, p. 54] Clerical celibacy began to be enforced in papal decretals beginning with Pope Siricius (d. 399). In 1074, mandatory celibacy of the clergy became canon law as part of pope Gregory VII's effort to eliminate several forms of medieval church corruption.Bainton, p. 172] |group=note All programs that aim to prepare men for the priesthood are governed by canon law, and are usually designed by national bishops' conferences, so they can vary from country to country. [cite web |title=Canons 232–93 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PW.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-05-05] The sacrament of Holy Orders is always conferred by a bishop through the laying-on of hands, following which the newly ordained priest is formally clothed in his priestly vestments.

Since the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus were all male, only men may be ordained in the Catholic Church. [cite web | last =Paragraph number 1577 | title =Catechism of the Catholic Church | publisher = Libreria Editrice Vaticana| year = 1994| url = http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p2s2c3a6.htm#III| accessdate=2008-02-08] While some consider this to be evidence of a discriminatory attitude toward women,Bokenkotter, p. 496] the Church believes that Jesus called women to different yet equally important vocations in Church ministry.Pope Benedict XVI, pp. 180–1, quote: "The difference between the discipleship of the Twelve and the discipleship of the women is obvious; the tasks assigned to each group are quite different. Yet Luke makes clear—and the other Gospels also show this in all sorts of ways—that 'many' women belonged to the more intimate community of believers and that their faith—filled following of Jesus was an essential element of that community, as would be vividly illustrated at the foot of the Cross and the Resurrection."] Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Christifideles Laici, states that women have specific vocations reserved only for the female sex, and are equally called to be disciples of Jesus.cite web | last =John Paul II | first =Pope | title =Christifideles Laici | publisher =Vatican | year =1988 | url =http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_30121988_christifideles-laici_en.html | accessdate=2008-03-17] This belief in different and complementary roles between men and women is exemplified in Pope Paul VI's statement "If the witness of the Apostles founds the Church, the witness of women contributes greatly towards nourishing the faith of Christian communities".

Lay members, Marriage

The laity consists of those Catholics who are not ordained clergy. Saint Paul compared the diversity of roles in the Church to the different parts of a body—all being important to enable the body to function.Schreck, p. 153] The Church therefore considers that lay members are equally called to live according to Christian principles, to work to spread the message of Jesus, and to effect change in the world for the good of others. The Church calls these actions participation in Christ's priestly, prophetic and royal offices.cite web | last =Paragraph numbers 871–2, 899, 901, 905, 908–9 | title =Catechism of the Catholic Church | publisher = Libreria Editrice Vaticana| year = 1994| url = http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p123a9p4.htm#II| accessdate=2008-02-08] Marriage, the single life and the consecrated life are lay vocations. The sacrament of Matrimony in the Latin rite is the only sacrament not conferred by a priest–the spouses mutually confer the sacrament upon each other by expressing their consent before the priest who serves as a witness. In the Eastern liturgies the minister of this sacrament, which is called "Crowning", is the priest or bishop who, after receiving the mutual consent of the spouses, successively crowns the bridegroom and the bride as a sign of the marriage covenant.cite web | last =Paragraph numbers 1623 | title =Catechism of the Catholic Church | publisher = Libreria Editrice Vaticana| year = 1994| url = http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P52.HTM| accessdate=2008-06-05] Church law makes no provision for divorce, but annulment may be granted when proof is produced that essential conditions for contracting a valid marriage were absent. Since the Church condemns all forms of artificial birth control, married persons are expected to be open to new life in their sexual relations.Schreck, p. 350] Natural family planning is approved.Schreck, p. 315]

Lay ecclesial movements consist of lay Catholics organized for purposes of teaching the faith, cultural work, mutual support or missionary work. Such groups include: Communion and Liberation, Neocatechumenal Way, Regnum Christi, Opus Dei, Life Teen and many others.cite web | last =Pontifical Council for the Laity| title =International Associations of the Faithful | publisher =Vatican | year =2000 | url =http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/laity/documents/rc_pc_laity_doc_20051114_associazioni_en.html| accessdate=2008-03-27] Some non-ordained Catholics practice formal, public ministries within the Church. [cite web |title=Canon 129 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PF.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] These are called lay ecclesial ministers, a broad category which may include pastoral life coordinators, pastoral assistants, youth ministers and campus ministers.USCCB, p. 9]

Religious orders

Both the ordained and the laity may enter the cloistered consecrated life either as monks or nuns. There are also friars and sisters who engage in teaching and missionary activity and charity work such as the various mendicant orders. A candidate takes vows confirming their desire to follow the three evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.cite web |title=Canons 573–746 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1Y.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09]

The majority of those wishing to enter the consecrated life join one of the religious institutes which are also referred to as monastic or religious orders. They follow a common rule such as the Rule of St Benedict and agree to live under the leadership of a superior. [cite web |title=Canons 573–602, 605–709 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1Y.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] [cite web |title=Canon 654 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P26.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] They usually live together in a community but individuals may be given permission to live as hermits, or to reside elsewhere, for example as a serving priest or chaplain. [cite web |title=Canon 587 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1Y.HTM|publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] Examples of religious institutes include the Sisters of Charity, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Cistercians, Marist Brothers, Paulist Fathers and the Society of Jesus, but there are many others.

Tertiaries and Oblates

Tertiaries and Oblates are laypersons who live according to the third rule of orders such as those of the Secular Franciscan Order or Lay Carmelites, either within a religious community or outside. Although all tertiaries make a public profession, participate in the good works of their order and in some cases may wear the habit, they are not bound by public vows unless they live in a religious community. Oblates are laypersons or clerical members of a religious order, not professed monks or nuns, who have individually affiliated themselves in prayer with a House of their choice. These make a formal private promise (annually renewable or for life, depending on the house with which they are affiliated) to follow the rule of prayer in their private life as closely as their individual circumstances and prior commitments permit.

The Church recognizes several other forms of consecrated life, including secular institutes, societies of apostolic life and consecrated widows and widowers. It also makes provision for the approval of new forms. [cite web |title=Canon 605 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P1Y.HTM|publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09]

Membership

Membership of the Catholic Church is attained through Baptism. [cite web |title=Canon 11 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3.HTM |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] For those baptized as children, First Communion is a particular rite of passage when, following instruction, they are allowed to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist for the first time. Christians baptized outside of the Catholic Church or those never baptized may be received by participating in a formation program such as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. [cite web | last = Gledhill| first =Ruth | title =Tony Blair converts to Catholicism | work = Times Newspapers Ltd | year =2007 | url =http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3086753.ece | accessdate=2008-04-04] In all rites, after going through formation and making a profession of faith, candidates receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday.Barry, p. 56]

