Skip to main content

Catholic vs Roman Catholic

Catholic vs Roman Catholic
Body First

The Catholic Church has a rich history dating back to the 2nd century. The term Catholic was first used in that time period to identify Christendom as a whole, meaning those who follow Jesus Christ. The word Catholic means “all-encompassing” or “universal”.

It wasn’t until 1054 that theological and political differences resulted in the division of Catholics into separate denominations. This was known as the Great Schism of 1054. The Great Schism divided the East and the West into separate religions.

Today, the term Catholic and Roman Catholic are used interchangeably, however, during the time of the schism, those Catholics who sided with the Greek East called themselves the Greek Orthodox Church and those Catholics who sided with the Latin West identified themselves as Roman Catholic. Roman Catholics are in full communion with the pope in Rome, meaning that their beliefs and views of Christendom as a whole are the same, which allows them to be able to celebrate mass, among other services, with a congregation, each with the full support of the other.

Each of these denominations celebrate the same holidays, however, determining the date for celebrating each is done using two different calendars. This is where things get confusing. Most Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar (which was an old Roman calendar that was revised by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Pope Gregory XIIII modified that calendar in 1582 to the Gregorian calendar, which is the standard calendar that is used by most Catholic European countries today.

The holidays that are celebrated on the same day every year for each individual calendar are referred to as “fixed feasts” and include Christmas, New Year’s Day, and All Saint’s Day. The Julian calendar celebrates these same holidays but 13 days later than the Julian calendar. The holidays that fall on a different date each year are known as the “moveable feasts” and vary in the way that they are calculated based on denomination, full moon type, and calendar used. For example, Christians use the ecclesiastical calendar, which uses the Paschal full moon to determine the date of Easter. The first Sunday after the first Paschal full moon after the vernal equinox, using March 21 as the vernal equinox, is the date of Easter for that year, whereas “the actual date of the vernal equinox varies between March 19-22 and the date depends on the time zone”.

No matter if you identify with the Greek Orthodox or the Roman Catholic, the holidays that each celebrates are held close to heart, both to honor their religious beliefs and as a reason to get together and spend quality time with family.