What Is Catholicism?

The Roman Catholic Church is an ancient religious institution boasting over a billion members worldwide. As such, it is the largest Christian ecclesiastical body in the world. Because of this alone, it is important to have an accurate understanding of the Roman Catholic Church’s history and beliefs.


The Roman Catholic Church is an ancient religious institution boasting over a billion members worldwide. As such, it is the largest Christian ecclesiastical body in the world. Because of this alone, it is important to have an accurate understanding of the Roman Catholic Church’s history and beliefs.

Where did the Roman Catholic Church come from?

The Church at Rome, which would later develop into what we know as Roman Catholicism, was started in the apostolic times (circa AD 30-95). Although we do not have records of the first Christian missionaries to Rome, it is obvious that a church existed there as the New Testament Scriptures were being written. St. Paul himself wrote an epistle to the church at Rome, and the Book of Acts records some of his dealings there. St. Clement of Rome (ca. 35-99), St. Ignatius of Antioch (35-108), and St. Irenaeus of Lyons (130-202) all speak as if St. Simon Peter ministered in Rome, serving as its first bishop (the term “bishop” is an English contraction of the biblical Greek word episkopos, often translated as “overseer” in modern Protestant translations of the New Testament). Tertullian (ca. 155-240) reported that Peter died in the same place as Paul, and it is commonly believed that Paul was martyred in Rome. Since both Peter and Paul were such important and prominent apostles, Rome became an important pilgrimage site for Christians who wanted to visit their graves and worship near where they were buried.

Because of the tie to Peter and Paul (as well as the fact that Rome was the capital city of the western portion of the Roman Empire), the bishop of Rome became the most prominent of the western Christian ecclesiastical leaders, and he received deference from church leaders from other parts of the Empire as well. After Christianity was legalized and the Church continued to fight heresies in various councils and synods, the Pope and his emissaries weighed in on very important doctrinal issues. The Church at Rome kept meticulous records, and it was often further removed from the theological innovations and conflicts that erupted in the East in important cities such as Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople. Therefore, her witness on theological matters carried much weight, and the Roman church was given the greatest prerogative of honor, as declared in the third canon of the First Council of Constantinople.

The Pope gained more influence and authority in his jurisdiction as the western Roman Empire continued to deteriorate and crumble. As the imperial structures and systems decayed and transformed, the western Church filled in the institutional power vacuum. Succeeding popes continued to make more ambitious claims to authority. This soured relations between western and eastern Christians.


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