A person can excommunicate themselves or be excommunicated by committing particularly grave sins. [cite web | title =Pro-abortion politicians excluded from Communion: Pope | work =Catholic World News | date =9 May 2007 | url =http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=51031 | accessdate=2008-02-12] [cite web | title =Excommunication | work =Catholic World News | date =9 May 2007 | url =http://www.catholicculture.org/news/definition.cfm?glossID=91&CFID=12572433&CFTOKEN=23338886 | accessdate=2008-02-12] Examples include violating the seal of confession (committed when a priest discloses the sins heard in the sacrament of Penance), persisting in heresy, creating schism, becoming an apostate, or having or performing an abortion. [cite web | author =John Paul II |authorlink = Pope John Paul II| title =Evangelium Vitae| publisher = Libreria Editrice Vaticana| year = 1995| url = http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0141/__PQ.HTM| accessdate=2008-03-03] Throwing away or retaining for a sacrilegious purpose the Eucharist is considered an excommunicable offense. [cite web |title=Canon 1364, 1367 |url=http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P52.HTM|publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law|accessdate=2008-03-09] Formal excommunication is the most severe ecclesiastical penalty because it prevents a person from validly receiving any Church sacrament. It can only be forgiven by the pope, the bishop of the diocese where the person resides, or priests authorized by him. [cite web | last =Paragraph number 1463 | title =Catechism of the Catholic Church | publisher = Libreria Editrice Vaticana| year = 1994| url = http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p2s2c2a4.htm#IX| accessdate=2008-02-08]

Catholic institutions, personnel and demographics

Church membership in 2007 was 1.131 billion people;cite web | title =Number of priests increases, but not as fast as number of Catholics | publisher =Catholic News Service | date =29 February 2008 | url =http://www.catholicnews.com/data/briefs/cns/20080229.htm | accessdate=2008-03-09] a substantial increase over the 1970 figure of 654 million. [cite web | last =Bazar | first =Emily | title =Immigrants Make Pilgrimage to Pope | work = USA Today| date =16 April 2008 | url =http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2008-04-15-popeimmigrants_N.htm| accessdate=2008-05-03] It is the largest Christian church, and encompasses over half of all Christians, one sixth of the world's population, the largest organized body of any world religion.Duffy, preface] It is known for its ability to use its transnational ties and organizational strength to bring significant resources to needy situations.Froehle, p. 132] Membership is growing particularly in Africa and Asia.

Some parts of Europe and the Americas have experienced a shortage of priests in recent years as the number of priests has not increased in proportion to the number of Catholics. [cite web | last =Pogatchnik | first = Shawn| title =Catholic Priest Shortage | publisher =CBS News | date=13 April 2005 | url =http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/04/13/world/main688030.shtml | accessdate=2008-04-04] The Church in Latin America, known for its large parishes where the parishioner to priest ratio is the highest in the world, considers this to be a contributing factor in the rise of pentecostal and evangelical Christian denominations in the region. Secularism has seen a steady rise in Europe, yet the Catholic presence there remains strong.

With a high number of adult baptisms, the Church is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else.Froehle, p. 46] It also operates a greater number of Catholic schools per parish here (3:1) than in other areas of the world.Froehle, p. 48] Challenges faced include suppression of non-Islamic religious practices by Muslims in Sudan and a high rate of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.Froehle, p. 62–4]

The Church in Asia is a significant minority among other religions comprising only 3% of all Asians, yet its vibrance is evidenced by the large proportion of religious sisters, priests and parishes to total Catholic population.Froehle, pp. 128–9] From 1975–2000, total Asian population grew by 61% with an Asian Catholic population increase of 104%.Froehle, p. 86] Challenges faced include oppression in communist countries like North Korea and China.Froehle, p. 98]

Oceania is overwhelmingly Christian with Roman Catholicism as the majority denomination. There, the Church faces challenges in reaching indigenous populations where over 715 different languages are spoken. Of Catholics worldwide, 12% reside in Africa, 50% in the American continent, 10% are in Asia, 27% in Europe and 1% live in Oceania.Froehle, p. 10]

Cultural influence

The cultural influence of the Catholic Church has been vast, particularly upon western society. Most significant was its role in the spread of the Christian religion throughout the world, a process which ended practices like human sacrifice, slavery, infanticide and polygamy in Christian lands.Kohl, p. 61] Bokenkotter, p. 56] Historians note that Catholic missionaries, popes, laymen and religious were among the leaders in the campaign against slavery, an institution that has existed in almost every culture.Chadwick, Owen p. 242] Noll, p. 137–40] Christianity improved the status of women by condemning female infanticide (as well as all other forms), divorce, incest, polygamy and marital infidelity of both men and women in contrast to the evangelized cultures beginning with the Roman Empire that previously permitted these practices.Noble, p. 230] Stark, p. 104]

The Church has frequently been criticized for the house arrest of Galileo over the geocentrism controversy of the 1600s and his criticism of the Biblical Book of Joshua (10:13). However historians of science, including non-Catholics such as J.L. Heilbron, [cite web |title=J.L. Heilbron |url=http://www.lrb.co.uk/contribhome.php?get=heil01 |work=London Review of Books |accessdate=2006-09-15] A.C. Crombie, David Lindberg,Lindberg, pp. 20–1] and Thomas Goldstein,Goldstein, pp. 61–3, 76] have argued that the Church had a significant, positive influence on the development of civilization. In contrast to scholars such as Ramsay MacMullen, who take a negative view with respect to the loss of ancient literature with the rise of Christianity,MacMullen, p. 4] they hold that not only did monks save and cultivate the remnants of ancient civilization during the barbarian invasions of Europe, but the Church promoted learning and science through its sponsorship of universities and Catholic schools throughout the world. Presently, the Church operates the world's largest non-governmental school system.Gardner, p. 148] The Catholic Church was the dominant influence on the development of Western art, at least up to the Protestant Reformation. Important contributions include its patronage of artists, its consistent opposition to Byzantine iconoclasm and the creation of the Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles of art and architecture.Woods, p. 122] Renaissance artists like Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were among a multitude of innovative artists sponsored by the Church.Duffy, p. 133] In music, Catholic monks developed the first forms of musical notation, and an enormous body of religious music has been composed for the Catholic Church through the ages. This led directly to the emergence and development of European classical music, and its many derivatives. The Baroque style, which encompassed music, art and architecture, was particularly encouraged by the post-Reformation Catholic Church as it offered a means of religious expression that was stirring and emotional, intended to stimulate religious fervor.Murray, p. 45]

