Catholic Church - Iglesia católica

Catholic Church
Latin Cross.svg
Foundation siglo I d. C.
Leader Papa
Headquarters Holy See
Rite Roman (majority) and various other Catholic liturgical rites
Liturgical languages Latin , Coptic , Koine Greek , Liturgical Slavic , Syriac, and vernacular languages .
Liturgical music Gregorian chant , sacred music
Calendar Gregorian
Number of followers Increase1,329,000 [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ]
Members Catholics
Number of clergy Bishops : 5,377
Priests : 414,582
Permanent Deacons : 47,504 [ 4 ]

The Catholic Church [ note 1 ] ( Latin : Ecclesia Catholica ) is the largest Christian Church . [ 5 ] consists of 24 Churches sui iuris : the Latin church and 23 Eastern Churches , [ 6 ] [ 7 ] who are in full communion with the Pope and gather together more than 1329 million faithful the world. [ 1 ] [ 8 ]

The Catholic Church maintains that it is the only Church founded by Christ , [ note 2 ] entrusted by him to the Apostle Peter , to whom he entrusted its diffusion and government together with the other apostles. [ 12 ] For this reason, she considers herself a "sacrament", a "sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race." [ 13 ]

The head of the Catholic Church is the Bishop of Rome , the Pope , considered the successor of the Apostle Peter, who according to Catholic tradition was the first Pope [ note 3 ] . The current pope is Francisco . [ note 4 ] The papal see, known as the Holy See , occupies a preeminent place among the other episcopal sees and constitutes the central government of the Church, [ 18 ] by whom it acts and speaks, and is recognized internationally as a sovereign entity . [19]

All those baptized according to their own rites and who have not performed a formal act of apostasy belong to the Catholic Church . [ Note 5 ] According to data from the Pontifical Yearbook of 2020 concerning the year 2018 , the number of baptized members of the Church is 1329 million, about 18% of the world population. [ 1 ] [ 3 ] is a Christian community that goes back to Jesus and the twelve apostles , through an apostolic successionnever interrupted, [ 21 ] also shared with the Orthodox Church . [ Note 6 ]

With two millennia of history, the Catholic Church is the oldest international institution in the world [ 22 ] and has influenced Western philosophy , science , art and culture . Its tasks include spreading the Gospel and performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy in care of the sick, poor and afflicted, as part of its social doctrine . The Catholic Church, in fact, is the world's largest non-governmental provider of education and medical services. [ 23 ]


The word "church" means "convocation." It comes from the late Latin ecclesĭa and this from the Greek ἐκκλησία, ekklēsía , which properly means "assembly" and which comes from the verb ἐk-kαλεῖν, ek-kalein , "to call out." [ 24 ] [ 25 ]

It designates the assemblies of the people, which mostly had a religious character. It is the term frequently used in the Greek text of the Old Testament to designate the assembly of the chosen people in the presence of God , especially when it comes to the assembly of Sinai , where the people of Israel received the law and was constituted by God. as his holy people. The first Christian community, giving itself the name "Church", considered itself heir to that assembly. [ 25 ] Therefore, according to Catholic belief, this term designates the people summoned and gathered by God from all the corners of the world to form the assembly of all those who, by theFaith and Baptism have been made children of God , members of Christ and temple of the Holy Spirit . [ 26 ]

Icon of Ignatius of Antioch . XVII century. Pushkin Museum .

The words used in English and German to refer to "Church", Church and Kirche respectively, come from the Greek kyriaké , which means "that which belongs to the Lord." [ 25 ]

The term "catholic", for its part, comes from the late Latin catholĭcus , which in turn comes from the Greek καθολικός, katholikós , which means "universal." [ 27 ] Ignatius of Antioch provides in his Letter to the Smyrneans , written around the year 110 , the oldest testimony of this adjective as a qualifier of the Church:

Where the bishop is, the community is, just as where Christ Jesus is, the Catholic Church is.
Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn. 8, 2 [ Note 7 ]


Before the end of the second century , the term "Catholic" began to designate what was considered the true Church and its doctrine, differentiating it from that of dissident groups. [ 29 ]

In an epistle addressed to the Novacianist Simpronio, Paciano de Barcelona ( 4th century ) justified the application of the name "Catholics" to his coreligionists past and present, and went so far as to express:

Christian is my name, the Catholic nickname ( "Cristiano es mi nombre, católico es mi apellido")
Paciano de Barcelona ( message 1, 4)

In the same letter, Paciano highlighted the unity of the Catholic Church in contrast to the diversity of minority groups of his time, several of which took the names of their founders, whose doctrines differed from the ecclesial line of thought ( Ebionites , Marcionites , Valentinians , Apollinarians , Montanists, and Novacianists ). [ 30 ]

The word "Catholicism" is generally used to refer to the religious experience shared by people who live in communion with the Catholic Church. [ 31 ] Thus, it usually refers both to the beliefs of the Catholic Church and to its community of the faithful. [ 32 ]

In countries where Catholicism is the majority, the Catholic Church is commonly known as "the Church", a term that in other countries is applied to other Christian Churches. According to a long tradition, and there are other terms to refer to the Catholic Church such as Sacrament of Christ , the People of God , Mystical Body of Christ , Bride of Christ , Jerusalem above , Building God , [ 33 ] Barca Pedro o Ship of salvation . [ Note 8 ]


The Eucharist, the central sacrament in the Catholic Church. The elevation in the Mass according to the Roman Rite

The Catholic Church sees itself and proclaims itself as commissioned by Jesus Christ to help walk the spiritual path towards God by living reciprocal love and through the administration of the sacraments , through which God grants grace to the believer. .

The Catholic Church conceives of itself as the only Church founded by Christ, and therefore the only authentic one compared to the other churches and Christian denominations that have historically emerged after it. [ Note 9 ]

Also, given that it considers that it is an institution both divine and human [ 34 ] it is both outside and within history, in the Roman Catechism (published in 1566 ) it was written that it consists of two parts: the pilgrim Church , militant or in transit (the one that exists in history) and the triumphant or heavenly Church (when finally reaching the vision of God) [ 35 ] ; to which was sometimes added the purgative , suffering or expectant church (that of those who died and have not yet reached the beatific vision ) [ 36 ], This last part of the Church being invisible but not yet in its final state.

The Catholic Church considers that it is entrusted with the mission of elaborating, imparting and propagating Christian teaching, as well as that of caring for the unity of the faithful. He must also make available the grace of the sacraments to his faithful through the ministry of his priests . Furthermore, the Catholic Church manifests itself as a hierarchical and collegiate structure , whose head is Christ [ 37 ] , who uses the College of the Apostles, and who in later history exercises authority through his successors: the Pope and the bishops. . [ 38 ]

The authority to teach the Magisterium of the Church bases its teachings on Revelation , which is expressed in both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition . [ 39 ]

The Catholic Church considers itself heir to the tradition and doctrine of the early church founded by Jesus Christ and, therefore, as the only legitimate representative of Christ on Earth. Through the figure of the bishops, continuous successors of the apostles, he fulfills the mandate of Jesus to take care of his sheep. [ Note 10 ]

Attributes of the Catholic Church

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church , this is "one, holy, catholic and apostolic." These four attributes, inseparably linked to each other, already appear as such in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Symbol of the year 381, [ 40 ] and indicate essential features of the Church and its mission, [ 41 ] and are often called " notes of the Church ». [ 40 ]

Catholics profess their faith in the four attributes (or notes) of the Church by reciting the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed . The notes of the Church are dogma of faith , these are according to official teaching:

