Who Founded the Holy Catholic Church of Christ?

Who Founded the Holy Catholic Church of Christ?

Some say that the Catholic Church is the only Church that God himself founded, others point out that it originates from Jesus Christ to our time or that it was formed directly by Saint Peter as the first Pope. So who founded the Catholic Church ? To get the definitive answer to this question, we invite you to read this article in depth.

Who Founded the Church?

Certainly, the Catholic Church is the only one that Jesus founded on the Apostle Peter, and that will remain as long as the world lasts. The only one that is 2,000 years old and the only one that has the full resources for salvation bequeathed by Jesus Christ. Jesus did not commend or give permission to anyone other than Peter to be a rock of support for his Church. Therefore, each one of the founders of churches that arose a posteriori, transgress the express will of Jesus.

Jesus pointed to Peter: “And at this moment I have to tell you that you are Peter – that is, Stone – and on top of this rock I will raise my Church and the infernal powers will not be able to defeat it” (Mt. 16, 18). And Peter is today represented by the Pope, Pastor of the universal Church.

Jesus expressed: «I am by your side every day until the end of the world» Mt. 28, 20. And the presence of Jesus has preserved and kept until today all its integrity only in the Catholic Church, since it is the only that has remained uninterrupted since its creation until today. She alone has been the purpose of this presence of Jesus from its beginning until today.

Put another way: Where were the evangelicals in the year 100, in the year 1000, or in the year 1400? They had no life. How can it be explained that they are said to be bearers of this presence of Jesus for 1400 years, if it was not until the 16th century that they appeared?

The Catholic Church is the only one that from its creation until today, 2,000 years, does not exhibit any gap in its continuity. There are two thousand years of history, of life, of the presence of Jesus among us. Is there another Church that can tell such a story?

The Kingdom of God, not a Church

On the other hand, it is said that Jesus did not found any church, nor did he ever use the term “church” (from the Greek “ekklesía”, which means “assembly”). He never intended to found any institution or church.

That if, led a group movement of men and women who announced the coming of the Kingdom of God: a society of honest and equitable relationships, in which the poor left their poverty, a world where women were included and cared for and healed the sick.

It was many years after the death of Jesus that Paul converted the Jesus movement, a peasant and Jewish movement, into an urban religion with the possibility of becoming “universal” and of interest to peoples so dissimilar to that of the Jewish Jesus of Nazareth.

Therefore, it can be ensured that the one who favored the “foundation” of the church was Paul, as he was the organizer of the Jesus movement with doctrinal aspects and habits that would enable him to attract the “gentiles” that populated the enormous Roman empire.

The Public Ministry of Jesus Christ

The public ministry of Jesus Christ, which is understood as service to the work of God, marks the beginning of the history of the Catholic Church. Jesus carried it forward through his existence and sermon in the first century in the Roman region of Judea. The current Catholic Church maintains that, with this ministry, she is the continuation of the initial Christian community that Jesus established.

Its bishops are the heirs of the Apostles of Jesus, and the bishop of Rome, also called Pope, is the authentic substitute for Saint Peter, who was appointed by Jesus Christ to head the church in the New Testament and whose service he exercised in Rome.

At the end of the second century, the bishops began meetings in the regional synods to settle doctrinal and political issues. During the third century, the bishop of Rome began to act as a court of appeals for matters that other bishops could not resolve.

Christianity spread throughout the early Roman Empire, despite harassment resulting from struggles with the doctrine of the pagan state. In the year 313, the fights of the original church were reduced by the legitimization of Christianity by Emperor Constantine I.

In 380, when Emperor Theodosius I ruled, Christianity became the religion authorized by the Roman Empire thanks to an imperial decree, and would remain so until the decline of the Western Empire, and later, with the Eastern Roman Empire, until the fall of Constantinople.

In all that time (the span of the Seven Ecumenical Councils) there were five patriarchates (territories within the Catholic Church) considered according to Eusebius: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, which became known as the Pentarchy.