History

Roman Empire

The Catholic Church considers that it began on Pentecost when, according to scriptural accounts, the apostles received the Holy Spirit and emerged from hiding following the death and resurrection of Jesus to preach and spread his message.Vidmar, pp. 19–20] Schreck, p. 130] According to historians, the apostles traveled to northern Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, Greece, and Rome to found the first Christian communities, over 40 of which had been established by the year 100.Wilken, p. 281, quote: "By the year 100, more than 40 Christian communities existed in cities around the Mediterranean, including two in North Africa, at Alexandria and Cyrene, and several in Italy." ] Bokenkotter, p. 18, quote: "The story of how this tiny community of believers spread to many cities of the Roman Empire within less than a century is indeed a remarkable chapter in the history of humanity."] At first, Christians continued to worship alongside Jewish believers, but within twenty years of Jesus' death, Sunday was being regarded as the primary day of worshipDavidson, p. 115] because it was revered as the day of Jesus' Resurrection.Chadwick, Owen, p. 17] From as early as the first century, the Church of Rome was recognized as a doctrinal authority because it was believed that the Apostles Peter and Paul had led the Church there.Chadwick, Henry p. 361, quote: "Towards the latter part of the first century, Rome's presiding cleric named Clement wrote on behalf of his church to remonstrate with the Corinthian Christians ... Clement apologized not for intervening but for not having acted sooner. Moreover, during the second century the Roman community's leadership was evident in its generous alms to poorer churches. About 165 they erected monuments to their martyred apostles ... Roman bishops were already conscious of being custodians of the authentic tradition or true interpretation of the apostolic writings. In the conflict with Gnosticism Rome played a decisive role, and likewise in the deep division in Asia Minor created by the claims of the Montanist prophets to be the organs of the Holy Spirit's direct utterances."] Vidmar, pp. 40–2, quote: "Several pieces of evidence indicate that the Bishop of Rome even after Peter held some sort of preeminence among other bishops. ...(lists several historical documents) ... None of these examples, taken by themselves, would be sufficient to prove the primacy of the successors of Peter and Paul. Taken together, however, they point to a Roman authority which was recognized in the early church as going beyond that of other churches."] Although it was not the sole authority, the concept of the primacy of the Roman bishop over other churches was increasingly recognized by the church at large beginning in the late second century.Barker, p. 846] The apostles convened the first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem, in or around the year 50 to reconcile differences concerning the evangelization of Gentiles.Chadwick, Henry p. 37, quote: "In Acts 15 scripture recorded the apostles meeting in synod to reach a common policy about the Gentile mission."] Although competing forms of Christianity emerged early and persisted into the fifth century, there was broad doctrinal unity within the mainstream churches.Davidson, p. 155, quote: "For all the scattered nature of the churches, a very large number of believers in apostolic times lived no more than a week or so's travel from one of the main hubs of the Christian movement: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Ephesus, Corinth or Philippi. Communities received regular visits from itinerant teachers and leaders.. This unity was focussed upon the essentials of belief in Jesus.] From the year 100 onward, teachers like Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus defined Catholic teaching in stark opposition to Gnosticism.Davidson, pp. 169, 181] The Roman Church retained the practice of meeting in ecumenical councils to ensure that any internal doctrinal differences were quickly resolved.Chadwick, Henry p. 371, quote: "The 'synod' or, in Latin, 'council' (the modern distinction making a synod something less than a council was unknown in antiquity) became an indispensable way of keeping a common mind, and helped to keep maverick individuals from centrifugal tendencies. During the third century synodal government became so developed that synods used to meet not merely at times of crisis but on a regular basis every year, normally between Easter and Pentecost."] In the first few centuries of its existence, the Church formed its teachings and traditions into a systematic whole under the influence of theological apologists such as Pope Clement I, Justin Martyr and Augustine of Hippo.Norman, pp. 27–8, quote: "A distinguished succession of theological apologists added intellectual authority to the resources at the disposal of the papacy, at just that point in its early development when the absence of a centralized teaching office could have fractured the universal witness to a single body of ideas. At the end of the first century there was St. Clement of Rome, third successor to St. Peter in the see; in the second century there was St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus of Lyons and St. Justin Martyr; in the fourth century St. Augustine of Hippo, the greatest theologian of the Early Church."]

Because early Christians refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods or to defer to Roman rulers as gods, they were frequently subject to persecution.Wilken, p. 282] This began under Nero in the first century and culminated in the great persecution of Diocletian and Galerius, which was seen as a final attempt to wipe out Christianity.Collins, pp. 53–5] Nevertheless, Christianity continued to spread and was eventually legalized in 313 under Constantine I's Edict of Milan.Davidson, p. 341]

In 325, the First Council of Nicaea convened in response to the threat of Arianism and formulated the Nicene Creed as a basic statement of Christian belief.Herring, p. 60] Emperor Constantine I commissioned the first Basilica of St. Peter and several other sites of lasting importance to Christianity.Duffy, p. 18] By this time, the altar as the focal point of each church, the sign of the cross, and the liturgical calendar had been established.Wilken, p. 284] In 380, Christianity was declared the sole religion of the Empire.Wilken, p. 286] In subsequent decades a series of Ecumenical councils codified critical elements of the Church's theology. The Council of Rome in 382 listed the accepted books of the "Old" and "New Testament" and in 391 this Biblical canon was translated into the common language of Latin creating the Vulgate.Collins, pp. 61–2] The Council of Ephesus in 431 clarified the nature of Jesus' incarnationDuffy, p. 35] and two decades later, the Council of Chalcedon solidified Roman papal primacy which added to continuing breakdown in relations between Rome and Constantinople, the see of the Eastern Church.Bokenkotter, "A Concise History of the Catholic Church" (2004), pp. 84–93] Also sparked were the Monophysite disagreements over the precise nature of the incarnation of Jesus which led to the first of the various Oriental Orthodox Churches breaking away from the Catholic Church.Ware, p. 142]

Early Middle Ages

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, the Catholic faith competed with Arianism for the conversion of the barbarian tribes.Le Goff, pp. 5–20] The 496 conversion of Clovis I, pagan king of the Franks, marked the beginning of a steady rise of the Catholic faith in the West.Le Goff, p. 21]

In 530, Saint Benedict wrote his "monastic Rule", which became a blueprint for the organization of monasteries throughout Europe.Woods, p. 27] The new monasteries preserved classical craft and artistic skills while maintaining intellectual culture within their schools, scriptoria and libraries. As well as providing a focus for spiritual life, they functioned as agricultural, economic and production centers, particularly in remote regions, becoming major conduits of civilization.Le Goff, p. 120] From 590 Pope Gregory the Great dramatically reformed church practice and administration, launching renewed missionary efforts.Duffy, pp. 50–2] These were complemented by the Hiberno-Scottish missions from the Celtic monasticism of the British Isles.Vidmar, p. 82–83, quote: "How it [monasticism] came to Ireland is a matter of some debate. The liturgical and literary evidence is strong that it came directly from Egypt without the moderating influence of the Roman Church."] Missionaries such as Augustine of Canterbury, Saint Boniface, Willibrord and Ansgar took Christianity to the Anglo–Saxons and other Germanic peoples.Mayr–Harting, pp. 92–4] Later missions reached the Slavs and other Scandinavians. In the same period the Visigoths and Lombards moved from Arianism toward Catholicism, and in Britain the full reunion of the Celtic churches with Rome was effectively marked by the Synod of Whitby in 664.

