ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Electing New Pope
I. Group Profile
- Name: Roman Catholic Church
- The Founding:
In 313, the Roman Church was legally recognized by the Roman Emperor
Constantine. In 325 Constantine called a Council Meeting at
Nicea and this is the date that became the official beginning of the
Roman Catholic Church. In 380 it became the official religion
of the Roman Empire.
- Sacred or Revered Texts:
The Bible. Different from the Protestant Bible, the Roman
Catholic Bible contains the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha consists of
books contained in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), but not
included in the Hebrew Scriptures. In addition, many theological
writings are included in the church doctrine. These include the
writings of people such as Thomas Aquinas. The Canon Law is a
collection of rules and regulations that form the basic law of the
Roman Catholic Church.
- Size of Group:
Today, Roman Catholics make up the largest branch of Christianity.
There are over one billion followers of Roman Catholicism worldwide.
A large number of these followers live in Central and Southern
Europe, Latin America, and Ireland. Click
here for a list of the largest Catholic communities in
the United States and worldwide.
- World Religion :
Roman Catholicism is a world religion. According to Huston Smith,
"Every religion mixes universal principles with local
peculiarities. The former, when lifted out and made clear, speak to
what is generically human in us all. The latter, rich compounds of
rites and legends, are not easy for outsiders to comprehend."
In studying world religions, we benefit and grow from being able to
see the world through different perspectives.
After the Roman Catholic Church became the Roman Empire's official
religion in 380, it remained united until 1054. At this time, the
Eastern Orthodox Church separated from the Roman Catholic Church,
which from that point on would be identified as the western Church.
There were many reasons for the schism, but the major issue concerned
the Pope's claim of primacy. The next schism that occurred in the
Roman Catholic Church was in the sixteenth century, with the
The Roman Catholic Church has held three councils since the
Reformation -- the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Vatican I Council
(1869-1870), and the Vatican II Council (1962-1965). These three
councils, in addition to the pope, defined the Church's beliefs.
The Council of Trent began the Counter-Reformation and
differentiated between the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church from
those of the Reformers. Trent "articulated Catholic doctrine on
nature and grace . . . defined the seven sacraments, created the Index
of Forbidden Books, and established seminaries for the education and
formation of future priests."
The next council, Vatican I, asserted the infallibility and primacy
of the pope, declaring that the "infallible teachings of the
people are irreformable, that is, not subject to the consent of any
higher ecclesiastical body or authority."
And finally, Vatican II brought forth "drastic changes, such
as the use of the vernacular in the church, greater participation of
the laity in worship, and a new ecumenical spirit of cooperation with
Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy."
III. Organization and Structure
The Roman Catholic Church is organized as an authoritative hierarchy.
At the head of the Roman Catholic Church is the Pope, who is said to
be a successor of Peter. The Pope resides in Rome at the Vatican. The
current Pope, John Paul II, is the 265th successor. For a
chronological list of all of the popes click
here. Authority in the Roman Catholic Church is
described as apostolic, "'because she is founded on the
apostles,' and 'continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the
apostles . . . through their successors.'" When a pope dies, the
College of Cardinals elect his successor. Cardinals are appointed by
the Pope and make up the advisory board of the church.
The Church is divided into Dioceses, which are the
"fundamental unit[s] of organization in the Roman Catholic
Church," and are each headed by a bishop named by the Pope. The
bishops' duties include administering the sacraments of Holy Orders
and Confirmation and controlling his assigned diocese. Archdioceses
are similar to dioceses, without the special jurisdiction of nearby
bishops. Each of the dioceses are divided into Parishes which are
headed by a priest.
IV. Beliefs and Practices
A summary of the basic beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church can be
found by reading the Nicene Creed, as follows:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son
of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from
Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with
the Father. Throughhim all things were made. For us men and our
salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became a man. For our sake he
was crucified under Pontius Pilate;he suffered, died, and was
buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the
Scriptures; he ascended intoheaven and is seated at the right hand
of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and
the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver
of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father
and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic
Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.We
look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to
In addition to the beliefs specific to the Roman Catholic Church,
Roman Catholics believe in many basic Christian traditions, including
the Trinity of God. As spoken in the Nicene Creed, the trinity
consists of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Roman
Catholicism is based on the idea of faith, "what moves us to
believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and
intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe 'because
of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither
deceive nor be deceived.'" The beliefs of Roman Catholics are
defined by the Pope, who, when he speaks on these beliefs and morals,
is considered infallible. Official church doctrines emanating from the
teaching of the Pope are called encyclicals.
Roman Catholicism states that because of original sin, man is
inherently sinful and needs to be saved. This original sin is
described in the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. Jesus
Christ died on the cross as atonement for Adam's failure and assures
Roman Catholics eternal life with God in Heaven. Salvation may only be
achieved through God's grace; the Sacraments are a means by which to
sustain that grace.
The seven Sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist,
Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Marriage. The
Eucharist, also referred to as the Holy Mass, is the center of the
Church's life. During mass, Catholics believe that the bread and wine
that they consume has been changed into the body and blood of Christ.
The Mass is the center of Catholic worship.
Easter and Christmas are the two most important high holy days
celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church. Easter celebrates the death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christmas celebrates the birth of
Jesus Christ. Roman Catholicism also recognizes holy days celebrating
the Saints, especially Mary, the Virgin mother of Jesus Christ.
The information on this page was taken from the Religious Movements
website & edited. For the complete information click on the
link above to Religious Movements. We felt that this information
is of such great importance that we made the decision to copy an edited
format rather than chance losing it as a results of a broken link or a
change of URL.
City / Holy See Photos
RETURN TO THE
RETURN TO THE