Major World Religions Christianity Roman Catholics

About the denomination of Christianity Roman Catholicism, some of the history of the Roman Catholic church, beliefs and meanings behind the Christian religious tradition.


Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism, which recognizes the Bishop of Rome, or Pope, as its head, is the largest of the branches of Christendom. Its early history is identical with the early history of Christianity. Over the centuries the Church acquired vast amounts of land and wealth in the various countries of Europe, arousing the envy of various rulers and governments. A 900-year struggle began when kings and emperors claimed the right to a voice in the appointment of bishops, and the Popes opposed them with the threat of excommunication.

During the Renaissance, the Church gained a widespread reputation for extravagance, corruption, and failure to practice what it preached. Throughout Europe, a sweeping theological revolution got under way which resulted in the birth of the Protestant churches. Later centuries saw a continuous weakening of the power of the Church until 1929 when Benito Mussolini made peace with the Church, established Roman Catholicism as the state religion of Italy, and gave Vatican City to the Pope as his domain.

Roman Catholics believe that theirs is the only true religion. A faithful Catholic is one who accepts the teachings of Christ as revealed in the Bible, the laws of the Church, and the encyclicals of the Popes (according to the doctrine of papal infallibility of 1870, the Pope is never in error in matters of faith and morals when he speaks as the head of the Church). Roman Catholics believe in the Trinity, holding that there is only one God in 3 persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who are distinct from and equal to each other. According to the doctrine of original sin, when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of his descendants shared in his sin. Christ was placed on earth to redeem mankind by sacrificing himself on the Cross. According to a papal bull (official declaration) of 1950, Mary, mother of Christ, was taken up bodily into heaven.

Catholics hold that the soul is immortal. At death, each man and woman will be sent to heaven or hell, depending on which they have earned by their deeds during life and their obedience to the laws of God; before entering heaven, many souls must spend some time in purgatory until they have been made pure. Christ is to come to earth a 2nd time, where-upon all humans will be resurrected bodily and Christ will sit in judgment upon them.

The Roman Catholic Church has over 550 million members, including 48 million in the U.S.

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