In the early 700s, iconoclasts, supported by the Eastern Emperors, and iconodules, supported by the Western Church, fought over the use of images in religious worship.Vidmar, pp. 102–3] Duffy, p. 63] The dispute was resolved in 787 when the Second Council of Nicaea ruled in favor of icons.Duffy, pp. 63, 74] This was just one of many disputes between the Eastern and Western Churches, which were growing apart during this time. Charlemagne, who had been crowned in 800 by the pope attempted to unify Western Europe through the common bond of Christianity, creating an improved system of education and establishing unified laws. However imperial interest created a problem for the church as succeeding emperors sought to impose increasingly tight control over the popes.Vidmar, pp. 107–11] Duffy, p. 78] Disagreements between the Eastern and Western churches arose again in 858, when Patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople, favored by the pope, was deposed for the more extreme Photios.Duffy, p. 82] The pope declared the election of Photios invalid and excommunicated him. The consequent long-running dispute added to the growing alienation between the churches.Duffy, pp. 81–2]

After a dispute over whether Constantinople or Rome held jurisdiction over the church in Sicily, the two Churches mutually excommunicated each other in 1054, resulting in the East-West Schism.Duffy, p. 91] The Western (Latin) branch of Christianity has since become known as the Catholic Church, while the Eastern (Greek) branch became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church.Collins, p. 103] Vidmar, p. 104] The Second Council of Lyon (1274) and the Council of Florence (1439) both failed to heal the schism.Duffy, pp. 119, 131] Some Eastern churches have subsequently reunited with the Catholic Church. In spite of attempts at reunification, the two churches remain in schism, although excommunications were mutually lifted in 1965.Duffy, p. 278]

High Middle Ages

The Cluniac reform of monasteries that had begun in 910 sparked widespread monastic growth and renewal.Duffy, pp. 88–9] Monasteries introduced new technologies and crops, fostered the creation and preservation of literature and promoted economic growth. Monasteries, convents and cathedrals still operated virtually all schools and libraries.Woods, pp. 40–4] Le Goff, pp. 80–2] After 1100, some of these higher schools developed into universities, the direct ancestors of the modern Western institutions.Woods, pp. 44–8] Notable theologians such as Thomas Aquinas worked at these universities and his "Summa Theologica" was a key intellectual achievement in its synthesis of Aristotelian thought and Christianity.Bokenkotter, pp. 158–9] In 1095, Byzantine emperor Alexius I appealed to Pope Urban II for help against Muslim invasions,Riley-Smith, p. 8] which caused Urban to launch the First Crusade, hoping to bring about reconciliation with Eastern Christianity.Vidmar, pp. 130–1] Bokenkotter, p. 140] The series of military campaigns that followed were intended to return the Holy Land to Christian control. The goal was not permanently realized, and episodes of brutality committed by the armies of both sides left a legacy of mutual distrust between Muslims and Western and Eastern Christians.Le Goff, pp. 65–7] The sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade left Eastern Christians embittered, despite the fact that Pope Innocent III had expressly forbidden any such attack.Tyerman, pp. 525–60] #tag:ref|In 2001, Pope John Paul II apologized to the Orthodox Christians for the sins of Catholics including the sacking of Constantinople in 1204. [cite web | title =Pope sorrow over Constantinople| publisher =BBC News | date = 29 June 2004| url =http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3850789.stm | accessdate=2008-04-06] |group=note Reform efforts sparked by Cluny intensified internal Church efforts to eliminate the practice of lay investiture, or the practice of laymen selecting bishops. Considered by reformers to be a source of church corruption, lay investiture was a powerful source of dominance over the Church by secular rulers.Bokenkotter, pp. 116–120 ] Pope Gregory VII issued a decree against the practice in 1075 which contributed to a century and a half long struggle between popes and secular rulers. The matter was eventually settled with the Concordat of Worms in 1122 which decreed that elections of bishops would be conducted under canon law.Noble, p. 286–287] Later, the Cistercian monk Bernard of Clairvaux's influence led to the founding of eight new monastic orders founded in the 12th century, including the Military Knights of the Crusades.Norman, p. 62] In the following century, new mendicant orders were founded by Francis of Assisi and Dominic de Guzmán which brought consecrated religious life into urban settings.Le Goff, p. 87]

Twelfth century France witnessed the emergence of Catharism, a belief which accepted suicide and denied the value of Church sacraments. After a papal legate was murdered by the Cathars in 1208, Pope Innocent III declared the Albigensian Crusade.Duffy, p. 112] Abuses committed during the crusade prompted Innocent III to informally institute the first papal inquisition to prevent future abuses and to root out the remaining Cathars.Vidmar, pp. 144–7, quote: "The Albigensian Crusade, as it became known, lasted until 1219. The pope, Innocent III, was a lawyer and saw both how easily the crusade had gotten out of hand and how it could be mitigated. He encouraged local rulers to adopt anti-heretic legislation and bring people to trial. By 1231 a papal inquisition began, and the friars were given charge of investigating tribunals."] Bokenkotter, p. 132, quote: "A crusade was proclaimed against these Albigenses, as they were sometimes called ... It was in connection with this crusade that the papal system of Inquisition originated-a special tribunal appointed by the Popes and charged with ferreting out heretics. Until then the responsibility devolved on the local bishops. However, Innocent found it necessary in coping with the Albigensian threat to send out delegates who were entrusted with special powers that made them independent of the episcopal authority. In 1233 Gregory IX organized this "ad hoc" body into a system of permanent inquisitors, who were usually chosen from among the mendicant friars, Dominicans and Franciscans, men who were often marked by a high degree of courage, integrity, prudence, and zeal."] Formalized under Gregory IX, this Medieval inquisition executed an average of three people per year for heresy at its height.

Over time, other inquisitions were launched by the Church or secular rulers to prosecute heretics, to respond to the threat of Muslim invasion or for political purposes.Black, pp. 200–2] In the 14th century, King Philip IV of France created an inquisition for his suppression of the Knights Templar.Norman, p. 93] King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella formed an inquisition in 1480, originally to deal with distrusted ex-Jewish and ex-Muslim converts.Kamen, pp. 48–9] Over a 350-year period, the Spanish Inquisition executed between 3,000 and 4,000 people,Vidmar, pp. 150–2] representing around two percent of those accused.Kamen, pp. 59, 203] In 1482 Pope Sixtus IV condemned the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition, but Ferdinand ignored his protests.Kamen, p. 49, quote: "In this bull the pope protested ... the Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and the salvation of souls, but by lust for wealth, and that many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves and other lower and even less proper persons, have without any legitimate proof been thrust into secular prisons, tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and property and handed over to the secular arm to be executed, to the peril of souls, setting a pernicious example, and causing disgust to many."] Historians note that for centuries Protestant propaganda and popular literature exaggerated the horrors of the inquisitions in an effort to associate the entire Catholic Church with crimes most often committed by secular rulers.Norman, p. 93, quote: "... subsequent Protestant propaganda for centuries identified the entire Catholic Church in Spain, and elsewhere, with their occasional excesses. By the 19th century political liberals and religious dissenters took the 'crimes' of the Inquisition to be the ultimate proofs of the vile character of 'popery', and an enormous popular literature on the subject poured from the presses of Europe and North America. At its most active, in the 16th century, nevertheless, the Inquisition was regarded as far more enlightened than the secular courts: if you denied the Trinity and repented you were given penance; if you stole a sheep and repented you were hung. It has been calculated that only one per cent of those who appeared before the Inquisition tribunals eventually received death penalties. But the damage wrought by propaganda has been effective, and today the 'Spanish' Inquisition, like the Crusades, persists in supplying supposedly discreditable episodes to damn the memory of the Catholic past."] Armstrong, p. 103, quote: "Contrary to subsequent Protestant propaganda the procedure followed by the (Papal) Inquisition was careful and respectful with regard to legal rights. Clear proof was required, along with two witnesses, and rarely was torture used to extract confessions. Anonymous denunciations were illegal, while a defence lawyer was guaranteed for the suspect. Punishments were generally lenient and designed to bring the guilty party back into the fold. The public abjuration of protestantism before a congregation might suffice, for example."] Morris, p. 215, quote: "The inquisition has come to occupy such a role in European demonology that we must be careful to keep it in proportion. ... and the surviving records indicate that the proportion of executions was not high."] Vidmar, p. 146, quote: "The extent of the Inquisition trials for heresy has been highly exaggerated. Once the Inquisition was established ... the pyromania which had characterized lay attempts to suppress heresy came to an end. Ninety percent of the sentences were "canonical" or church-related penances: fasting, pilgrimage, increased attendance at Mass, the wearing of distinctive clothing or badges, etc. The number of those who were put to death was very small indeed. The best estimate is that, of every hundred people sentenced, one person was executed, and ten were given prison terms. Even these latter could have their sentences reduced once the inquisitors left town."] Over all, one percent of those tried by the inquisitions received death penalties, leading many scholars to consider them rather lenient when compared to the secular courts of the period. The inquisition played a major role in the final expulsion of Islam from the kingdoms of Sicily and Spain.Johns, p. 187 ]