  • Unity: The Church is "one" due to its origin, God himself. God is one according to Catholic doctrine. It is one because of its Founder, Christ. The Apostle Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, refers to the Church as:
"Body of Christ": The parts of the body are many, but the body is one; however many the parts may be, they all form a single body. [ 42 ]
In another letter, Paul also teaches about this attribute:
Maintain ties of peace among yourselves and remain united in the same spirit. One body and one spirit, for you have been called to the same vocation and the same hope. A single Lord, a single faith, a single baptism, a single God and Father of all, who is above all, who acts for all and is in all. [ 43 ] Christ himself teaches and prays for this unity of his Church: May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you. May they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. [ 44 ]
  • Holiness: the Catholic Church, despite the sins and faults of each one of its members who still travel on Earth, is in itself "holy" because "Holy" is its founder and "saints" are its aims and objectives. Likewise, it is holy through its faithful, since they perform a sanctifying action, especially those who have reached a high degree of virtue and have been canonized by the Church itself. The Catholic Church contains the fullness of the means of sanctification and salvation. It is Holy because its members are called to be holy. [ 45 ]
  • Catholicity : with the meaning of "universal" the Church is "catholic" insofar as it seeks to announce the Good News and receive in its bosom all human beings, from all times and in all places, who accept its doctrine and receive Baptism; wherever one of its members is, the Catholic Church is present there. It is also "catholic" because Christ is present in it, which implies that it receives from Him the fullness of the means of salvation. [ 46 ]
  • Apostolicity: the Catholic Church was founded by Christ on the foundation of Peter and the other apostles. [ 47 ] The entire Apostolic College enjoys authority and power as long as it is in communion with Peter and his successors; [ 48 ] Peter and the other Apostles have in the pope and the bishops their successors, who exercise the same authority and power as the former, who were chosen and instituted by Christ. [ 49 ] It is also "apostolic" because it keeps and transmits the teachings heard from the apostles. [ 50 ]

These attributes are found in all the particular Churches that the Catholic Church encompasses, which are the particular Churches of the Latin Church (with Latin rites ) and the Eastern Catholic Churches (with Oriental rites ); All of them have in common the aforementioned essential attributes or characteristics and the supreme authority of the Supreme Pontiff as Vicar of Christ on Earth.


Assumption of the Virgin , Titian , Santa María dei Frari ( Venice ). One belief that distinguishes Catholicism from the rest of Christianity is Marian dogmas .

The fundamental doctrine for the Catholic Church is found in the Creed , which includes the formulas of faith elaborated in the first councils of history. The Creed finds a systematic explanation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church , approved in 1992 by John Paul II and whose final version was promulgated in 1997 .

An outstanding and genuine characteristic to distinguish Catholics from other Christian groups is their acceptance of all ecumenical councils in history (from the Council of Nicaea I to the Vatican Council II ).

The notion of Revelation is central to Catholic doctrine, because under this term two inseparable sources are included: Sacred Scripture and Tradition . A synthesis on this subject is found in the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum of the Second Vatican Council. For Catholics the culmination of Revelation is Jesus Christ. [ 51 ]

The position of the bishop of Rome is also notable . He receives the title of pope and is considered not only bishop of his diocese but also head of the entire Catholic Church, that is, Pastor and Doctor of all Christians because he is considered the successor of Saint Peter . [ 12 ] His choice has varied throughout history; from the century XI is elected by the college of cardinals in the conclave . The pope until February 28 , 2013 was Benedict XVI, the 265th in history. He announced his resignation from the pontificate on the 11th of the same month. [ 52 ] He currently holds the honorary title of Pope Emeritus . On March 13, 2013, the until then Archbishop of the city of Buenos Aires , Cardinal Primate, Jorge Mario Bergoglio , was elected as Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome , who chose the name of Francisco in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi .

The pope enjoys in the Catholic Church a status of supreme hierarchy, possessing the primacy over all other bishops and the fullness of the power of government (as the legislative, executive and judicial power is called in the Catholic Church), which can exercise in a universal, immediate and supreme way over each and every one of the pastors and the Catholic faithful. The authority of the bishop of Rome, his hierarchy within the magisterium of the Catholic Church has been exposed at various times in history and especially at the First Vatican Council .

Other parts of the Catholic doctrine, outstanding and distinctive in relation to the rest of the Christians, are the belief in the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception , and in the Assumption of Mary , mother of Jesus , as well as the faith in the effective spiritual authority of the Catholic Church to forgive sins and remit the temporal penalties due for them, through the Sacrament of Penance and indulgences .

Another outstanding dogma in the Catholic Church is the belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist , that through the change that is called transubstantiation, the bread and wine presented on the Altar become the body and blood of Christ . [ 53 ]

According to Catholic doctrine, the Salvation of the soul is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ and good works, which constitutes a key differential point with other Christian groups such as Protestants and Evangelicals , who preach that only faith in Jesus Christ It is necessary for the salvation of the soul, the works being a consequence of this.

Commandments of the Church

Among the precepts of the Catholic Church the observance of fasting and abstinence is included on Good Friday , the day on which the celebration of the Lord's Passion is officiated.

The commandments of the Church are five precepts promulgated by the ecclesiastical authority that refer to the liturgical life of the faithful, that promote their approach to the sacraments, and that aim to guarantee a minimum in the spirit of prayer and in moral effort , in the growth of the love of God and of neighbor. [ 54 ] [ 55 ]

The five commandments of the Church are: [ 56 ]

  1. Hear the entire mass every Sunday and holy days .
  2. Confess the deadly sins at the least once every year, and in danger of death, and if it is to receive communion.
  3. Communicate at least for Easter .
  4. Fast and refrain from eating meat when ordered by the Holy Mother Church.
  5. Help the Church in its needs.


For the Catholic Church, the sacraments are effective signs of the grace of God, [ note 11 ] celebrated under visible rites, which were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, through which divine life is dispensed to all persons who serve them. they receive with the appropriate disposition. [ 59 ]

There are seven sacraments: Baptism , Confirmation , Eucharist , Penance , Anointing of the Sick , Priestly Order , and Marriage . The sacraments correspond to all the important stages and moments in the life of the believer, establishing a parallel between the stages of natural life and the stages of spiritual life. Thus, the sacraments can be classified into three groups: the "sacraments of Christian initiation", the "sacraments of healing" and the "sacraments at the service of communion and the mission of the faithful." [ 60 ]

Sacraments of Christian Initiation

Baptism of Augustine of Hippo represented in a sculptural group in the cathedral of Troyes (1549), France .
  • Baptism : It is the foundation of all Christian life, the doorway of life in the spirit and the door that opens access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism, Christians are freed from sin and regenerated as children of God, they become members of Christ and are incorporated into the Church and made participants in its mission. [ 61 ]
  • Confirmation : With baptism and the Eucharist, the sacrament of confirmation constitutes the set of "sacraments of Christian initiation". Confirmation unites the baptized more closely to the Church and "enriches them with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. In this way they commit much more, as authentic witnesses of Christ, to extend and defend the faith with their words and their works" ( LG 11; cf OCF Praenotanda 2) [ 62 ]
  • Eucharist : This sacrament completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and more deeply configured to Christ by Confirmation, participate through the Eucharist with the whole community in the Lord's own sacrifice. [ 63 ]
It is worth mentioning that for Catholicism the Eucharist does not represent a symbol but is Jesus Christ himself with his body, blood, soul and divinity present in the Eucharist.

