Christianity & Catholicism
The word Catholic means “universal”. To understand Catholicism, one must have an understanding of Christianity. Christianity is defined by Webster as the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies. Christianity itself began with the resurrection of Jesus. The first Christians were in the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd centuries, A.D.
The 12 apostles that Jesus commissioned to preach his teachings were Jewish. For a time, the Church remained completely Jewish. Some leaders wanted to suppress the Jews as they viewed them as non-conformists, but the majority of the public held Christianity in high regard due to their loyalty to Jewish customs, so Christianity remained.
The Gospels, written by Mark, Matthew, Luke & John, were the only written accounts of Jesus’ life. During the 1st century A.D., the 13th apostle, St. Paul, adapted the Gospels to refer to all humanity, not just the Jews. He went out and preached it to the masses in an attempt to convert them to faith in Jesus as the Messiah of God, who was risen from the dead & who will come again to judge the living & the dead. They accepted his teachings & understanding of the Gospel & it became the cornerstone of the Church. This was a major turning point in both the history of the Church & the world as Christianity spread to many parts of the Roman Empire.
By the 2nd century, Christianity was established as a separate religion from the Jews due to an increasing difference of beliefs & practices. At first, the Roman government opposed Christianity, but eventually, despite this opposition, it prevailed & was ruled a legal religion by Emperor Constantine in the year 313; and in 380, under the rule of Theodosius, it was ruled the official religion of the Roman Empire. Catholicism spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.
In 1054, among cultural & political differences, the Church divided into two separate entities-The Roman Catholic Church & the Eastern Orthodox Church. This was known as The Great Schism.
In the 16th century, several groups split from the Roman Catholic Church over issues of reform & doctrine. This new main branch of Christianity called themselves Protestants & included Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism, Anabaptism, & Radical Protestantism.
Today, the goal of the Catholic Church is to unite all Christians.