Driven by political instability in Rome, in 1309 Clement V became the first of seven popes to reside under French influence in the fortified city of Avignon.Duffy, p. 122] What became known as the Avignon Papacy ended in 1378 when, at the urging of Catherine of Siena and others, the papacy finally returned to Rome.Morris, p. 232] Vidmar, p. 155] With the death of Pope Gregory XI later that year, the papal election was disputed. Supporters of Italian and French-backed candidates were unable to come to agreement, resulting in the 38 year long Western schism with separate claimants to the papacy in Rome and Avignon. Efforts at resolution were further complicated when a third, compromise, pope was elected in 1409.Collinson, p. 240 ] The matter was finally resolved in 1417 at the Council of Constance where the cardinals called upon all three claimants to the papal throne to resign, and held a new election naming Martin V pope.

Late Medieval and Renaissance

Beginning in the late 15th century, European explorers and missionaries spread Catholicism to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Pope Alexander VI had awarded colonial rights over most of the newly discovered lands to Spain and Portugal.Koschorke, pp. 13, 283] Under the "patronato" system, however, state authorities, not the Vatican, controlled all clerical appointments in the new colonies.Dussel, Enrique, pp. 39, 59] In December 1511, Antonio de Montesinos, a Dominican friar, openly rebuked the Spanish rulers of Hispaniola for their "cruelty and tyranny" in dealing with the American natives.Woods, p. 135] Johansen, pp. 109, 110, quote: "In the Americas, the Catholic priest Bartolome de las Casas avidly encouraged enquiries into the Spanish conquest's many cruelties. Las Casas chronicled Spanish brutality against the Native peoples in excruciating detail."] Koschorke, p. 287] King Ferdinand enacted the "Laws of Burgos" and "Valladolid" in response. However enforcement was lax, and while some historians blame the Church for not doing enough to liberate the Indians, others point to the Church as the only voice raised on behalf of indigenous peoples.Dussel, pp. 45, 52, 53 quote: "The missionary Church opposed this state of affairs from the beginning, and nearly everything positive that was done for the benefit of the indigenous peoples resulted from the call and clamor of the missionaries. The fact remained, however, that widespread injustice was extremely difficult to uproot ... Even more important than Bartolome de Las Casas was the Bishop of Nicaragua, Antonio de Valdeviso, who ultimately suffered martyrdom for his defense of the Indian."] The issue resulted in a crisis of conscience in 16th-century Spain.Johansen, pp. 109, 110] The reaction of Catholic theologians, such as Bartolome de Las Casas and Francisco de Vitoria, led to debate on the nature of human rights and the birth of modern international law.Woods, p. 137] Chadwick, Owen, p. 327]

In 1521 the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan made the first Catholic converts in the Philippines.Koschorke, p. 21] The following year, the first Franciscan missionaries arrived in Mexico, establishing schools, model farms and hospitals. When some Europeans questioned whether the Indians were truly human and worthy of baptism, Pope Paul III in the 1537 bull Sublimis Deus confirmed that "their souls were as immortal as those of Europeans" and they should neither be robbed nor turned into slaves.Chadwick, Owen, "The Reformation", p. 190] Johansen, p. 110, quote: "In the Papal bull "Sublimis deus" (1537), Pope Paul III declared that Indians were to be regarded as fully human, and that their souls were as immortal as those of Europeans. This edict also outlawed slavery of Indians in any form ..."] Koschorke, p. 290] Over the next 150 years, missions expanded into southwestern North America.Jackson, p. 14] Native people were often legally defined as children, and priests took on a paternalistic role, sometimes enforced with corporal punishment.Jackson, p. 13] Elsewhere, Portuguese missionaries under the Spanish Jesuit Francis Xavier evangelized in India and Japan.Koschorke, pp. 3, 17] By the end of the 16th century tens of thousands of Japanese followed Roman Catholicism. Church growth came to a halt in 1597 under the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu who, in an effort to isolate the country from foreign influences, launched a severe persecution of Christians.Koschorke, pp. 31–2] Despite enforced isolation, a minority Christian population survived into the 19th century.McManners, p. 318]

In 1509, the most famous scholar of the age, Erasmus, wrote "In Praise of Folly," a work which captured a widely held unease about corruption in the Church.Norman, p. 86] The Council of Constance, the Council of Basel and the Fifth Lateran Council had all attempted to reform internal Church abuses but had failed. As a result, rich, powerful and worldly men like Roderigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) were able to win election to the papacy.Bokenkotter, pp. 201–5] Duffy, p. 149] In 1517, Martin Luther included his "Ninety-Five Theses" in a letter to several bishops.Vidmar, p. 184] Bokenkotter, p. 215] His theses protested key points of Catholic doctrine as well as the sale of indulgences. Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and others further criticized Catholic teachings. These challenges developed into the Protestant Reformation.Vidmar, pp. 196–200] Bokenkotter, pp. 223–4] In Germany, the reformation led to a nine-year war between the Protestant Schmalkaldic League and the Catholic Emperor Charles V. In 1618 a far graver conflict, the Thirty Years' War, followed. In France, a series of conflicts termed the French Wars of Religion were fought from 1562 to 1598 between the Huguenots and the forces of the French Catholic League. King Henry IV's 1598 Edict of Nantes, which granted civil and religious toleration to Protestants was hesitantly accepted by Pope Clement VIII.Vidmar, p. 233] Duffy, pp. 177–8]

