Term Paper: Catholic Church the Historical Foundations

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Catholic Church

The historical foundations of the Roman Catholic Church have been traced back to the year 33 a.D. when Jesus Christ appointed St. Peter as the first pope. In 45 a.D., Peter traveled to the great and imperial city of Rome to "assume control of the church" during the reign of Nero who had Peter "imprisoned and scourged. He gave his farewell blessing to his flock (and) was lead to the top of the Vatican Mount" where he was executed by crucifixion in the year 67 a.D. Since this time, "260 popes have succeeded Peter" to lay the basis of the Catholic faith, one of the three great faiths in today's world along with Islam and Judaism ("History of the Catholic Church," Internet). Over the course of the next three hundred years after the death of Peter, Christians were continually persecuted by Rome until in 306 a.D. Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome and in 325 a.D. Constantine met with over three hundred bishops to establish the Nicene Creed. In 606 a.D., Pope Boniface III was given "the title of universal bishop" or the Pope of Rome which "marked the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church ("History of the Catholic Church," Internet).

Catholics were among the first Europeans to set foot upon the shores of America and it is likely that the first Catholic mass was celebrated by an early Spanish missionary sometime around 1620. Somewhat later, the French arrived who came to the New World with two goals -- "territorial conquest and the evangelization of the native peoples." English Catholics arrived later, fleeing persecution under the reign of King Henry VIII and throughout the Colonial Period, the number of Catholics remained small, about one percent of the population. When land was acquired in the South and West, "large numbers of Spanish Catholics and European immigrants, most being from Ireland, settled down and created the most important dimension in American Catholicism," being the overall impact of Catholicism on U.S. society, politics and culture (Thompson, 78).

In today's world, there are an estimated one billion practicing Catholics, making up almost 18% of the total world population. According to Rogelio Saenz, 36% of the population in Europe, 83% in Latin America and the Caribbean and 25% in the United States are currently Catholics. By the year 2050, these numbers are expected to increase substantially, particularly in Africa and Asia ("The Changing Demographics of the Catholic Church," Internet), but in Europe, the number of Catholics is expected to decrease, due to what Michael Vinning sees as a resurgence in anti-religious practices as a result of "the often strict and out-of-date tenets and principles of the Roman Catholic Church and the continuing insistence of the pope to live a celibate and sin-free life" (167).

Catholic worship, usually called the mass, centers around seven sacraments which Catholics believe "change people inwardly as a result of the special grace conveyed by the sacraments." The first of these sacraments is baptism which is "birth into the new life with Jesus Christ, and in accordance with… [END OF PREVIEW]

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