Catholic Church

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Catholic Church
Ecclesia Catholica
Giacomo van Lint - Rome, a view of the apse of Saint Peter's, with an artist sketching in the foreground.jpg
St. Peter's Basilica, the most well-known Roman Catholic church
TypeWestern Christianity
TheologyCatholic theology
GovernmentHoly See
(Pontifical Obedience)
College of Cardinals
(Conciliar Obedience)
AdministrationRoman Curia
(Pontifical Obedience)
Apostolic Secretariat
(Conciliar Obedience)
Particular churches
sui iuris
Latin Church and 15 particular Churches
(Pontifical Obedience)
Latin Church and 28 particular Churches
(Conciliar Obedience)
SchismGreat Papal Schism
Pontifical Obedience (Spain)
Conciliar Obedience (Latium)
LanguageEcclesiastical Latin
LiturgySeven main rites (Latin, Ambrosian, Syriac, Nestorian, Byzantine, Alexandrian, Armenian, Chinese)
FounderJesus Christ
Origin1st century
Holy Land, Roman Empire

The Catholic Church (Latin: Ecclesia Catholica), also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest religious institution in the world. It represents of the three primary branches of Christianity, Catholicism, along with Orthodoxy and Protestantism. The Church traces its origin to Jesus Christ and the Apostles, claiming to be the one and true continuation based on apostolic succession.

Since 1908, the Catholic Church has been in schism. This schism, known as the Great Papal Schism, was caused by vast theological, dogmatic, and political differences, particularly over the issues of papal primacy and infallibility. It is the first major schism to occur in the Church since the Great Occidental Schism of 1378.

The Conciliar Obedience, based in Rome, is non-papist, maintaining that the supreme authority of the Church lies with the College of Cardinals rather than a pope. They also uphold the idea of sedevacantism, where the position of Bishop of Rome is permanently vacant, with Jesus Christ being the sole and invisible head of the Roman Catholic Church. The Deacon of the College is the de facto primus inter pares leader of the Conciliarists.

None of the conciliarist churches are in full communion with the Holy See, which has been based in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, since 1909. The Pontifical Obedience, as it is called, conserves the doctrines of Petrine primacy, papal supremacy, and papal infallibility. The Pope remains the supreme head of the Church and the titular absolute monarch of the Papal States, assisted in administration by the Roman Curia and the Order of Malta.

Catholic communities around the world, since the start of the 20th century, have each declared their allegiance to either the Conciliar or Pontifical branches of the Church, while others have left the matter undecided and ambiguous. Today, Roman Catholicism is the primary religious denomination across much of Europe, the vast majority of America, swathes of Africa, and significant parts of Asia and Australasia. Mexico has the largest Catholic population in the world.


Enlightenment: 1656—1797

Sēclum chaōrum: 1797—1903

Great Papal Schism: 1903—1910

In 1903, food shortages and increase in prices sparked bread riots across the Papal States. Demonstrations by citizens, peasants, and workers increasingly grew violent as the economic situation worsened. Secretary of State Lanfranco Chigi was assassinated on 17 February 1905 by republican sympathizers, consequentially triggering another wave of violence across the country. The same year, the Compagnia per la Riforma Repubblicana (lit. 'Society for Republican Reform'; CRR) was established, with its radical members advocating for the abolition of the State of the Church and its replacement with a democratic republic.

The Venetian army invaded the Papal States in 1908 due to security concerns, occupying the Adriatic apostolic provinces of Romagna and Marche. The principalities of Benevento and Pontecorvo revolted from the Papal States and allied with Venice shortly after. In the following weeks, the food riots became a famine, and civil unrest became a rebellion. In the August of 1908, Pope Boniface X was assassinated by insurgent Jacopo Marzullo while attempting to flee to Porto Ercole.

As a consequence, the Roman Curia, several cardinals, and members of the Papal nobility fled to Spain, where they were welcomed by King Ferdinand VIII. In 1909, the Treaty of Pontevedra affirmed the Holy See's right to several properties in Santiago de Compostela, including the Cathedral of Santiago, Gelmírez Palace, and Fonseca Palace. A new papal College of Cardinals was established the same year. A papal conclave was held in 1910, where the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church under Boniface X, Leonardo Teodorico Theodoli, was elected Pope Callixtus IV.

Council of Rome
Palazzo del Quirinale durante una Visita ufficiale di Stato.jpg
The Quirinal Palace in February 1909
Date13 January 1909 — 30 March 1910
Accepted byConciliar Obedience
Convoked byPatriarch of Venice
PresidentPatriarch of Venice
TopicsGovernance of the Catholic Church
Authority of the pope
Documents and statements
Swiss Guard and Roman Curia disbanded, Bishop of Rome declared vacant, creation of 73 constitutional articles
LocationQuirinal Palace, Rome, Latium
Chronological list of ecumenical councils

In Italy, the Latin Republic was declared, formally abolishing any Papal territories in Italy. The Patriarch of Venice convoked an ecumenical council in 1909, the Council of Rome, to discuss the future of the Roman Catholic Church and reform the Church's system of governance. From the outset, much of the Council's reforms were inspired by the writings of John of Paris, Henry of Segusio, Marsilius of Padua, and William of Ockham, which were pushed by liberal and republican theologians.

The College of Cardinals officially replaced the Holy See as the central organ of the Roman Catholic Church, claiming apostolic succession. The College was defined as legislator, having efficient cause of the law and the authority to determine and execute laws and delegate powers. It is said to represent the congregatio fidelium (body of the faithful, the Church), of which it is its valentior pars (prevailing part). The representatives, the cardinals, stand pars pro toto for the Church as a whole with plenitudo potestatis (fullness of power). Despite this, the Church is not considered to be without a caput (a head), as Jesus is considered the invisible and permanent head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Within the College, a council of the seven cardinal bishops, officially known as the Sacred Episcopal Council, is the pars principans (principal part) of the valentior pars. While it does not supersede the authority of the College as a whole, it maintains a higher status and certain responsibilities, such as the appointment of cardinals and the convocation of councils. The Council consists of the six titular suburbicarian bishops as well as the Patriarch of Venice. One among the Council is elected Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, who acts as the de facto leader of the Church, primus inter pares (first among equals). The Dean may also be referred to as the Procurator-General ad negotia. The Patriarch of Venice often fills the role of spokesperson and presides over celebrations and events.

The Apostolic Secretariat, created in 1910, is the administrative body of the Church, replacing the Roman Curia. It consists of numerous institutions that manage the daily affairs of the Church, its properties, and matters of justice. It is directly accountable to the College of Cardinals.

See also