The English Reformation under Henry VIII began more as a political than as a theological dispute. When the annulment of his marriage was denied by the pope, Henry had Parliament pass the Acts of Supremacy which made him, and not the pope, head of a new Church of England.Bokenkotter, pp. 235–7] Although he strove to maintain the substance of traditional Catholicism, Henry initiated and supported the confiscation and dissolution of monasteries, friaries, convents and shrines throughout England, Wales and Ireland.Schama, pp. 309–11] Vidmar, p. 220] Under Henry's daughter, Mary I, England was reunited with Rome, but the following monarch, Elizabeth I, restarted a separate church which outlawed Catholic priestsNoble, p. 519] and prevented Catholics from educating their children and taking part in political lifeVidmar, pp. 225–6] Solt, p. 149 ] until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 began the process of eliminating many of the anti-Catholic laws.Norman, pp. 131–2] The Catholic Church responded to doctrinal challenges and abuses highlighted by the Reformation at the Council of Trent (1545–1563), which became the driving force of the Counter-Reformation. Doctrinally, it reaffirmed central Catholic teachings such as transubstantiation, and the requirement for love and hope as well as faith to attain salvation.Bokenkotter, pp. 242–4] It also made important structural reforms, most importantly by improving the education of the clergy and laity and consolidating the central jurisdiction of the Roman Curia.Norman, p. 81] Vidmar, p. 237] New religious orders were founded, including the Theatines, Barnabites and Jesuits, some of which became the great missionary orders of later years.Norman, pp. 91–2] The writings of figures such as Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales and Philip Neri spawned new schools of spirituality within the Church.Bokenkotter, p. 251] To popularize Counter-Reformation teachings, the Church encouraged the Baroque style in art, music and architecture.Murray, p. 45]

Enlightenment

Toward the latter part of the 17th century, Pope Innocent XI reformed abuses by the Church, including simony, nepotism and the lavish papal expenditures that had caused him to inherit a large papal debt.Duffy, pp. 188–91] He promoted missionary activity, tried to unite Europe against the Turkish invasions, and condemned religious persecution of all kinds. In 1685 King Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes, ending a century-long experiment in religious toleration. This and other religious conflicts of the Reformation era provoked a backlash against Christianity, which helped spawn the violent anti-clericalism of the French Revolution. Direct attacks on the wealth of the Church and associated grievances led to the wholesale nationalisation of church property in France.Bokenkotter, pp. 283–5] Large numbers of French priests refused to take an oath of compliance to the National Assembly, leading to the Church being outlawed and replaced by a new religion of the worship of "Reason".#tag:ref|In this period, all monasteries were destroyed, 30,000 priests were exiled and hundreds more were killed. When Pope Pius VI sided against the revolution in the First Coalition, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Italy. The pope was imprisoned by French troops, and died in 1799 after six weeks of captivity. |group=note Napoleon later re-established the Catholic Church in France through the Concordat of 1801.Collins, p. 176] The end of the Napoleonic wars brought Catholic revival, renewed enthusiasm, and new respect for the papacy.Duffy, pp. 214–6] In the Americas, Franciscan priest Junípero Serra founded a series of new missions in cooperation with the Spanish government and military.Norman, pp. 111–2] These missions brought grain, cattle and a new way of living to the Indian tribes of California. San Francisco was founded in 1776 and Los Angeles in 1781. However, in bringing Western civilization to the area, the missions have been held responsible for the loss of nearly a third of the native population, primarily through disease.King, p. 169]

In South America, Jesuit missionaries tried to protect native peoples from enslavement by establishing semi-independent settlements called reductions. In China, despite Jesuit efforts to find compromise, the Chinese Rites controversy led the Kangxi Emperor to outlaw Christian missions in 1721.McManners, p. 328] These events added fuel to growing criticism of the Jesuits, who were seen to symbolize the independent power of the Church, and in 1773 European rulers united to force Pope Clement XIV to dissolve the order.Duffy, p. 193] The Jesuits were eventually restored in the 1814 papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum.Bokenkotter, p. 295]

In a challenge to Spanish and Portuguese policy, Pope Gregory XVI, began to appoint his own candidates as bishops in the colonies, condemned slavery and the slave trade in the 1839 papal bull In Supremo Apostolatus, and approved the ordination of native clergy in the face of government racism.Duffy, p. 221]

Industrial age

In 1870, the First Vatican Council affirmed the doctrine of papal infallibility when exercised in certain specifically defined pronouncements.Leith, p. 143] Duffy, p. 232] Reaction to this resulted in a small breakaway movement called the Old Catholic Church.Fahlbusch, p. 729] In 1891, in response to growing concern about the deteriorating working and living conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution, Pope Leo XIII published the encyclical "Rerum Novarum". This set out Catholic social teaching in terms that rejected socialism but advocated the regulation of working conditions, the establishment of a living wage and the right of workers to form trade unions.Duffy, p. 240] By the close of the 19th century, European powers had managed to gain control of most of the African interior. The new rulers introduced cash-based economies which created an enormous demand for literacy and a western education—a demand which for most Africans could only be satisfied by Christian missionaries. Catholic missionaries followed colonial governments into Africa, and built schools, hospitals, monasteries and churches.Hastings, pp. 397–410]

In Latin America, a succession of anti-clerical regimes came to power beginning in the 1830s. [Stacy, p. 139] One such regime emerged in Mexico in 1860. Church properties were confiscated and basic civil and political rights were denied to religious orders and the clergy. The even more severe Calles Law introduced during the rule of atheist Plutarco Elías Calles eventually led to the "worst guerilla war in Latin American History", the Cristero War.Chadwick, Owen, pp. 264–5] Between 1926 and 1934, over 3,000 priests were exiled or assassinated.Scheina, p. 33] [cite web | last =Van Hove | first =Brian | title =Blood Drenched Altars | publisher =EWTN | year =1994 | url =http://www.ewtn.com/library/HOMELIBR/FR94204.TXT Blood-Drenched Altars |accessdate=2008-03-09] In an effort to prove that "God would not defend the Church", Calles ordered Church desecrations where services were mocked, nuns were raped and captured priests were shot. Calles was eventually deposed and despite the persecution, the Church in Mexico continued to grow. A 2000 census reported that 88 percent of Mexicans identify as Catholic. [cite web | title = International Religious Freedom Report 2001| publisher = US Department of State| year =2001 | url =http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/9001.pdf | format=PDF| accessdate=2008-03-13] In the twentieth century, General Juan Perón's, Argentina and Fidel Castro's Cuba saw extensive persecution of the priesthood, and confiscation of Catholic properties.Norman, pp. 167–8] Chadwick, Owen, p. 266] In Europe a particularly violent outbreak of anti-clerical persecution took place in 1936 Spain. Because priests and nuns were symbols of conservatism, they were murdered in "large numbers" during the Spanish Civil War by republicans and anarchists.Chadwick, Owen pp. 240] Confiscation of Church properties and restrictions on people's religious freedoms have generally accompanied secularist and Marxist-leaning governmental reforms.Norman, pp. 167–72]