Sacraments of healing

Young scout receiving the sacrament of forgiveness or penance.
  • Penance : Through this sacrament the faithful obtain from God's mercy the forgiveness of sins committed against him and are reconciled with the Church. It receives the name of the sacrament of conversion , since it realizes the call of Christ to conversion sacramentally, the return to the Father from whom man had been estranged by sin; sacrament of penance , by consecrating a personal and ecclesial process of conversion, repentance and reparation on the part of the sinful Christian; sacrament of confession , because the manifestation of sins before the priest is an essential element of this sacrament; sacrament of forgivenessbecause God grants the penitent "forgiveness and peace"; and sacrament of reconciliation , because it grants the sinner the reconciling love of God. [ 64 ]
  • Anointing of the Sick : With the sacred anointing of the sick and with the prayers of the priests, the entire Church entrusts the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord for his relief and salvation. He even encourages them to freely join in the passion and death of Christ; and thus contribute to the good of the People of God "( LG 11). [ 65 ]

Sacraments at the service of the community

Rite of priestly ordination.
  • Priestly Order : Order is the sacrament thanks to which the mission entrusted by Christ to his Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: it is, therefore, the sacrament of the apostolic ministry. It comprises three degrees: the diaconate, the presbyterate, and the episcopate. [ 66 ]
It is the only sacrament that can only be received by men.
  • Marriage : "The matrimonial alliance, by which the man and the woman constitute among themselves a consortium of the whole life, ordered by their own natural nature to the good of the spouses and the generation and education of the offspring, was raised by Christ Our Lord to the dignity ofsacrament betweenbaptized "( CIC , can. 1055.1) [ 67 ]


The Catholic Church has members in most of the countries on Earth , [ 68 ] although its proportion in the population varies from a majority in some to almost nil in others. It is a hierarchical organization in which the ordained clergy is divided into bishops , priests, and deacons . The clergy is organized hierarchically, but takes into account the communion of the faithful. Each member of the clergy depends on a higher authority, but the higher authority must exercise its government with the community in mind, through consultations, meetings and the exchange of ideas.

Basilica of Saint John Lateran , Cathedral of Rome and Mother and Head of all the churches of the World , due to its status as the seat of the Roman Pontiff.

Territorially, the Catholic Church is organized into dioceses or particular Churches , each one under the authority of a bishop ; some of these, of greater rank, are called archdiocese (or archdiocese) and are under the authority of an archbishop . In Eastern Catholic churches , these constituencies are often called eparchies and archieparchies , respectively. As of August 2016, there are 2,847 dioceses worldwide, of which 634 are archdioceses. [ 69 ] The diocese of Rome, which includes the Vatican City , is the Papal See. Likewise, there are 9 Patriarchates (3 Latin and 6 of Eastern rites ), 10 Patriarchal Exarchates and 5 territories dependent on Patriarchs .

Some territories, without being considered dioceses, function in practice as such: they are territorial prelatures and abbeys , governed by a prelate or an abbot , respectively. Currently, there are 42 territorial prelatures, almost 80% of them in Latin America (especially in Brazil and Peru ), and 11 territorial abbeys, more than half in Italy , as well as 1 personal prelature (the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei ), based in Italy, 36 military ordinariates , 9 oriental ordinariates(3 of the Armenian rite and 6 for faithful of Eastern rites who are in territories without eparch (bishop) of their own rite) and 3 personal ordinaries for the faithful converted from Anglicanism (Catholics of the Anglican rite): Chair of Saint Peter in the United States and Canada , Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia .

Dioceses can be grouped into ecclesiastical provinces and these, in turn, into ecclesiastical regions. The archdiocese that presides over an ecclesiastical province is called metropolitan. Sometimes the ecclesiastical province is made up solely of the metropolitan archdiocese. Of the 634 existing archdioceses, 553 are metropolitan (of which 5 are headquarters of metropolitan Eastern Catholic churches), 4 are major archieparchies (one of them also has 5 archiepiscopal exarchates , in Ukraine ) and the remaining 77 are called archiepiscopal archdioceses.

The territories where the organization of the Church is not yet sufficient to erect a diocese (or an eparchy) are directed by a vicar (or exarch) and are called apostolic vicariates (or exarchates ); There are currently 88 Apostolic Vicariates (especially in America , but also in Africa and Asia ) and 18 Apostolic Exarchates (especially in Europe and America, but also in Asia and Africa). If the organization is very incipient, apostolic prefectures are erected (currently there are 39, almost three-quarters in China ). For grave reasons, apostolic administrations are erectedstable (currently there are 8, in Europe and Asia); In addition, there is the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney , in Brazil ( Diocese of Campos ), for the faithful who adhere to the "extraordinary Roman rite" or Tridentine Mass . In the territories where the Church has not yet officially penetrated, independent missions sui iuris are organized (there are currently 8).

The government of the Catholic Church resides in the bishops considered as a college whose head is the bishop of Rome, the pope. The power of this college over the Church as a whole is solemnly exercised in the ecumenical council, an assembly of all the bishops of the world presided over by the pope, which is convened when the most important decisions have to be made, in matters of faith ( dogmas ), moral or other pastoral reasons. Each of the bishops, for their part, is the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular Church . The bishops have the mission to teach, to sanctify and to govern with their authority and sacred power. [ 70 ]

The Cardinals are personally chosen by the pope. Its essential function is to choose the pope's successor, when he dies or resigns. The pope in his activity for the universal Catholic Church is usually assisted by certain cardinals in the administration of the Holy See and the Roman Curia , but not exclusively by cardinals. In the government of their dioceses individual bishops are also assisted by priests and deacons and by others.

In each Eastern Patriarchal Catholic Church the Patriarch has authority over all the bishops, including the Metropolitans, and the other faithful of the Church presided over by him. [ 71 ] The same goes for the major archbishop in his particular church sui iuris and for the metropolitan in a church sui iuris . [ 72 ]

In the Latin Church the powers of the metropolitan bishop in the suffragan dioceses are very limited. [ 73 ]

The bishops of a country can organize themselves in an episcopal conference (or assembly of ordinaries , in the East), whose offices are elective among the bishops of the same nation. There are also inter-diocesan organizations that involve more than one country. We have like this:

Congregations and Orders

Religious orders are not part as orders of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, but they depend on the pope and bishops in different ways. They can be of two types:

  • Religious orders of diocesan law : they depend on the bishop of the diocese in which they have been recognized.
  • Religious orders of pontifical right : they depend directly on the pope, although they must work in communion with the bishops of the dioceses in which they act.

Congregations and religious orders are established according to the three basic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The origin of each one is explained, according to Catholics, by an inspiration given to the founder, which must be recognized as authentic by the hierarchical authorities. Such inspiration or charism is specified in constitutions that are valid only if they are approved by the hierarchical authorities, and according to which the members of each order or congregation must live. After the rebirth, the newly founded movements cease to receive the name order and are called congregations . Not all congregations take the vow of poverty, some make only a pledge of utilitarian poverty.

Within the Catholic Church are many monastic religious orders of friars and nuns, as well as congregations and Institutes of religious life. Its members usually take the vows of obedience , poverty and chastity ; In any case, the votes to be made remain at the disposal of each institution. They all dedicate their lives entirely to God. Other religious practices include fasting , meditation , prayer , penance, and pilgrimage . Among its main founders are the following saints:

The fundamental purpose of the members of the orders and congregations is to save their own soul and to be a salvific example for the whole society with their poverty, chastity and obedience, lived according to the specific charism of the constitution of each order or congregation.

Eastern Rite Catholic Churches

Eastern Catholic Churches
Patriarchal churches
Catholic Church Chaldean
Catholic Church Coptic
Catholic Church Maronite
Catholic Church Syrian
Catholic Church Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Major Archiepiscopal Churches
They are similar to the patriarchal ones, but the major archbishop, after being elected by the Synod, must be confirmed by the pope before being enthroned.

Syro Malabar
Catholic Church Syro Malankara
Catholic Church Romanian
Greek Catholic Church Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Iglesias metropolitan independent
Metropolitans are chosen by the pope from a list of three candidates sent by the Council of Bishops.

Ruthenian Byzantine
Catholic Church Ethiopian
Catholic Church Slovak Greek Catholic
Church Eritrean
Catholic Church Hungarian Byzantine Catholic Church

Other oriental churches sui iuris
Churches with their own hierarchy: Without Synod or Council of Bishops since they have one or two dioceses, their hierarchies are chosen by the Bishop of Rome.

Bulgarian Byzantine
Catholic Church Greek Byzantine
Catholic Church Italian Albanian Byzantine
Catholic Church Križevci Eparchy
Greek Catholic Church Macedonian Greek Catholic Church

Churches without their own hierarchy: After the end of the communist era, their own bishop has not yet been appointed.