After the devastation of the Western Roman Empire, the Church in the West remained a relevant factor in the preservation of classical civilization, through the establishment of monasteries and the sending of missionaries for the conversion of the peoples of Northern Europe.

In the East, the Byzantine Empire maintains orthodoxy, even long after the great invasions of Islam in the mid-7th century. Three of the five patriarchates were devastated when invaded by Islam: first it was the capture of Jerusalem, then Alexandria, and finally, in the middle of the eighth century, Antioch.

The entire span of the next five centuries was dominated by the contest between Christianity and Islam throughout the Mediterranean region. The battles of Poitiers and Toulouse keep the West Catholic, even though Rome itself was devastated in 850, and Constantinople was besieged.

By the eleventh century, when relations between the Greek Church, primarily in the East, and the Latin Church in the West were under enormous tension, the Schism of East and West occurred, partly caused by struggles for papal authority. Thanks to the fourth crusade, and to the assault of the deserting crusaders on Constantinople, the definitive rupture became evident.

By the 16th century, in reaction to the Protestant Reformation, the Church was facing a process of momentous revision and renewal called the Counter-Reformation. In the following centuries, Catholicism spread widely across the globe despite diminishing its dominance over European populations, due to the rise of Protestantism and also due to religious skepticism during and after the Enlightenment.

It was not until the 1960s that, through the Second Vatican Council, the most significant changes in Catholic practices since the Council of Trent, which took place three centuries ago, were incorporated.

Stages of Development of the Catholic Church

Considering Jesus Christ as the founder of the Catholic Church, the beginning of his Public Ministry is taken as the starting point of what his Church has been since then. The history of the Catholic Church runs parallel to the entire evolution of Western civilization and has always played a prominent role in practically any event, since the spirituality of the Catholic religion is present in every individual that populates these territories.

Church Beginnings

According to Catholic tradition, it was Jesus Christ who founded the Catholic Church. In the New Testament, what Jesus did and taught is recorded, as well as his appointment of the twelve apostles and his indications so that his work be continued. The Catholic Church speaks of the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, in an event called Pentecost, which gives rise to the beginning of the public ministry of the Church.

Catholics have maintained that Saint Peter was the first bishop of Rome and that with the consecration of Linus as his successor, the never-interrupted line that brings us to today’s pontiff, Pope Francis, began. That is, the Catholic Church has maintained the apostolic succession from the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, the heir to Saint Peter.

In the narrative of the Confession of Peter that we can find in the Gospel of Matthew, Christ chooses Peter as the “rock” on which the church of Christ will be built. While some scholars say that Peter was the first bishop of Rome, others point out that the papal institution is not dependent on the notion that Peter was Bishop of Rome or even remained in Rome.

Numerous scholars have argued that an ecclesial structure of assorted presbyters and bishops remained in Rome until the middle of the second century. The structure of a single bishop and a court of presbyters was then adopted, and later authors retrospectively attributed the term “bishop of Rome” to the most prominent members of the clergy in the previous period and also to Peter himself.

Based on this, Oscar Cullmann and Henry Chadwick have debated whether there was a formal link between Peter and the modern papacy, and Raymond E. Brown points out that while it is wrong to speak of Peter as the local bishop in Rome, the Christians of that time would have considered that Pedro would have carried out «tasks that would contribute in a fundamental way to the development of the papal role in the later church».

Brown notes that these tasks “were of enormous help in considering the bishop of Rome, the bishop of the city in which Peter died, and in which Paul witnessed the authenticity of Christ, as Peter’s heir in defense of the truth.” universal church”.

early organization

The dissemination of new ideas was facilitated by the prevailing situation in the Roman Empire. The good distribution in the network of roads and waterways facilitated movement, while the Pax Romana made travel from one area to another safer.

The government had encouraged people, particularly those in urban areas, to learn Greek, and in this way, the common language made it possible for ideas to be expressed and understood more easily. The disciples of Jesus managed to attract converts in Jewish communities in the vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea, and more than 40 Christian communities had settled by the year 100.