Prior to the start of World War II in the 1937 encyclical "Mit brennender Sorge", Pope Pius XI warned Catholics that antisemitism is incompatible with Christianity.Vidmar, pp. 327–33, quote: "Mark well that in the Catholic Mass, Abraham is our Patriarch and forefather. Anti-Semitism is incompatible with the lofty thought which that fact expresses. It is a movement with which we Christians can have nothing to do. No, no, I say to you it is impossible for a Christian to take part in anti-Semitism. It is inadmissible. Through Christ and in Christ we are the spiritual progeny of Abraham. Spiritually, we are all Semites."] Drafted by the future Pope Pius XIIPham, p. 45, quote: "When Pius XI was complimented on the publication, in 1937, of his encyclical denouncing Nazism, "Mit Brennender Sorge", his response was to point to his Secretary of State and say bluntly, 'The credit is his.' "] and read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches, it described Hitler as an insane and arrogant prophet and was the first official denunciation of Nazism made by any major organization.Bokenkotter, p. 389–92] Nazi reprisals against the Church in Germany soon followed, including "staged prosecutions of monks for homosexuality, with the maximum of publicity". When Dutch bishops protested against the wartime deportation of Jews, the Nazis responded with harsher measures against them. In Poland, the Nazis murdered over 2,500 monks and priests.Chadwick, Owen pp. 254–5] The records of Dachau concentration camp alone, list 2,600 Roman Catholic priests who were incarcerated in the "Priester-Block".Vidmar, p. 329] In Stalin's Russia an even more severe persecution occurred. After the war historians such as David Kertzer accused the Church of encouraging centuries of antisemitism, and Pope Pius XII of not doing enough to stop Nazi atrocities. [cite news | last =Eakin | first =Emily | title =New Accusations Of a Vatican Role In Anti-Semitism; Battle Lines Were Drawn After Beatification of Pope Pius IX | work =The New York Times | date =1 September 2001 | url =http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B04E3DF1130F932A3575AC0A9679C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all |accessdate=2008-03-09] Prominent members of the Jewish community such as Albert Einstein contradicted the criticisms and spoke highly of Pius' efforts to protect Jews, while others noted that "hundreds of thousands" of Jews were saved by the Church.Bokenkotter, pp. 480–1, quote:"A recent article by American rabbi, David G. Dalin, challenges this judgement. He calls making Pius XII a target of moral outrage a failure of historical understanding, and he thinks Jews should reject any 'attempt to usurp the Holocaust' for the partisan purposes at work in this debate. Dalin surmises that well–known Jews such as Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett, and Rabbi Isaac Herzog would likely have been shocked at these attacks on Pope Pius. Einstein, for instance, in an article in "Time", paid tribute to Pius and noted that the Church alone 'stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign.' Dalin points out that 'Rabbi Herzog, the chief rabbi of Israel, sent a message in February 1944 declaring "the people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness ... (is) doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history." ' Dalin cites these tributes as recognition of the work of the Holy See in saving hundreds of thousands of Jews."] Even so, in 2000 Pope John Paul II on behalf of all people, apologized to Jews by inserting a prayer at the Western Wall that read "We're deeply saddened by the behavior of those in the course of history who have caused the children of God to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant." [cite web | last =Randall | first = Gene| title = Pope Ends Pilgrimage to the Holy Land| publisher =CNN | date =26 March 2000 | url =http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0003/26/bn.02.html | accessdate=2008-06-09] The aftermath of World War II saw atheistic communist governments in Eastern Europe severely restrict religious freedoms. The Church's resistance and the leadership of Pope John Paul II have been credited with hastening the downfall of communist governments across Europe in 1991,cite news | title =Pope Stared Down Communism in Homeland – and Won | work =CBC News | month = April | year = 2005| url = http://www.cbc.ca/news/obit/pope/communism_homeland.html| accessdate=2008-01-31] even though some priests collaborated with the regime. [cite web | last =Smith | first =Craig | title =In Poland, New Wave of Charges Against Clerics | work =The New York Times | date =10 January 2007 | url =http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/10/world/europe/10poland.html | accessdate=2008-05-23]

The Communist rise to power in China of 1949 led to the expulsion of all foreign missionaries, "often after cruel and farcical 'public trials'".Bokenkotter, pp. 356–7] In an effort to further detach Chinese Catholics, the new government created the Patriotic Church independent of the worldwide Catholic Church. Rome subsequently rejected its bishops.Chadwick, Owen pp. 259–60] The Cultural Revolution of the 1960s encouraged gangs of teenagers to eliminate all places of worship and turn their occupants into labourers. When Chinese churches eventually reopened they remained under the control of the Communist party's Patriotic Church, and many Catholic pastors and priests continued to be sent to prison for refusing to break allegiance with Rome.

econd Vatican Council

The Catholic Church engaged in a comprehensive process of reform following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65).Duffy, p. 270–6] Intended as a continuation of Vatican I, under Pope John XXIII the council developed into an engine of modernisation making pronouncements on religious freedom, the nature of the church and the mission of the laity and permitting the Latin liturgical rites to use vernacular languages as well as Latin during mass and other sacraments.cite web | last = Paul VI| first =Pope | title =Sacrosanctum Concilium | publisher = Vatican| date = 4 December 1963 | url =http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html | accessdate=2008-02-09] Christian unity became a greater priority.Duffy, "Saints and Sinners" (1997), p. 274] In addition to finding more common ground with Protestant Churches, the Catholic Church has again discussed the possibility of unity with the Eastern Orthodox Church. [cite web | title =Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox Dialogue | publisher =Public Broadcasting Service | date =14 July 2000 | url =http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week346/feature.html | accessdate=2008-02-16]

Changes to old rites and ceremonies following Vatican II produced a variety of responses. Although "most Catholics ... accepted the changes more or less gracefully", some stopped going to church and others tried to preserve the old liturgy with the help of sympathetic priests.Bokenkotter, p. 410] The latter form the basis of today's Traditionalist Catholic groups, which believe that the reforms of Vatican II have gone too far. Liberal Catholics form another dissenting group, and feel that the Vatican II reforms did not go far enough. The liberal views of theologians such as Hans Küng and Charles Curran, led to Church withdrawal of their authorization to teach as Catholics. [Bauckham, p. 373]