Albanian Byzantine
Catholic Church Russian Byzantine
Catholic Church Belarusian Greek Catholic Church

The division between the churches of the East and the West gave rise to the existence of communities of Eastern rites that were maintained or entered in full communion with the Church of Rome , preserving their liturgy, but in some cases they have been Latinized to some degree. Some have never been in schism with the Church of Rome (such as the Maronite and Italo-Albanian churches) and others have arisen from divisions of the Orthodox churches or of the old national churches of the East.

In the past they were also called Uniates but today the term is considered derogatory and inaccurate. They regularly constitute minorities in countries where their Orthodox counterpart predominates (such as Greece , Serbia , Bulgaria , Armenia and Russia ), others are minorities along with their Orthodox counterparts in countries where another religion predominates (Melchites in Syria , Chaldeans in Iraq , Malankaras in the India , etc.) and others have no counterpart in schism with Rome (Maronites and Italian-Albanians), also due to migration many Eastern Catholics live today in Western countries (Australia , North America , Argentina , Brazil , France , etc).

They are considered churches sui iuris and are on an equal footing with the Latin rite, as affirmed by the Second Vatican Council through the document Orientalium Ecclesiarum . The faithful of these churches are outside the jurisdiction of the Latin bishops, except in cases where they do not have their own jurisdiction. In the same way, Latin Catholics are outside the jurisdictions of the Eastern bishops, except in Eritrea , a country where there is no Latin hierarchy, in part of Ethiopia , in the Syro-Malabar dioceses that are outside the state of Kerala in India and in some parishes of the Italian-Albanian eparchies of Italy.

The ecclesial organization of the Eastern Catholic Churches is governed by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches , promulgated by Pope John Paul II on October 18, 1990, which entered into force on October 1, 1991.

Patriarchal Churches elect their own patriarch through their Patriarchal Synod, which after being elected is immediately proclaimed and enthroned without the intervention of the Pope, to whom the ecclesial communion then refers. In its own canonical territory its bishops are elected by the Patriarchal Synod from a list of candidates previously approved by the Holy See. The holy synods can also establish dioceses within their canonical territory, but not in areas of the Latin rite.

In the case of the Russian Greek-Catholic Church , the two apostolic exarchates that existed in Russia and China before the Marxist revolutions have not yet been reactivated by the Holy See , the faithful in Russia depending on the Latin and Ukrainian bishops. In China the Church continues in the "catacombs"; the few existing parishes depend on Latino bishops.

The Byzantine Catholic Church in America (although it is part of the Ruthenian Catholic Church , as well as the Exarchate of the Czech Republic and the Eparchy of Mukachevo, constitutes an independent jurisdiction, there being in practice no body that brings together these Ruthenian jurisdictions, nor does it exist for the jurisdictions that constitute, for example, the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church or the Italian-Albanian Catholic Church ).

In the case of the Albanian church, the Holy See has reactivated the apostolic administration of southern Albania which, despite being classified as an Eastern rite, has a Latin bishop and most of its few faithful are also from this rite.

The Belarusian church is the most flourishing of the three, but due to differences with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow , the Holy See has not yet appointed it a hierarchy, its faithful depending directly on the Congregation for Eastern Churches .

A small Georgian Byzantine Catholic community existed , but it was never erected as a church or included in the official list of oriental rites published in the Pontifical Yearbook.

The Holy See has also erected six ordinaries for the faithful of the Eastern rite, devoid of an ordinary of their own rite ; These ordinaries are in charge of the spiritual care of Eastern Catholics of non-organized rites in Argentina , France , Austria , Poland , Brazil and Spain , depending on the Latin archbishops of Buenos Aires , Paris , Vienna , Warsaw , Rio de Janeiro and Madrid respectively.


Old age

Christ giving the keys to Saint Peter , fresco from the Sistine Chapel by Pietro Perugino .

In the context of early Christianity , after the death of Stephen (the first Christian martyr) and even more so after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans , two processes began: that of the progressive separation of early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism and that of the spread of Christianity, as can be seen in the early centers of Christianity . The followers of Jesus were first given the name of "Christians" in Antioch , [ 74 ] a place where by the preaching of various disciples (such as Pauland Barnabas ) there were many new adherents. [ 75 ]

Catholic doctrine states that Jesus founded a hierarchically organized and authoritative Christian community, led by the apostles (the first of whom was Simon Peter ). Later (according to the Acts of the apostles ), the apostles and early followers of Jesus structured an organized church. A letter written shortly after 100 AD by Ignatius of Antioch to those of Smyrna (chapter 8) is the oldest surviving text in which the term ἡ καθολική ἐκκλησία (the Catholic or universal Church) is used:

"Wherever the bishop appears, there must be the people; just as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church."

The same Ignatius of Antioch testifies to the existence of a clergy in three degrees consisting of bishops , presbyters and deacons . [ 76 ] In the third century , Saint Cyprian , bishop of Carthage, speaks of a monarchical hierarchy of seven degrees, in which the supreme position was occupied by the bishop. In this hierarchy the bishop of Rome occupied a special place, as the successor of Saint Peter. [ 77 ] [ 78 ]

Furthermore, the fact that the bishop of Rome came to have a particularly great importance, was due, according to some, for political reasons: Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire until the Emperor Constantine I the Great made Constantinople the new capital, on 11 May 330. [ 79 ] Others attribute this importance to the fact, then recognized by all [ citation needed ] , that the Bishop of Rome was the successor of Saint Peter, to whom Jesus said, according to the Gospel of Luke :

"But I have prayed for you, so that you do not lack faith. And you, when you have returned to me, help your brothers to stand firm." .

Furthermore, around the year 95, Clement of Rome (bishop of the Church of Rome between 89 and 97) wrote a letter to the Christian community of Corinth to solve an internal problem, suggesting their primacy over the particular Churches. Indeed, uprisings had arisen against the priest-episcopes in Corinth and Clement, as bishop of the Church of Rome, called them to order and obedience to their respective pastors, evoking the memory of the apostles Peter and Paul . [ 80 ] That letter is the first work of Christian literature outside of the New Testament.which historically contains the name of its author, the situation and the time in which it was written, and whose words manifest a harshness typical of the language of one who is aware of his authority. [ 81 ]

Some authors have claimed that there are insufficient arguments to confirm that Peter was a bishop in Rome. [ 82 ] [ 83 ] The tradition that Peter went to Rome and was martyred there is also based on this letter of St. Clement , who mentions his martyrdom (Chapter 5), in the Letter of St. Ignatius of Antioch to Romans ("I command you nothing, which Peter and Paul did." - chapter 4), and in the work of ca. 175-185 Against the heresies of Irenaeus of Lyons , where he says:

As it would be too long to list the successions of all the Churches in this volume, we will indicate above all the oldest and of all known, that of the Church founded and constituted in Rome by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul, the one that has conserved since the Apostles. Tradition and "the faith announced" ( Romans 1: 8 ) to men by the successors of the Apostles who come down to us.
Ireneo de Lyon, eresie , Book 3, 1.3.1

The Council of Nicaea I in 325 condemned Arianism, excluding from the Church the followers of this theological opinion. Other councils also defined the Catholic faith more precisely and declared other doctrines heretical ( Nestorianism , Eutychianism ), particularly in the Councils of Ephesus I (431) and of Chalcedon (451) [ 84 ] . The Church officially ceased to suffer persecution in both parts of the Roman Empire (which was already under the fourth tetrarchy ) from 313, in which jointly the emperorConstantine and Emperor Licinius established freedom of worship to all religions with the Edict of Milan [ 85 ] [ 86 ] . Christianity became the official state religion in 380, when Theodosius I the Great , decreed the Edict of Thessalonica [ 87 ] .

