Roman Catholic Church.



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Roman Catholic Church.


Aperçu du corrigé : Roman Catholic Church.

Publié le : 10/5/2013 -Format: Document en format HTML protégé

Roman Catholic Church.

Roman Catholic Church.


Roman Catholic Church, the largest single Christian body, composed of those Christians who acknowledge the supreme authority of the bishop of Rome, the pope, in
matters of faith. The word catholic (Greek katholikos) means "universal" and has been used to designate the church since its earliest period, when it was the only
Christian church.
The Roman Catholic Church regards itself as the only legitimate inheritor, by an unbroken succession of bishops descending from Saint Peter to the present time, of the
commission and powers conferred by Jesus Christ on the 12 apostles. The church has had a profound influence on the development of European culture and on the
introduction of European values into other civilizations. Its total membership in the late 1990s was about 1 billion (about 52 percent of the total number of affiliated
Christians, or 16 percent of the world population). The church has its greatest numerical strength in Europe and Latin America but also has a large membership in other
parts of the world.



In keeping with early Christian traditions, the fundamental unit of organization in the Roman Catholic Church is the diocese, headed by a bishop. The church comprises
nearly 2,000 dioceses and 561 archdioceses, which are more distinguished sees (areas of jurisdiction) that have certain responsibilities for governance in the dioceses
attached to them. The major church in a diocese is the cathedral, where the bishop presides at worship and other ceremonies. The cathedral contains the bishop's
"throne" or "chair" (Latin cathedra), from which in the early church he preached to his congregation.


The Bishop

The bishop is the chief liturgical figure in the diocese and is distinguished from the priest principally by the power to confer holy orders and to act as the usual minister
of confirmation. The bishop has the highest jurisdictional powers within the diocese: He has the right to admit priests to his diocese and to exclude them from the
practice of ministry within it, and he assigns priests of his diocese to parishes and other duties. The bishop often delegates administrative details to his vicar-general, his
chancellor, or other officials. In larger dioceses he may be assisted by auxiliary or coadjutor bishops.


The Clergy

Directly under the bishop are the clergy, both secular and religious. Secular clergy are not members of religious orders or congregations and have permanently been
incorporated (incardinated) into the diocese under the authority of the local bishop. Secular clergy generally staff the parishes of the diocese and serve as pastors in
The religious clergy, on the other hand, are primarily committed to their orders or congregations, which transcend diocesan boundaries (see Monasticism). While
working within a given diocese, these clergy must adhere to the bishop's decisions in matters of public worship but otherwise enjoy considerable discretion in their
ministry. The same can be said of nuns (or sisters) and brothers, who are members of orders or congregations but are not clergy. Religious clergy and laity tend to staff
the schools, hospitals, and other institutions of mercy and social service in the diocese. Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the laity who are not members of
religious orders have assumed an increasingly active role in advising pastors and bishops, especially in practical matters, and in the pastoral ministry, such as catechesis
(instruction given in preparation for adult baptism).


The Pope

At the head of the Roman Catholic Church is the pope, who is the bishop of Rome. He has final authority in all matters (see Infallibility). The pope appoints bishops to
dioceses and transfers them to others. Although bishops enjoy their jurisdictional powers by reason of their office, they cannot legitimately exercise them without the
permission of the pope. On September 15, 1965, Pope Paul VI instituted the Synod of Bishops, a representative body of bishops and others that may be called by the
pope to consult on major issues. The first such synod met in Vatican City in 1967, and a number of synods have been held since then. Synods are not to be confused
with ecumenical councils, which are solemn convocations of all the bishops of the world (see Council). The Catholic Church numbers only 21 such councils in its long
history, the most recent being the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). While they are in communion with the pope, the councils exercise the highest authority in the


The Cardinal

Cardinals are the highest dignitaries in the church after the pope. Appointed by the pope, they constitute the supreme council of the church, the Sacred College, and on
the death of the pope they elect his successor (see Conclave). Most cardinals are bishops of dioceses located throughout the world; others are the chief members of the
Sacred Congregations of the papal administration. The Sacred Congregation of Cardinals was formerly limited to 70 members, but this limit was abolished by Pope John
XXIII in 1958. By 2001 the number of cardinals had exceeded 180, and all but 24 of the cardinals had been named by Pope John Paul II.


The Curia

The Curia assists the pope in his administration of the church. Of ancient origin, the Curia is located in Vatican City. It is a complex bureaucracy directed by the
Secretariat of State, to which the various other offices report. These offices now consist of nine congregations and three tribunals, as well as other councils and offices.


Eastern Rite Churches

Although most members of the Roman Catholic Church follow a discipline, ritual, and canon law that developed in the early years of the diocese of Rome, others adhere
in these matters to their own centuries-old traditions. These are the Eastern Rite churches, or Uniate churches, such as the Maronite, Chaldean, Ruthenian, and
Ukrainian. Some of these churches practice Holy Communion under both kinds (the use of both bread and wine) and baptism by immersion, and allow marriage of the



Although the Roman Catholic Church holds certain doctrines that distinguish it from other Christian churches, it is most characteristic in the breadth and

comprehensiveness of its doctrinal tradition. Locating its beginnings in the earliest Christian communities and refusing to acknowledge any decisive break in its history,
the Roman Catholic Church considers itself heir to the theological traditions of the apostolic, patristic, medieval, and modern periods. The church does not in principle
exclude any theological method, and since the encyclical of Pope Pius XII Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943) it has officially sanctioned modern principles of exegesis for
interpreting the Bible. Participation since the Second Vatican Council in the ecumenical movement has helped Catholics appreciate the doctrinal viewpoint of the
Protestant reformers who broke with the church in the 16th century.


The Bible

Like other Christian churches, the Roman Catholic Church accepts the Bible as the basis for its teaching. This was an unquestioned assumption until the Reformation,
and great theologians such as the 13th-century Italian Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that "Scripture alone" was a source for theology. Even while maintaining a
"Scripture alone" position, however, theologians also held that certain truths or practices (such as infant baptism), although not found in Scripture, were validated by
the tradition of the church. They agreed, moreover, that the solemn decisions of the church, especially those that were arrived at by the ecumenical councils, were
authentic interpretations of Christian doctrine and therefore irrevocably binding on the church.



In reaction to the Protestant insistence during the Reformation on a seemingly unqualified "Scripture alone" principle, the Council of Trent affirmed (Fourth Session) that
Christian revelation was contained in "written books" and in "unwritten traditions." Although this decree speaks at length and almost exclusively about the Bible, the
insertion of the phrase about "unwritten traditions" was interpreted until recently as indicating a "two-source" theory. Today the interpretation of the decree is debated,
but its significance has been somewhat diminished by a general agreement among both Catholic and Protestant scholars that the books of the New Tes...

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