Although most of these were located within the Roman Empire, Christian communities of great notoriety were also established in Armenia, Iran and on the Indian coast of Malabar. The new doctrine achieved more success in urban areas, initially spreading among slaves and lower social strata, and later among women of the aristocracy

Initially, Christians continued to pray alongside Jewish believers, whom scholars called Judeo-Christians, but twenty years after the death of Jesus, Sunday began to be considered the most important day of worship.

Just as preachers such as Paul of Tarsus began the conversion of the Gentiles, Christianity began to distance itself from Jewish practices to establish itself as an independent doctrine, however the issue of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still debated today.

To resolve the doctrinal discrepancies between the conflicting sides, at a certain time around the year 50, the apostles convened for the initial council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. This assembly ensured that Gentiles could achieve conversion to Christianity without fully abiding by Mosaic law.

The progressive tensions soon led to a more accentuated division that was almost consummated when the Christians refused to be part of the Jewish rebellion of Bar Kokhba of the year 132, however, certain groups of Christians maintained elements of the Jewish practice.

According to certain historians and scholars, the original Christian Church was not well organized, which led to the emergence of various versions of Christian convictions. To some extent to ensure greater consistency in its teachings, by the end of the second century, the Christian collectivities had structured a better organized hierarchy, with a central bishop who had authority over the clergy in his locality, leading to the development of the bishopric.

The ecclesial organization began to emulate that of the Empire; the bishops in cities of certain political importance exercised greater authority over the bishops of nearby localities. The churches of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome came to occupy the highest positions.

From the 2nd century, bishops frequently met in regional synods to settle doctrinal and political issues. Duffy asserts that in the 3rd century, the Bishop of Rome began to function as a court of appeal for matters that other bishops could not resolve.​

The doctrine was further refined through a succession of influential theologians, collectively referred to as the fathers of the Church. From the year 100 onward, apostolic priests such as Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons came to define Catholic teaching in contrast to Gnosticism and other trends.

In the early centuries of its existence, the Church shaped its teachings and traditions into a systematic unity under the influence of the fathers of Christianity such as Pope Clement I, Justin Martyr, and Augustine of Hippo.


In contrast to most religions in the Roman Empire, Christianity demands that its adherents renounce all other deities, a practice equally welcomed by Judaism.

By refusing to take part in pagan festivities, Christians excluded themselves from participating in much of public life, causing non-Christians, including government officials, to fear that they would anger the gods and thereby threaten the peace and prosperity of the Empire.

Added to this, the familiarity of Christian society and the secrecy of its religious activities produced rumors that Christians practiced incest and cannibalism. The resulting persecutions, although generally local and occasional, were a defining aspect of Christian self-understanding until Christianity was legitimized in the fourth century.

A succession of persecutions of Christians now coming from the centers of power emerged at the end of the third century, when the emperors ruled that the military, political and economic crisis of the Empire was caused by divine wrath. The order was given that all the villagers should offer sacrifices or they would be punished. The Jews were exempted on the condition that they pay the Jewish Tax.

It is estimated that anywhere from a few hundred to 50,000 Christians were executed. Large numbers of them were forced to flee or renounce their beliefs. There is disagreement about what role, if any, these apostates played in leading the Church into the schisms of Donatism and Novatianism.

Despite these persecutions, the evangelization efforts were maintained, which led to the Edict of Milan, through which Christianity was legitimized in the year 313. In the year 380, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The religious philosopher Simone Weil noted: “In Constantine’s time, the state of apocalyptic expectation must have been greatly diminished.

The imminent arrival of Christ and the expectation of the Last Days constituted an enormous social danger. To which must be added, the spirit of the old law, which was so widely separated from all mysticism, was not very different from the Roman spirit itself. Rome could have made a deal with Jehovah.”