Middle Ages

The Catholic Church, in the 5th century , had spread over almost the entire territory of the Roman Empire (from Hispania to Syria , with the coastal areas of North Africa). Subsequently, missions were carried out to areas of northern Europe, which reached Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, and later areas of Scandinavia, Central Europe and the East Slavic populations. This long process spans from the 5th to the 11th centuries. A good part of these missions, as well as the work of re-Christianizing the territories of the old Western Roman Empire, was possible thanks to the monasteries, especially the Benedictines .

The expansion of populations converted to Islam led to a progressive decline of the Catholic populations of North Africa, which would become almost complete in the modern world.

A later event meant the division between numerous Churches: the Great Schism between its portions of the West and the East (whose Church, still called "Orthodox Catholic", would become known only by this last word) occurred in the year 1054 because of the rivalries between the patriarchates of Rome and Constantinople and, theologically, around the Filioque clause .

During the 11th and 14th centuries, a great cultural development took place thanks to the institution of new ecclesiastical universities, focused mainly on theology, but also with faculties of arts, law and, in some places, medicine.

In the thirteenth century the mendicant orders were founded and began to develop , which had a great influence on the religious life of society.

Towards the end of the 14th century there was a schism, known as the Western Schism , which affected the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417, causing strong tensions and the emergence of conciliarist- type ideas , according to which a council could have more authority. than the pope at some points. Conciliarism was condemned at the V Lateran Council in 1516.

The Inquisition

The term Inquisition ( Latin : Inquisitio haereticae Pravitatis Sanctum Officium ) refers to various institutions dedicated to the suppression of heresy within the Catholic Church. The medieval Inquisition , from which all the others derive, was founded in 1184 in the Languedoc area (in southern France ) to combat the heresies of the Cathars , Albigensians and Waldensians . In 1249 , it was also established in the kingdom of Aragon (it was the first state Inquisition). In the modern age, with the union of Aragon with Castile , was extended to this with the name of the Spanish Inquisition ( 1478 - 1821 ), under direct control of the Hispanic monarchy, whose scope of action later extended to America . Also important were the Portuguese Inquisition ( 1536 - 1821 ) and the Roman Inquisition ( 1542 - 1965), also known as Holy Office. The number of those executed by civil authorities after being convicted cannot be determined with certainty, due to the existence of numerous gaps in the documentary evidence. Extrapolating detailed studies, [ note 12 ] Pérez estimates the death sentences carried out in Spain at less than 10,000; [ 88 ] In Portugal, out of around 23,000 documented cases, 1,454 death sentences were recorded at the stake. [ 89 ] These figures do not take into account the number of deaths caused by torture or by incarceration conditions.

Modern age

The Catholic Church faces profound changes in the Modern Age. On the one hand, an expansion of the missions to some areas of Africa and Asia and to America began from the travels and conquests of the Spanish and Portuguese. On the other hand, there are strong internal tensions and a deep desire for reform.

The invention of the printing press allowed a greater diffusion of the Bible and its translations, which began to circulate among Catholics in various places.

The rejection of papal authority for reasons of political and economic independence, and Martin Luther's rejection of charging money for indulgences , led to the rise of Protestantism in 1517 . In the same 16th century , Calvinism began to develop in Switzerland, and then rapidly spread to other European countries. A major schism followed with the rise of the Anglican Church (born from the English Act of Supremacy in 1534 ).

Counter Reformation

The Counter-Reformation was the response to Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation, which had weakened the Catholic Church. It denotes the period of Catholic revival from the pontificate of Pope Pius IV in 1560 to the end of the Thirty Years' War , in 1648 . Its objectives were to renew the Catholic Church and prevent the advance of Protestant doctrines.

Between the years 1545 and 1563 the Council of Trent was developed , with various stages. Before and after the Council of Trent, various religious congregations were founded that sought to promote a profound renewal among Catholics. One of those congregations, which later acquired a great development, was the Society of Jesus .

Contemporary age

French revolution and secularization

Although in principle the French Revolution did not have a hostile orientation towards the Church, it was more radical on the question of ecclesiastical property. [ 90 ] The National Constituent Assembly decided to expropriate all the assets of the Church, [ 90 ] which worsened relations until in 1790 all the monastic orders [ 91 ] and a large part of the religious orders (with the exception of those dedicated to charitable works). Two months later, all the Church's patrimony was expropriated and secularized, and the civil Constitution of the clergy was approved.and the clergy were forced to take an oath to her, with which they wanted to remove the fidelity to Rome from the French Church. The refusal of two - thirds of the clergy was followed by bloody persecutions in which 40,000 priests were imprisoned, deported or executed, [ 92 ] [ 93 ] as part of a series of policies to dechristianize France . The murders September of 1792 began the government of the Terror , and in 1793 Christianity was banned by establishing the " cult of Reason 'in place while continuing persecution against monarchical and ecclesiastical.[ 94 ] This finalizao harassment after thecoupofNapoleon Bonaparte, on November 9 of1799, which overthrew thegovernment of the Directory. [ 94 ] During his tenure, the Catholic religion was reestablished and it was recognized byconcordatthat the Catholic was the faith of the majority of the French. [ 95 ] In1808Napoleon, already emperor, occupied Rome and thePapal States; in 1809 he arrested PopePius VIIand took him toFontainebleau, where he tried unsuccessfully to force him to resign from the Papal State. [ 96 ]

The expansion of the French Empire also led to the spread of revolutionary ideas, and secularization had consequences in Germany, where the Church also suffered expropriation of its assets. [ 96 ] However, the loss of influence and the impoverishment of the Church led to both the material reorganization and an interior renewal of ecclesial life, with a greater union between bishops, priests and lay faithful. [ 97 ] Thus arose a Catholic movement that spread to other European countries, supported by Romanticism and its interest in medieval art and literature, which brought with it a greater esteem for the Church and conversions to Catholicism.[ 98 ] Numerous Catholic organizations, popular missions, new forms of piety emerged; the religious orders received a new impetus and little by little a Catholic press appeared. [ 98 ] Theindustrializationwasoccasion for the Churchaddress thesocial issue, important fact in an era in which the legislation ignored many social problems, generally entrusted to Christian charity. In this sense, the new charitable and educational activities of the religious congregations as well as the orders dedicated to the care of the sick were relevant. [ 98 ]

Vatican Council I

By defining the ancient doctrine of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854, as a dogma , which affirmed that Mary had been conceived without original sin, Pope Pius IX put an end to a controversy between theological schools that spanned several centuries. [ 99 ] The dogma was accepted and the Church did not raise a voice contrary to it, but since the pope acted ex cathedra , and that the decision had not come from a council, the dogmatic definition once again raised the question about if the pope alone could proclaim infallible truths of faith. [ 100 ]

When Pius IX summoned a council that would begin at the end of 1869, the question of infallibility was on the table. [ 101 ] The existing general tension and the division between supporters and detractors of infallibility made, however, the pope withdraw this issue from the issues to be discussed. [ 102 ] However, in the conciliar assembly from the beginning there was a majority bloc in favor of the dogmatic definition of infallibility, which introduced the question. [ 102 ] The minority that opposed did so not so much because they opposed infallibility, but because such a definition seemed inappropriate at the time. [102 ] . Finally, the Pastor Aeternus constitution(with the doctrine of the primacy of the pope and his infallibility ) was approved. [ 102 ] Immediately the council had to be interrupted after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war and the occupation of Rome that would put an end to the Papal States. [ 102 ]

A group of professors from German theology faculties refused to accept the dogma and were excommunicated, separating from the Catholic Church and founding the so-called Vetero-Catholic Church . [ 103 ] Although the number of followers was reduced, Bismarck offered them help with the objective of submitting the Church to the State, as he had achieved with the Protestant territorial Church. [ 103 ] The fight against the Church was called Kulturkampf and despite the great damage to the German Church, the Catholics rallied and in the 1874 elections the Center Party would win 91 seats in theReichstag . [ 103 ] After the failure, the Kulturkampf would finally be dismantled and Pope Leo XIII collaborated with Bismarck on it. [ 103 ]

End of the Papal States

In June 1815, after the fall of Napoleon, the Church saw its sovereignty over the Papal States restored at the Congress of Vienna . Even so, Italy was in the process of national unification , to which the different popes opposed, and the new kingdom was conquering the different papal territories until reaching Rome. [ 104 ] His final conquest of the city occurred when French troops, who had been protecting it, had to march to France in the framework of the Franco-Prussian war . [ 104 ] The Papal States came to an end with the taking of Rome on September 20, 1870.[ 104 ] The ensuing dispute between the pope and Italy, known as the "Roman question," would only end after the signing of theLateran pactsin 1929, [ 104 ] in which the pope renounced the old Papal States in exchange for the recognition of the sovereignty and independence of theHoly See, creating for this purpose theState of Vatican Cityunder papal power.

