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The Church is Catholic

Catholics have sometimes been heard to speak of the four marks of the church. In fact, we state our belief in them every time we say the Nicene Creed at Mass. When we proclaim this Creed, we state that we believe in “one, holycatholic and apostolic church.”

Catholics believe that the true church can only be identified as one that bears all four qualities.

The Meaning of “Catholic”

“Catholic” comes from a Greek word that means universal. That the true church must be a universal (or “catholic”) church is undeniable.

Jesus told us to make disciples of all men. He instructed us to preach the gospel to the entire world. A Church that does not orient itself to evangelizing the world is not fulfilling Jesus’ command.

That the Church is catholic means that like the Gospel, the Church exists for the entire world. She is not confined to one culture or race or nationality. The Church is the same Church in the United States as she is in Argentina as she is in Tanzania.

Yet the Church is also catholic because she takes what is good in every culture and integrates it into an authentic celebration of the faith. If you were to go to a Catholic church in the United States, Argentina, or Tanzania, you would see different ways of expressing the faith. The Church differs in its expression of faith in accordance with the culture which it evangelizes and serves. For example, in Africa, singing is often much more prominent in the Mass than it is in the United States, and Mass can last for hours.

In that sense, the Church is not only catholic in her mission to evangelize all nations, but also in the fact that no good thing is alien to the Church.

The First Usage of “Catholic”

The oldest documented use of the word Catholic to describe the church occurs circa 110 A.D in a letter written by Saint Ignatius of Antioch:

Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

Saint Ignatius did not explain what he meant by the term “Catholic Church,” and this suggests that Ignatius’s audience would have already been familiar with the term. If he were using a new term, he would probably have defined it for his audience.

Incidentally, this quotation also indicates how important the bishops were in the Church within 100 years after Jesus’ life. Another mark of the Church is that it is Apostolic, meaning that the leaders of the Church (the bishops) are the successors of the Apostles.

By 110 A.D. the books of the New Testament had all been written. But by that time, the New Testament had not yet been compiled, so the Christians did not have a Bible the way Christians do now. They had an Old Testament and understood that many early Christian writings were also Scripture. But they did not have a list of the New Testament books like we have today.

Yet even before the Church had a New Testament in its Bible, the Church was already calling itself a Catholic church. The usage of the term “catholic” is almost as old as Christianity itself. The Church was called “catholic” to distinguish the universal faith from various heresies that were not accepted by the universal Church. Therefore, the Catholic Church was acknowledged as the Church that preserved the teachings of Jesus and of the Apostles from false beliefs that threatened the truths of the faith.

What it Means to be Catholic

There are other groups that call themselves Catholic aside from the Roman Catholic Church. For example, Anglicans often consider themselves to be Anglo-Catholic. There are also Eastern Churches that call themselves Catholic, even though the Eastern Catholic Churches are not part of the Roman Catholic Church.

So according to the Roman Catholic Church, what makes a Church catholic?

First of all, it must hold to the universal truths of the faith. According to the Catholic perspective, Anglicans would not be Catholic because many of their doctrines differ from the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Second, the Church must be in union with the Pope. Eastern Catholic Churches have different liturgical and theological traditions, but these are not in conflict with right doctrine. The Eastern Catholic Churches are in union with the pope. This is what distinguishes and Eastern Catholic from an Eastern Orthodox. Therefore, while the Roman Catholic Church would not recognize Anglicans as true Catholics, it does recognize that Eastern Catholics are truly Catholics even though they are not part of the Roman Church.

There are other things that make the Catholic Church the true Church, but these are the traits most important in calling the Church “catholic.”