Who Founded the Church? Late Antiquity

When Constantine became emperor of the Western Roman Empire in the year 312, he considered that he owed his triumph to the Christian God. Many of the soldiers in his army were Christians, and his army was the mainstay of his power. Along with Licinius, (Eastern Roman Emperor), he agreed to the Edict of Milan, which allowed the practice of all religions in the empire.

The edict had little impact on the positions of the people. The new laws were adjusted to contemplate certain Christian beliefs and practices. The greatest effect Constantine had on Christianity was his patronage.

He gave large donations of land and money to the Church, as well as offered tax breaks and special legal status to Church personnel and property. These gifts and those that followed combined to make the Church the largest landowner in the West by the sixth century.

Much of these gifts were financed by rigorous taxes on pagan cults. Certain pagan cults were forced to disappear due to lack of funds. When this happened, the Church assumed the previous role of these cults in the care of the poor. As a sign of their increasing position within the Empire, the clerics began to dress in the style of the kings, including even a ceremonial cape. Acts 8: 9-21

Through the reign of Constantine, almost half of those who identified themselves as Christians did not adhere to the mainstream of the faith. Constantine was afraid that the disunity would not please God and bring problems to the empire, which led him to take military and judicial measures to suppress some sects. To resolve other disputes, Constantine began to convene ecumenical councils to specify binding interpretations of Church doctrine.

Resolutions passed at the Council of Nicaea in 325 on the divinity of Christ led to a schism; the resulting religion, Arianism, developed outside of the Roman Empire. To partially differentiate itself from the Arians, the Catholic veneration of Mary became more predominant, which led to new schisms.

In the year 380, mainstream Christianity, which opposed Arianism, became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity became more deeply associated with the Empire, which led to the persecution of Christians living outside the Empire as its rulers feared that such Christians would rebel in favor of the emperor.

In the year 385, this new legal power of the Church produced the first use of capital punishment which was proclaimed as a ruling on a Christian ‘heretic’, named Priscillian. Throughout this time, the Bible, as it has come down to us in this 21st century, was first officially delineated at Church Councils or Synods through the formal ‘canonization’ process. Prior to these Councils or Synods, the Bible had already achieved a form very similar to that of today.

According to certain versions, in the year 382 the Council of Rome was the one who first officially recognized the biblical canon, which lists the books admitted within the Old and New Testaments, and in 391 the Latin translation of the Vulgate was made. of the Bible.

Other sources indicate that it was at the Council of Carthage in 397 that the biblical canon as it is known today was finalized. The Council of Ephesus in 431 made clear the nature of Jesus’ incarnation, proclaiming that he was both fully man and fully God.

After 20 years, the Council of Chalcedon strengthened the Roman papal primacy which added to the process of continuous decomposition in the ties between Rome and Constantinople, seat of the Church of the East. Similarly, Monophysite disagreements over the precise nature of Jesus’ incarnation arose, leading the first of several Eastern Orthodox Churches to break ties with the Catholic Church.

Middle Ages

High Middle Ages

In the year 476, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Catholic religion at the time of converting the barbarian tribes came into competition with Arianism. In the year 496 the conversion of Clovis I, who ruled over the pagan Franks, marked the beginning of a continuous increase of the faith in the West.

In 530, Saint Benedict wrote his book “St. Benedict’s Rule” as a practical document for monastic life. His message spread to monasteries all over the European continent. Monasteries became the primary hubs for civilization, art conservation, and artistic skills, preserving intellectual culture within their schools, writing spaces, and libraries.

They operated as centers of agriculture, economy, and production, as well as a beacon for spiritual life. Through this stage, the Visigoths and Lombards shifted their faith from Arianism to Catholicism. Pope Gregory the Great played a pivotal role in these conversions and radically reformed the ecclesiastical and administrative structures that he later relaunched in renewed missionary efforts.

Missionaries such as Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent by Rome to begin the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons, and, coming from other directions with the Hiberno-Scottish mission, Saints Columbanus, Boniface, Willibrord, Ansgar and numerous others brought Christianity north of Europe expanding Catholicism among the Germanic and Slavic peoples, and reaching the Vikings and other Scandinavian peoples in later centuries.