To the present

The Pope John Paul II emphasized by its openness to interfaith dialogue and charisma among Catholic youth.
The Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI , was the head of the Catholic Church until 28 February 2013 and is considered a prominent theologian .
Francis , 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, in March 2013.

Number of Catholics

Current situation

Catholic laity in St. Peter's Square . The laity make up the vast majority of the Catholic Church. In the words of Pius XII , reiterated by John Paul II : "They are the Church " ( Christifideles laici 9).

According to the data of the Pontifical Yearbook of 2017 referring to the year 2015 , there would be 1,285 million baptized people in the world , 17.7% of the world's population. [ 1 ] [ 2 ]

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of Catholics in Asia and Africa, exceeding the growth of the population. [ 1 ]

Among the Catholics according to the records, not all are recognized as such, and among those who declare themselves Catholics there are those who participate little in religious ceremonies. For example, in Spain, a traditionally Catholic country in which most people are baptized shortly after birth, according to the free choice of their parents, it is clear from the survey carried out by the Sociological Research Center (CIS) in May 2010 [ 105 ] that the number of people who declare themselves Catholic is 73.7%, and of this percentage 56.8% declare that they do not attend religious celebrations.

The Catholic Church counts as Catholics all those baptized into the Church (or admitted to the same if they ask for it and had previously been baptized in other Christian groups) with their rights and duties, and who have not made a formal act of defection from it. For the Catholic Church, those who do not practice as a Catholic continue to be part of it. But celebrating other sacraments is not what makes them Catholic, but baptism. It also considers Catholics those who live imperfectly, as sinners with the possibility of conversion:

Jesus said to them: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, so that they may convert.

It is possible to leave the Church through "a formal act" of defection called Apostasy , complying with the formal manifestation of the will to carry out such an act before the competent ecclesiastical authority. Even having made a declaration of apostasy, in accordance with canon law, the sacramental bond of belonging to the Church given by baptism remains, given the sacramental nature of baptism, which for Catholics is indelible in the sense that their union with Christ. According to the Code of Canon Law(canons from 865 to 869), there are cases in which the baptism would be illegal (which does not remove the validity) and others in which it would be invalid (which means that the baptism never took place), so the person concerned You can proceed to request the nullity or illegality of your baptism based on the way you were baptized, therefore, this union with Christ can also be revoked. This is one of the formulas used so that the interested party can change their religion

Those who have left the Catholic faith can return, if they wish, to the Church, and there are programs and groups that seek to facilitate the return to Catholicism. [ 106 ]

The excommunication is a medicinal punishment, a measure aimed at conversion, not expulsion. For this reason, it only disables them to take part fully in the activities of the community, but the excommunicated person continues to be considered a member of the Catholic Church.

The doctrine of the Catholic Church demands from the faithful the acceptance of its magisterium , being heresy "the persistent denial, after receiving baptism, of a truth that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or the persistent doubt about it" . [ 107 ] Currently, disciplinary actions are only initiated against Catholic theologians who defend, with some influence, alternative ideas in these areas, depriving them of the authority to teach with the title of professors of Catholic theology, but not with respect to the common faithful. , however much its public relevance, against which it can apply only spiritual penalties.

In Germany 1.78 million Catholics, with a declaration made before the civil authority and recognized by the bishops, have "left the Catholic Church" since 1990 to avoid the ecclesiastical tax (which on average rises to 9% of the taxable income): 143,500 in 1990, 192,766 in 1992, 168,244 in 1995, 101,252 in 2004, the year in which 141,567 Protestants took the same step. [ 108 ]

In other countries, while people generally walk away from the Catholic Church without wanting to formally sever their connection with it, some atheist or skeptical associations and some Protestant groups encourage statements of apostasy or heresy. Only with the circular letter of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts of March 13, 2006, was the ecclesiastical procedure to be followed in these cases completely clear.

Distribution in the world

Map showing the percentage of Catholics in the different countries (Approximate colors).

In Europe, those baptized as Catholics are the majority in the population of the following countries: Andorra , Austria , Belgium , Croatia , Slovakia , Slovenia , Spain , France , Hungary , Ireland , Italy , Liechtenstein , Lithuania , Luxembourg , Malta , Monaco , Poland , Portugal , San Marino . In Germany , Czech Republic, Netherlands , Switzerland , and Ireland of the North , are represented by similar numbers to those of the Protestants.

Most of the population of Latin America considers itself Catholic to a greater or lesser degree. The country with the largest number of Catholics in the world is Brazil (172.2 million).

The countries with the highest number of Catholics in Latin America, from highest to lowest percentage, are the following: Colombia , Paraguay , Mexico , Brazil , Argentina , Venezuela , Ecuador , Puerto Rico , El Salvador , Chile , Costa Rica , Peru , Guatemala , Bolivia , Uruguay .

In the English-speaking countries and in general in the British Commonwealth of Nations (in English, Commonwealth of Nations ) Catholicism has not prospered as a result of the historical disagreement of Henry VIII with the spiritual authority of the Holy See .

In Asia , Catholic countries such as the Philippines (former Spanish colony) and East Timor (former Portuguese colony) are surrounded by Muslim countries ; in others, such as Lebanon , only half the population is, and in Palestine and Syria , there are notable small minorities , and somewhat smaller still in Korea , India , and Vietnam .

In Africa , the number of Catholics would exceed 50% of the population in the following countries: Angola , Burundi , Cape Verde , Congo , Equatorial Guinea , Lesotho , Reunion , São Tomé and Príncipe and Seychelles . The total number of African Catholics, according to the Pontifical Yearbook 2017, with data referring to 2015, would be 222.3 million. [ 109 ]

Social commitment

History and various data

Under the medieval Catholic Church the first universities were born .

Since the days of the nascent Church, the Christian community has sought to commit itself socially, giving preference to those most in need. [ 110 ] This was recognized by Emperor Julian the Apostate (332-363), who was a strong opponent of the Church. [ Note 13 ] [ 111 ] The Catholic Church was a founder of the first hospitals, nursing homes and orphanages in the history of the West since the early Middle Ages . [ 112 ] The first European schools were born from the work of the Religious Orders , being the universitiesmore famous those founded by the popes . In Europe, of the 52 universities prior to 1400 , several were founded or confirmed by the popes , including: University of Paris ( The Sorbonne ), University of Coimbra , University of Montpellier , University of Oxford , University of Cambridge , University of Heidelberg , University of Leipzig , University of Cologne , University of Warsaw , Jagiellonian University in Krakow ,University of Louvain , University of Rome "La Sapienza" , University of Lleida , University of Orleans , University of Avignon , University of Padua , University of Bologna , University of Pisa , University of Ferrara , University of Salamanca and University of Valladolid . [ 112 ] Others that were later founded are: University of Basel , University of Uppsala , University of Alcalá , University of Vilna, and the University of Warsaw .