In the 1960s, growing social awareness and politicization in the Latin American Church gave birth to liberation theology. The Peruvian priest, Gustavo Gutiérrez, became a primary theorist and, in 1979, the bishops' conference in Mexico officially declared the Latin American Church's "preferential option for the poor".Bokenkotter, pp. 454–7] Archbishop Óscar Romero, a supporter of the movement, became the region's most famous contemporary martyr in 1980, when he was murdered while saying mass by forces allied with the government.Bokenkotter, p. 463] Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Ratzinger) denounced the movement.cite news | last = Rohter| first =Larry | title =As Pope Heads to Brazil, a Rival Theology Persists | work =The New York Times | date =7 May 2007 | url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/07/world/americas/07theology.html | accessdate=2008-02-21] The Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff was twice ordered to cease publishing and teaching. Pope John Paul II was criticized for his severity in dealing with proponents of the movement, but he maintained that the Church, in its efforts to champion the poor, should not do so by resorting to violence or partisan politics. [cite web | title = Liberation Theology| publisher = BBC | url =http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/beliefs/liberationtheology.shtml | accessdate =2008-09-12 ] The movement is still alive in Latin America today, although the Church now faces the challenge of Pentecostal revival in much of the region.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s precipitated Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" which rejected the use of contraception, including sterilization, claiming these work against the intimate relationship and moral order of husband and wife by directly opposing God's will. It approved Natural Family Planning as a legitimate means to limit family size.cite web | last = Paul VI| first =Pope | title =Humanae Vitae | publisher =Vatican | year =1968 | url=http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html | accessdate=2008-02-02] Abortion was condemned by the Church as early as the first century, again in the fourteenth century and again in 1995 with Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae.Bokenkotter, pp. 27, 154, 493–4] This encyclical condemned the "culture of death" which the pope often used to describe societal embrace of euthanasia, contraception, genocide, suicide, capital punishment and abortion. [cite web | title = The Death Penalty Pro and Con: The Pope's Statement| publisher = PBS | url = http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/angel/procon/popestate.html| accessdate=2008-06-12] However, the Church's rejection of the use of condoms has provoked criticism, especially with respect to countries where the incidence of AIDS and HIV has reached epidemic proportions. The Church maintains that in countries like Kenya and Uganda, where behavioral changes are encouraged alongside condom use, greater progress in controlling the disease has been made than in those countries solely promoting condoms. [cite web | last =Dugger | first =Carol | title =Why is Kenya's AIDS rate plummeting?
work =International Herald Tribune | date =18 May 2006 | url = http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/05/18/news/aids.php| accessdate=2008-02-21
] [cite web | last =Wilson | first =Brenda | title =Study: Verbal Warnings Helped Curb AIDS in Uganda | publisher =National Public Radio | date =4 May 2004 | url = http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1869907| accessdate=2008-08-15] Efforts to lead the Church to consider the ordination of women led Pope John Paul II to issue the 1988 encyclical "Mulieris Dignitatem", which declared that women had a different, yet equally important role in the Church. [cite web | last =John Paul II | first =Pope | title =Mulieris Dignitatem | publisher =Vatican | year =1988 | url =http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_15081988_mulieris-dignitatem_en.html | accessdate=2008-02-21] Bokenkotter, p. 467] In 1994 the encyclical "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" further explained that the Church follows the example of Jesus, who chose only men for the specific priestly duty. [cite web | last =John Paul II | first =Pope | title =Ordinatio Sacerdotalis| publisher = Vatican| date =22 May 1994 | url = http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_22051994_ordinatio-sacerdotalis_en.html| accessdate=2008-02-02] [cite news | last =Cowell | first =Alan | title =Pope Rules Out Debate On Making Women Priests | work = The New York Times | date =31 May 1994 | url =http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F05E7DE133BF932A05756C0A962958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all | accessdate=2008-02-12]

Major lawsuits emerged in 2001 claiming that priests had sexually abused minors.Bruni, p. 336] In the US, where the vast majority of sex abuse cases occurred, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a comprehensive study that found that four percent of all priests who served in the US from 1950 to 2002 faced some sort of sexual accusation.cite web | last =Owen | first =Richard | title =Pope calls for continuous prayer to rid priesthood of paedophilia | work =Times Online UK edition | publisher =Times Newspapers Ltd | date =7 January 2008 | url =http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3142511.ece | accessdate=2008-03-31] cite web | author = Terry, Karen et al| title = John Jay Report| publisher =John Jay College of Criminal Justice | year = 2004| url =http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2004_02_27_JohnJay/index.html | accessdate=2008-02-09] The Church was widely criticized when it emerged that some bishops had known about abuse allegations, and reassigned accused priests after first sending them to psychiatric counseling.Steinfels, pp. 40–6] Frawley-ODea, p. 4] Some bishops and psychiatrists contended that the prevailing psychology of the times suggested that people could be cured of such behavior through counseling. Pope John Paul II responded by declaring that "there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young".Walsh, p. 62] The US Church instituted reforms to prevent future abuse including requiring background checks for Church employees;Cite web|url=http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/charter.shtml|title=Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People|accessdate=2007-10-08|publisher=United States Conference of Catholic Bishops|year=2005|author=United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] [cite web | title =Scandals in the Church: The Bishops' Decisions; The Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People | work= The New York Times | date =15 June 2002 | url =http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9906EFDA133CF936A25755C0A9649C8B63 | accessdate=2008-02-12] and, because the vast majority of victims were teenage boys, the worldwide Church also prohibited the ordination of men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies".cite web | last = Filteau | first =Jerry | title =Report says clergy sexual abuse brought 'smoke of Satan' into church | publisher =Catholic News Service | year =2004 | url =http://www.catholicnews.com/data/abuse/abuse08.htm | accessdate=2008-03-10] Some commentators, such as journalist Jon Dougherty, have argued that media coverage of the issue has been excessive, given that the same problems plague other institutions, such as the US public school system, with much greater frequency. [cite web | last =Dougherty | first =Jon | title =Sex Abuse by Teachers Said Worse Than Catholic Church | publisher =Newsmax | date =5 April 2004 | url =http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/4/5/01552.shtml | accessdate=2008-06-11] cite web | last =Shakeshaft | first =Charol | title =Educator Sexual Misconduct | publisher = US Department of Education| year =2004 | url = http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/misconductreview/report.pdf |format=PDF| accessdate=2008-04-12]

Catholicism today

The Church continues to occupy a unique place in society. As in ages past, the pope remains an international leader who regularly receives heads of state from around the world. As the representative of the Holy See, he also holds a seat at, and occasionally addresses, the United Nations. [cite web | title = Pope urges global unity on crises | publisher =BBC News | date =19 April 2008 | url =http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7354023.stm | accessdate=2008-08-27] The 2005 election of Pope Benedict XVI saw a continuation of the policies of his predecessors. His first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) discussed the various forms of love re-emphasizing marriage and the centrality of charity to the Church's mission. On his 2008 visit to the United States he was received with particular dignity and his Masses were televised live on the major national news networks. When asked why the Pope received such attention the US President said "Because he is a really important figure ...". [cite web | last =Loven | first =Jennifer | title =Bush readies big welcome for pope | work = USA Today| date =14 April 2008 | url =http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-04-13-1862454372_x.htm | accessdate=2008-08-27] Following the controversy over his Regensburg address, a May 2008 summit between the pope and a delegation of Muslims came to an agreement that religion is essentially non-violent, and that violence can be justified neither by reason nor by faith. [cite web | title = Pope in dialogue with Iranian officials| publisher =Irishtimes | date =30 April 2008 | url =http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2008/0430/breaking66.htm | accessdate=2008-08-27] In contrast with periods of religious and scientific intolerance in the past, today's Church seeks dialogue like this with other faiths and Christian denominations. It also sponsors the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a body whose international membership includes Nobel laureates such as Stephen Hawking and Charles Hard Townes among many others, which provides the pope with valuable insights into scientific matters. [cite web | last =Mason | first =Michael | authorlink =Michael Mason | title =How to Teach Science to the Pope | publisher = Discover Magazine | date =2008-08-18 | url =http://discovermagazine.com/2008/sep/18-how-to-teach-science-to-the-pope/?searchterm=michael%20mason,%20pontifical%20academy%20of%20science | accessdate =2008-09-24 ]

Notes

Footnotes

References

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External links

* [http://www.vatican.va/ Vatican: the Holy See] – The official website of the Vatican.
* [http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/ Catholic Hierarchy] – Information on Catholic bishops and dioceses.
* [http://www.fiu.edu/~mirandas/cardinals.htm The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church] – Information on the Cardinals of the Catholic Church.
*PDFlink| [http://www.earthhealing.info/catholicstats.pdf Global Catholic Statistics: 1905 and Today] |26.3 KiB by Albert J. Fritsch, SJ, PhD.
* [http://www.masstimes.org/ MassTimes] – A comprehensive database of every Catholic Church and Mass in the entire world.
* [http://www.thecatholicguide.com The Catholic Guide] – A comprehensive source on the Roman Catholic Church.


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