The Whitby Synod of 664, although it was not as definitive as some point out, was constituted at a relevant moment in the reincorporation of the Celtic Church of the British Isles into the Roman hierarchy, after all contact with Rome had been broken by part of the pagan occupants.

At the beginning of the 8th century, the Byzantine iconoclastic period became a major source of conflict between the Eastern and Western factions of the Church. The Byzantine Emperors outlawed the creation and veneration of religious images as if they violated the Ten Commandments. Other major religions in the East such as Judaism and Islam had similar prohibitions.

Pope Gregory III strongly disagreed with them. The new Empress Irene, showing her support for the Pope, called an ecumenical council. In 787, the fathers of the Second Council of Nicaea “warmly received the papal delegates and their message.” As a conclusion, the 300 bishops, who were headed by the representatives of Pope Adrian I “adopted the papal doctrine”, in favor of the icons.

With the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III in 800, his new appointment as Patricio Romanorum, and the handing over of the keys to the Sepulcher of Saint Peter, the papacy had gained a new protector in the West.

In a way this freed the pontiffs from the imperial rule of Constantinople, but equally this led to a new schism, as the emperors and patriarchs of Constantinople considered themselves to be the true descendants of the Roman Empire dating back to the beginning of church.

Pope Nicholas I refused to recognize Patriarch Photius of Constantinople, who in turn had pointed out the Pope as a heretic, since he maintained the “Filioque” as part of the creed, which alluded to the Holy Spirit that proceeds from God the Father and the Son.

The papacy was strengthened thanks to this new alliance, which in the long term caused a new inconvenience for the Popes, when in the Investiture Controversy, the successor emperors would be in charge of appointing bishops and even future Popes. After the disintegration of the Carolingian Empire and the repeated incursions of Islamic forces in Italy, the papacy, without any protection, entered a stage of greater fragility.

Middle Ages

The Cluniac Reform of monasteries that began in 910 placed abbots under the direct rule of the pope rather than the secular control of feudal lords, thus removing a major source of corruption. This began a great monastic renewal. The monasteries, convents and cathedrals would continue to manage almost all the schools and libraries, and on many occasions they would function as credit institutions for the promotion of economic growth.

After 1100, certain ancient cathedral schools were separated into lower grammar schools and higher schools for advanced teaching. First in Bologna, then in Paris and Oxford, a large part of these higher schools became universities and became the direct predecessors of today’s western institutes of education. It was there that notable theologians labored to explain the link between human experience and faith.

The most notorious of these theologians was Thomas Aquinas, who wrote “Summa Theologica,” an essential intellectual achievement in his compendium of Aristotelian thought and the Gospel. Monastic contributions to Western society include the teaching of metallurgy, the incorporation of new crops, the creation of musical notation, and the development and preservation of literature.

Through the 11th century, the East-West Schism permanently separated Christianity. It arose from a dispute over whether Constantinople or Rome had jurisdiction over the church in Sicily which led to reciprocal excommunications in 1054. The Western (Latin) branch of Christianity was thereafter known as the Catholic Church, while the Eastern (Greek) branch became known as the Orthodox Church.

The Second Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1439) both failed to resolve the schism. Certain Eastern churches have since joined the Catholic Church, while others claim never to have been out of communion with the Pope. Officially, both churches remain in schism, although excommunications were reciprocally outlawed in 1965.

The 11th century witnessed the Investiture Controversy between the Emperor and the Pope over the right to make ecclesial appointments, which was the most important initial phase of the conflict between Church and State in medieval Europe.

The Papacy wins the initial game, but just as the Italians began to separate between Guelphs and Ghibellines in factions that were often passed between generations or States until the end of the Middle Ages, the dispute was gradually weakening the papacy, which was not a major thing for have entered politics.

The Church also wanted to control, or set a price for, most marriages among the powerful by prohibiting, in 1059, marriages involving consanguinity (blood relatives) and affinity (relatives by marriage) up to the seventh degree. Of relationship.