The Catholic Church currently has religious and lay missionaries of both sexes who regularly carry out social works, both material and of moral and spiritual support. [ 113 ] In 1996 , the Holy See dedicated some 5.2 million dollars to humanitarian aid, not counting the contributions made privately by the laity and the Religious Orders . [ 114 ]

In almost all the dioceses of the world, in the countries where it is allowed, the Catholic Church carries out some type of social work. It has numerous foundations or parish pastoral care such as schools, dispensaries, shelters for children and the elderly, hospitals, rehabilitation centers of all kinds, leprosariums, etc.

The last few popes have shown a marked interest in growing social problems. Thus, John Paul II on one occasion allocated 1.72 million dollars to populations affected by calamities and for Christian promotion projects; 1.3 million to indigenous, mestizo, Afro-American, and poor peasant communities in Latin America; 1.8 million for the fight against desertification and lack of water in the Sahel . This among other aid of less than hundreds of thousands of dollars aimed at solving critical human situations and stimulating solidarity. [ 115 ]

The Holy See has distributed, at the request of the Supreme Pontiff , 5 million dollars in the year 1997 ; 7 million in 1998 and 9 million in 1999 , etc. These figures have been intended to help populations affected by natural or human disasters. [ 116 ] And in 1999 the sum allocated by the Holy See to aid in general amounted to a total of 30 million. [ 117 ]

Catholic organizations

According to data from the Pontifical Yearbook released in 2008 , “there are more than 114,738 institutions of assistance and charities with a Catholic identity throughout the world; of these, 5246 are hospitals; 17,530 are dispensaries; 577 are lepers; 15,208 are homes for the elderly, incurable patients and the disabled ”. [ 118 ]

The Catholic group with the largest global presence, with the largest number of works, is Cáritas , which carries out humanitarian work and guides human projects, with a presence in the 5 continents . Cáritas Española , for example, in 1999 invested more than 19,000 million pesetas (114.2 million euros) in the fight against poverty . [ 119 ] In 2009, and despite the economic crisis that the country experienced that year, Cáritas Española allocated 230 million euros for social assistance. [ 120 ]

At the wish of John Paul II, since 1984 there is a Foundation for the Aid of the Sahel , which promotes development projects in North African countries affected by desertification . Between 2001 and 2004, the Foundation had invested more than 9 million euros in different projects. [ 121 ]

In the United States , Catholic charitable assistance finds a corporate organization in Catholic Charities USA , which brings together more than 1,700 associations working in dioceses and supporting more than 9 million people, as reported in 2010. [ 122 ] .

The Catholic NGO Manos Unidas has invested (between 2007 and 2009) 2.37 million euros in 68 projects aimed at the development of Haiti. [ 123 ]


Towards the end of the 20th century , the Catholic Church educated one million university students in the Third World , 96 million in secondary education and 15 million in primary education . [ citation needed ] The Society of Jesus educates more than a million children in Latin America in the Free Schools for Popular Promotion " Fe y Alegría ". [ 124 ]

In 1985 the Church had 45,562 kindergartens around the world, with 3,786,723 children in them. Of these centers, 3835 were in Africa , 5331 in America North , 5857 in Latin America , 6654 in Asia , 23,566 in Europe and 319 in Oceania . This same year he directed 78,160 primary and elementary schools with 22,390,309 students; It served 6,056 hospitals, 12,578 outpatient clinics, 781 leprosariums, 10,467 homes for the elderly, chronically ill, disabled, and handicapped, 6,351 family clinics, 6,583 childcare centers, 7,187 special education or social re-education centers, and another 23,003 assistance centers. [ 125]

By 2000 , the Church administered 408,637 parishes and missions, 125,016 primary and secondary schools, 1,046 universities, 5,853 hospitals, 13,933 shelters for the elderly and the disabled, 74,936 dispensaries, leprosariums, infirmaries, and other institutions. In total, the Church is responsible for the education of 55,440,887 children and young people, and has 687,282 social centers throughout the world.


According to the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care , the Catholic Church manages and serves 26% of the hospitals and health care centers in the world. [ 126 ] It has 117,000 health centers (hospitals, clinics, orphans' accommodation houses), 18,000 dispensaries, and 512 centers for the care of people with leprosy. [ 126 ] In the Holy See there are more than 100 organizations that are dedicated to distributing alms to the poor around the world. [ 127 ]

The Catholic Church operates numerous facilities for the care of victims of the AIDS epidemic around the world. It is manifested in the sense that seropositive to the HIV deserve support, understanding and compassion. In 2010 , the use of 1.2 million euros by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (of the Holy See ) to support the work of 131 AIDS prevention and treatment centers in 41 countries was announced. [ 128 ]The church recognizes that the AIDS epidemic is serious, but is critical of the strategies adopted in various countries. For example, it rejects the "biological-hygienist" model adopted in sex education and HIV prevention strategies that include condom use . [ footnote 14 ] From the point of view of the Catholic Church, condom promotion is a deception because it does not provide full protection and encourages advancement of the age of sexual initiation. As a strategy to stop the epidemic, the church proposes the promotion of a "moral preservative", based on the promotion of fidelity and family sexual education. [ Note 15 ]


In economic matters, the Catholic Church is not a centralized entity, but rather the different canonical legal personalities ( ecclesiastical provinces , episcopal conferences , dioceses , parishes , associations of the faithful , etc.) are holders of their patrimony and manage it autonomously, obtaining the resources as established in canon law and civil laws . [ 129 ] In general, the Catholic Church and its institutions are financed in several ways, among which we can distinguish:

  1. Contributions from own institutions or those linked to the Catholic Church itself.
  2. Economic returns received in the form of capital gains from companies and institutions where it has invested capital.
  3. Direct or indirect contributions and collections, both public and private.
  4. Financing from the public coffers of many of the countries where it has a presence.
  5. Other sources.

The contribution of the States to the economic support of the Catholic Church is different in each case. In some countries such as Spain , Italy , Portugal or Hungary the State does not directly finance the religious activities of the Church, but rather citizens can choose to withhold a percentage of their taxes for this cause. [ 130 ] [ 131 ] A similar system is given in Germany or Austria , but there one is imposed church tax anyone who is declared Catholic to contribute to the maintenance of the Church.[131]

However, in countries such as Argentina , Belgium or Luxembourg , it is the State that takes care of the salaries and pensions of the holders of ecclesiastical offices through an item from their budgets. [ 132 ] [ 133 ] Quite the opposite occurs in other countries like France , where no subsidy is allowed any public funds, but the state itself is responsible for the maintenance of the temples that are owned (those built before to 1905 ) and also pays the chaplains of the armed forces , hospitalspublic and prisons . [ 133 ]

It may also occur that countries exempt the Church from paying certain types of taxes or fees , as well as granting subsidies to restore or maintain artistic heritage , to promote patronage , or to finance Catholic charitable, teaching or educational institutions. assistance; among others. [ 133 ] [ 134 ] [ 135 ]


The Catholic Church has received much criticism throughout its history, from within and without. The criticisms are mainly divided into two groups: those that refer to doctrinal aspects, and those that censor the behavior (real or supposed) of Catholics as a whole or in percentages of certain relevance (whether they live according to the teachings of the Church, whether they act against them).

