Catholic is an adjective derived from the Greek adjective meaning "general; universal" (cf. Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon).

In the context of Christian ecclesiology, it has several usages:

Catholic Church--------Roman Catholic

The Roman Catholic Church, officially known as the Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church and represents over half of all Christians and one-sixth of the world's population. It is made up of one Western church (the Latin Rite) and 22  Eastern Catholic churches, divided into 2,782 jurisdictional areas around the world. The Church looks to the Pope, currently Benedict XVI, as its highest human authority in matters of faith, morality and Church governance. The Church community is composed of an ordained ministry and the laity. Both groups may become members of religious communities such as the Dominicans, Carmelites and Jesuits.

The Catholic Church defines its mission as spreading the message of Jesus Christ, found in the four Gospels, administering sacraments that aid the spiritual growth of its members and the exercise of charity. To further its mission, the Church operates social programs and institutions throughout the world. These include schools, universities, hospitals, missions and shelters, as well as Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Internationalis and Catholic Charities that help the poor, families, the elderly and the sick.

Through Apostolic succession, the Church believes itself to be the continuation of the Christian community founded by Jesus in his consecration of Saint Peter. The Church has defined its doctrines through various ecumenical councils, following the example set by the first Apostles in the Council of Jerusalem. Catholic faith is summarized in the Nicene Creed and detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Formal Catholic worship is ordered by the liturgy, which is regulated by Church authority. The Eucharist, one of seven Church sacraments and a key part of every Catholic Mass, is considered to be the center of Catholic worship.

From at least the 4th century, the Church has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilization. In the 11th century, the Eastern, Orthodox Church, and the Western, Catholic Church, split, largely over disagreements regarding papal primacy. Eastern churches which maintained or later re-established communion with Rome now form the Eastern Catholic Churches. In the 16th century, partly in response to the Protestant Reformation, the Church engaged in a substantial process of reform and renewal, known as the Counter-Reformation.

The Catholic Church believes that it is the " one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" founded by Jesus, but acknowledges that the Holy Spirit can make use of Christian communities separated from itself to bring people to salvation. The Church teaches that it is called by the Holy Spirit to work for unity among all Christians—a movement known as ecumenism. Modern challenges facing the Church include the rise of secularism and opposition to its pro-life stance on abortion, contraception and euthanasia. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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