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The History of the Roman Catholic Church

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The History of the Roman Catholic Church

According to English teaching, the history of the Catholic Church begins with Jesus Christ and His teachings (c. 4 BC – c. AD 30), who lived in the Herodian Tetrarchy (later formed into the province of Judea by the Roman Empire).

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Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judah, about 4 BC. His family fled to Egypt and subsequently returned to Nazareth, Galilee, approximately a year later. Galilee and the surrounding area were conquered by the Roman Empire in 6 CE, becoming part of the province of Judea. The Catholic Church is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus Christ, as the Catholic Church teaches that its bishops are the successors to Jesus’s apostles, and the Bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope, is the sole successor to Saint Peter who was appointed by Jesus in the New Testament as head of the church and ministered in Rome. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods to resolve doctrinal and policy issues. By the 3rd century, the bishop of Rome began to act as a court of appeals for problems that other bishops could not resolve.

Christianity spread throughout the early Roman Empire, despite persecutions due to conflicts with the pagan state religion. In 313, the struggles of the Early Church were lessened by the legalisation of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine I. In 380, under Emperor Theodosius I, Catholicism became the state religion of the Roman Empire by the decree of the Emperor, which would persist until the fall of the Western Empire, and later, with the Eastern Roman Empire, until the Fall of Constantinople. During this time, the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, there were considered five primary sees (jurisdictions within the Catholic Church) according to Eusebius: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria, known as the Pentarchy.

The battles of Toulouse preserved the Catholic west, even though Rome itself was ravaged in 850, and Constantinople besieged. In the 11th century, already strained relations between the primarily Greek church in the East, and the Latin church in the West developed into the East-West Schism, partially due to conflicts over Papal Authority. The fourth crusade and the sacking of Constantinople by renegade crusaders proved the final breach. Prior to and during the 16th century, the Church engaged in a process of reform and renewal. Reform during the 16th century is known as the Counter-Reformation. In subsequent centuries, Catholicism spread widely across the world despite experiencing a reduction in its hold on European populations due to the growth of Protestantism and also because of religious scepticism during and after the Enlightenment. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s introduced the most significant changes to Catholic practices since the Council of Trent four centuries before.

According to Catholic teaching, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. The New Testament records Jesus’ activities and teaching, his appointment of the twelve Apostles, and his instructions to them to continue his work. The Catholic Church teaches that the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, in an event known as Pentecost, signalled the beginning of the public ministry of the Church. Catholics hold that Saint Peter was Rome’s first bishop and the consecration of Linus as its next bishop, thus starting the unbroken line which includes the current pontiff, Pope Francis. That is, the Catholic Church maintains the apostolic succession of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope – the successor to Saint Peter.

In the account of the Confession of Peter found in the Gospel of Matthew, Christ designates Peter as the “rock” upon which Christ’s church will be built. While some scholars do state Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, others say that the institution of the papacy is not dependent on the idea that Peter was Bishop of Rome or even on his ever having been in Rome. Many scholars hold that a church structure of plural presbyters/bishops persisted in Rome until the mid-2nd century, when the structure of a single bishop and plural presbyters was adopted, and that later writers retrospectively applied the term “bishop of Rome” to the most prominent members of the clergy in the earlier period and also to Peter himself. On this basis, Oscar Cullmann and Henry Chadwick question whether there was a formal link between Peter and the modern papacy, and Raymond E. Brown says that, while it is anachronistic to speak of Peter in terms of local bishop of Rome, Christians of that period would have looked on Peter as having “roles that would contribute in an essential way to the development of the role of the papacy in the subsequent church”. These roles, Brown says, “contributed enormously to seeing the bishop of Rome, the bishop of the city where Peter died, and where Paul witnessed to the truth of Christ, as the successor of Peter in care for the church universal”.

Source: Wikipedia

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