Criticisms of the behavior of Church members

The Catholic Church has been criticized for the violent suppression of other cults and heresy throughout the Middle and Modern Ages, particularly by the Inquisition . [ 136 ] It has also been criticized for the active support that some prominent members of the Catholic hierarchy gave to dictatorial regimes (military dictatorships in Latin America), or the denialist position of certain clergymen and bishops. [ 137 ]

Starting especially in the last decade of the 20th century , various cases of sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic Church have been known, resulting in criminal and civil convictions, as well as ecclesiastical convictions, in several countries. The permanent representative of the Holy See to the UN , Silvano Tomasi appeared before the Committee against Torture and reported for ten years 3,420 cases of abuse of minors were investigated, resulting in the removal of 884 priests from office. [ 138 ]

Pope John Paul II , in his Apostolic Letter addressed to the episcopate, the clergy and the faithful in preparation for the Jubilee of the year 2000 (11-10-1994), underlined:

Thus it is right that, as the second Millennium of Christianity draws to a close, the Church assumes with a more vivid conscience the sin of her children, recalling all the circumstances in which, throughout history, they have strayed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel, offering to the world, instead of the testimony of a life inspired by the values ​​of faith, the spectacle of ways of thinking and acting that were true forms of anti-witness and scandal. […] It is good for the Church to take this step with a clear awareness of what it has experienced in the course of the last ten centuries. He cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without encouraging his children to purify themselves, in repentance, of mistakes, infidelities, inconsistencies and slowness.[139]
Juan Pablo 2, the third millennium When 33

Criticism in doctrinal matters

Criticisms regarding the doctrine have been based many times on the fact that the Catholic Church exposes beliefs, doctrines and concepts that some think are not present in the Bible , being that the Catholic Church also considers the word of God that is transmitted through the apostolic tradition . [ 140 ] In addition, the controversy with Protestant groups regarding some biblical books, considered apocryphal by Protestants (among them, the Ecclesiasticus and Tobit ), which are defined as part of the original canon of the Bible, stands out.(known as Alexandrian Canon or Catholic Canon), conforming the classification of Deuterocanonical biblical books .

See also


  1. Sometimes, especially due to the influence of English-speaking countries, the adjective "Roman" is added to the above. In the Creed and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church it is said that it is "one, holy, catholic and apostolic", without the term "Roman". There are, however, other texts in which the word "Roman" appears added to the previous ones. Cf. John Paul II, General Audience of Wednesday June 26, 1985 .
  2. ^ The formula subsistit in (subsists in), used in the constitution Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Council , was the subject of various interpretations that made the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith later specify its meaning. Said formula would not come to deny the identity between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church, but rather seeks to insist on the fact that the Church of Christ, with all the means instituted by him, persists (that is, remains, continues) to always in the Catholic Church. [ 9 ] [ 10 ] [ 11 ]
  3. When speaking of the head of the Church, a distinction is made between its invisible head, Jesus Christ, and its visible head, the pope, successor of Peter [ 14 ] .
  4. This is pope number 266 in the history of the Church according to the Aciprensa List of Popes, [ 15 ] and it would be number 268 according to the semi-official list published in the 1919 edition of the Pontifical Yearbook . [ 16 ] This list, which assigned the number 260 to the then reigning Benedict XV , included two popes excluded from the Aciprensa list. For more than half a century, the Pontifical Yearbook no longer assigns successive numbers to the popes due to the uncertain legitimacy of various medievals according to the canon law of the time. [ 17 ]
  5. The Catholic Church understands that baptism can be received only once, since it considers it a sacrament that has character . Thus, only those who have not been baptized before can be baptized. [ 20 ] In this way, in whoever has carried out an apostasy , the Church does not consider that their union with Christ is revoked.
  6. ^ In addition to apostolicity, the Orthodox Church also claims its catholicity . It is in this sense that said Church, among others, can also be considered "Catholic", a term that in this case does not imply a relationship with the Church in communion with the Pope of Rome , usually referred to as "Catholic Church".
  7. Quasten points out that Ignatius, in his letter to the Christians of Smyrna , is the first to use the expression "Catholic Church" ( katholiké ) as a synonym for "universal", to mean the faithful collectively.
  8. The use of Salvation Ship or Peter's Boat comes from Mark 4: 35-41 , and it is an expression used to refer to the Catholic Church at least since the fourth century . Ramón Pellitero, La barca de Pedro .
  9. The Church claims that this is the will of Christ, its founder, who desires "one flock and one Shepherd" ( John 10:16 ; John 17:11 ; John 17: 20-23 ) According to Catholic doctrine, Christ is "true God" (Cf. Nicene Creed ; John 1: 1-18 ; John 5: 17-18 ; John 10:33 ; 1 John 5:20 ; Romans 9: 5 ; Acts 20:28 ; Titus 2:13 ; Hebrews 1: 5-9 ; Revelation 1:18 ) and only God can validly found his Church ( Psalm 87). Thus, Jesus appears as the "cornerstone" and "fundamental" on which the Church is founded (cf. 1Colossians 3: 9-15 ; 1Peter 2: 3-10 ) whose base is also constituted by the apostles (cf. Ephesians 2: 20-22 ) and especially by Peter (Cf. Matthew 16: 16-19 ; John 1:42 ), who according to official Catholic teaching, was constituted as the universal pastor of the Church by institution of Christ (Cf. John 21: 15-22 ; Luke 22: 28-32 ). This, added to the promise of Christ to the first disciples about constant assistance ( Matthew 28:20 ) and the companionship of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 16: 7-15 ;John 14: 15-17 ; John 14:26 ; John 15:26 ; 1John 2:27 ) and the guarantee that he gave the Church never to be overcome by evil ( Matthew 16:18 ), have been enough for the Catholic Church to proclaim itself as "Pillar and foundation of truth" ( 1Timothy 3: 15 ), "Spouse of Christ" ( Ephesians 5: 24-30 ) and heir and depositary of all the Gospel Truth bequeathed by the Apostles (Cf. 1Colossians 11: 1-2 ; 1John 2:24 ; 2Tesalonians 2: 15 ; 1Timothy 6: 20-21 ; 2Timothy 1: 12-14 ; Philippians 4: 8-9). And demanding for himself the obedience due to the apostles themselves (cf. Hebrews 13:17 ; 2Peter 3: 2 ), this especially in the person of the Pope, who according to the Catholic faith is the successor of the Apostle Peter , in the episcopal chair of Rome (cf. Apostolic Succession ). He is the "Shepherd of the whole Church, over which he has, by divine institution, full, supreme, immediate and universal power." ( Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church , 181).
  10. In John 21: 15-17 , Jesus tells Peter, "Feed my sheep." Hence the patristic axiom "Where Peter is, the Church is" ( Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia ).
  11. ^ Here "effective" refers to the fact that it is Christ himself who acts in the sacraments in order to communicate grace. [ 57 ] That is why it is said that the sacraments work ex opere operato , that is, by virtue of the saving work of Christ. Hence, "the sacrament does not act by virtue of the justice of the man who gives it or who receives it, but by the power of God." In any case, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the person who receives them. [ 58 ]
  12. ^ Among them: Contreras, Jaime and Gustav Henningsen (1986). "Forty-four thousand cases of the Spanish Inquisition (1540-1700): analysis of a historical data bank", in G. Henningsen, JA Tedeschi et al. (comps.), The Inquisition in early modern Europe: studies on sources and methods . Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press; García Cárcel, Ricard (1976). Origins of the Spanish Inquisition: the Court of Valencia, 1478-1530 . Barcelona: Peninsula Editions.
  13. He used to say of the Christians: "These ungodly Galileans not only feed their own poor, but also ours; receiving them in their feasts they attract them as children are attracted with cakes". in Alvin J. Schmidt, Social Result of Early Christianity , 328.
  14. For example, it is considered that sex education offered by the Argentine state (La Nación , July 28, 2010) overstates the "biological-hygienist model, by proposing as a priority the promotion of health in general and reproductive health in particular" and that it does not orient the exercise of sexuality towards love. In the case of Mexico ([ Zenit Archived October 16, 2012 at the Wayback Machine , November 8, 2009), the State is required to It unduly interferes in the sexual education of minors, interfering with the faculty that corresponds to the parents, since from the ecclesiastical perspective it is a right of parental authority .
  15. On the "moral preservative", read the declaration of the Spanish Episcopal Conference "The Church and AIDS: the solution and the problem" (consulted on September 1, 2010). On the church's criticism of promoting safe sex , cf. Alfonso López Trujillo (2003). " Family values ​​against safe sex ", at the VI World Meeting of Families, Mexico City.


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