Catholicism is the traditions and beliefs of Catholic Churches. It refers to their theology, liturgy, ethics and spirituality. The term usually refers to churches, both western and eastern, that are in full communion with the Holy See. The Catholic Church is the main and earliest form of Christianity.
In 2012, there were more than 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide. This makes up more than 17% of the world population.
The word "Catholicism" comes from the Greek word catholikismos (καθολικισμός). This means "according to the whole".
What is the same as other Christians
- The Ten Commandments
- The belief that God knows everything, that God has unlimited power, and that everything God does is good
- The belief that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, rose again, and one day "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead."
- The importance of worshipping God.
- The infallibility of the Bible
What is different from Eastern Orthodox Christians
What is different from mainstream Protestants
- Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (this is called Transubstantiation).
- Roman Catholics believe God forgives sins through the sacrament of reconciliation (penance), which is performed through a priest, while most Protestants do not believe in the sacrament.
- Roman Catholics believe it is important to live by Scripture and Tradition, which the teaching of the Church's Magisterium (the bishops in communion with the Pope) come from, while most Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone)
- Roman Catholics believe that papal authority (in very specific, solemn occasions called "ex Cathedra") and the Bible are infallible, while most Protestants believe in an infallible Bible but not an infallible Pope. Papal infallibility has been declared twice in the history of the Catholic Church. Once to state that Mary was conceived without sin and another to state that Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul.
- The Bible Roman Catholics use often include a few texts that are usually not used by Protestants. The best known are called the Deuterocanonical books.
- Roman Catholics venerate saints, especially the Virgin Mary (Mother of God). "Venerating saints" means that Roman Catholics give special honor to saints (people in heaven) because they believe that saints can pray for them directly to God. Many Protestants do not, because they regard "venerating saints" as "worshiping saints". Because they believe that only God should be worshipped, they do not venerate. Many Protestants also simply do not believe that any veneration is necessary.
- Catholics have an elaborate mariology, while most Protestants do not.
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