5 thoughts on “The Church is Catholic”

  1. Proud to learn that the word Catomic means Universal. Why does what is being described as the first body of believers stemed from the disciples work of spreading the Gospel even before the Bible was first compiled; include going to mass to be cleansed from your sin that year. The Gospel or good news is that JESUS’ blood is the last time we would have to sacrific!e. Now obedience is supreme, because Jesus’ Righteousness is ours now. That is God’s Gift to mankind. Why do the preachers from what Catholics refer to as the One True Church (which I get now), teach pergutory, using a rosary, rituals that having saving grace, indulgences, confession to a Priest over confidence in Jesus interceding for each individual believer.

  2. OK for Catholics I warn you. If trully you seek God read up on your religion and believe. So for non Catholic if the Catholic Church wasn’t holy why did we have saints? and other Churches don’t. Why do you ignore other Scripture passages to make your point when your using a Catholic book? Why do you ignore historical archeological evidence of the Catholic Church like one common Catholic Scripture about Christ said to Peter I will build my church on which he literally did since st Peters basilica is over his grave? *sigh* may God forgive you my friend do not be like the devil and use Scripture or to scatter. Instead repent and be a Catholic, remember. People are not Catholic because they were told to be but because they have had a experience trust me I know I’m one of them. God bless and peace bewitched you

  3. “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Revelation 1:11 (NRSVCE).

    From the above scripture we can see seven churches. Churches are many, so there is no need for an argument that there is only one church.
    If u take Greek orthodox churches, they says they are more older than Roman Catholic church, ya its true.

    But, what is church mean?
    Its not the building like St.peter’s church building or Roman catholic churches buildings, Lutheran Churches buildings, Anglican churches buildings and Pentecostal churches buildings.

    etymology of the word Church is: its an assembly, gathering, ecclesiastical. Its not the building but grouping of people that it means.

    Church is different from temple.

    We can gather in any place in the name of Jesus that is called church, even if two or more stands in street and pray in the name of Jesus that is also called Church.

    Many are fighting that I am this church, I am that church, but what Apostle Paul says,

    Divisions in the Church
    Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas (Peter),” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

    This what happening today in the name of church denominations. Those who say that I am belong to that denomination, this denomination, are only belong to denominations but not to Jesus Christ. Leave the names of denominations, but we have to say that we are Christian or followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ cannot be divided by the name of denominations.

    For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
    1 Corinthians 3:3-4

    For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11.

    So, The foundation is only Jesus Christ.

    The early churches was gathered in Jerusalem(started in Jerusalem first), Damascus(Syria, where Paul goes to trouble the Christians) & Antioch (which is also in Syria), Alexandria(Egypt), Turkey (which was Asia province, where Paul preached), Greek(where Paul preached), Cyprus island(where John saw Revelation) and Rome(where Paul and Peter preached lastly and died).

    Truth is true Christians are strangers for this world, they have headquarters in heaven but not in earth.

    you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. Matthew 23:8-10.

    But many leaders, who made themselves as leader are against this above verse of Jesus.

    “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24.
    church which is wrongly meant by many people as a building is not required for our God to be worshiped.

    Thus says the Lord:
    Heaven is my throne
    and the earth is my footstool;
    what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is my resting place?
    All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things are mine,
    says the Lord.
    But this is the one to whom I will look,
    to the humble and contrite in spirit,
    who trembles at my word.
    Whoever slaughters an ox is like one who kills a human being;
    whoever sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
    whoever presents a grain offering, like one who offers swine’s blood;[b]
    whoever makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
    These have chosen their own ways,
    and in their abominations they take delight. Isaiah 66:1-3

    from the above verse God does not required of man made things.

    Further scripture says:
    Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

    Each one is called living temple for God.

    do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

    2 Corinthians 6:14-18 says like this
    The Temple of the Living God
    Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
    “I will live in them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
    Therefore come out from them,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
    and touch nothing unclean;
    then I will welcome you,
    and I will be your father,
    and you shall be my sons and daughters,
    says the Lord Almighty.”

    Dear bothers and Sisters let us walk in Spirit and Truth, repenting from our ignorance and shall walk in the way to heaven through the word of god.


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