Under these conditions, almost all great marriages would require a dispensation. The norms were relaxed until the fourth degree in 1215 (today only the first degree is proscribed by the Church, a man cannot marry his stepdaughter, for example).

The First Crusade was launched by Pope Urban II in 1095, upon receiving a request from the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I to help contain a Turkish invasion. Urban also believes that a crusade could be helpful for a reconciliation with Eastern Christianity. Prompted by reports of Muslim atrocities against Christians, he launched a succession of military campaigns in 1096 known as the Crusades.

They were designed to return the Holy Land to Christian rule. The purpose was not consummated permanently, so the atrocious acts committed by the armies of both sides left a legacy of mutual mistrust between Muslims and Christians of East and West.

The assault on Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade left a bitter taste for Eastern Christians, despite the fact that Pope Innocent III had expressly prohibited any attack. In 2001, Pope John Paul II apologized to Orthodox Christians for the sins of Catholics, including the sacking of Constantinople in 1204.

Two new architectural styles emerged from the Church of this time. The early Romanesque style mixes massive walls, rounded arches and masonry ceilings. To compensate for the lack of huge windows, its interiors were vividly painted with scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints.

Later, the Basilica of Saint-Denis defined a new trend in the construction of cathedrals when Gothic architecture was used in it. This style, with its huge windows and soaring pointed arches, enhanced lighting and geometric harmony as if designed to direct the preacher’s mind to God who “orders all things.”

In another series of events, the 12th century saw the creation of eight new monastic orders, many of them operating as Societies of Military Knights for the Crusades. The Cistercian monk Bernardo de Claraval exerted great influence on these new orders and produced reforms with the idea of ​​guaranteeing purity of purpose. His influence led Pope Alexander III to begin reforms leading to the establishment of canon law.

In the century that followed, new mendicant orders were created by Francisco de Asís and Domingo de Guzmán, which brought the consecrated religious lifestyle to urban settings. By the 12th century, France witnessed the development of Catharism in Languedoc.

It was through the battle against this heresy that the Inquisition originated. After the Cathars were framed for the murder of a papal representative in 1208, Pope Innocent III proclaimed the Albigensian Crusade.

Due to the abuses committed during the crusade, Pope Innocent III informally instituted the first papal inquisition to prevent future massacres and the extermination of the remaining Cathars. Gregory IX was the one who formalized the medieval inquisition, through which three people are executed on average per year, at most, for crimes of heresy.

Over time, the Church authorized other inquisitions just as secular rulers did to prosecute heretics, respond to threats of Muslim invasion, or for political reasons. Those who were indicted were encouraged to recant their heresy and those who did not were punished with penalties, fines, imprisonment or execution by burning.

The continuous presence of Church-State struggles marked the fourteenth century. To avoid the instability present in Rome, in 1309 Clement V became the first Pope of seven who decided to live in the fortified city of Avignon, in the south of France, for a period that was called the Papacy of Avignon.

The Papacy had to return to Rome in 1378, at the request of Catherine of Siena and others who felt that the Seat of Peter should be found in the Roman church. When Pope Gregory XI died at the end of that year, the papal choice was a dispute between the supporters of the Italian candidate and the one backed by the French, which led to the schism in the West.

For 38 years, separate claimants to the papal throne sat in Rome and Avignon. Efforts to resolve the situation further complicated the matter with the appearance of a third compromising pope who was elected in 1409. The issue was ultimately resolved in 1417 at the Council of Constance, at which the cardinals called for all three claimants to the papal throne to resign, and a new election was held in which Martin V was appointed as pope.

In general, particularly in recent years, the role of the Church in the Middle Ages has been interpreted in a derogatory sense by most scholars, despite the fact that more and more people consider that the Church is It must be recognized, without denying the abuses and injustices committed, its leading role in explaining some elements of importance for universal culture.

Among them is the fact that the first European universities originated from it, and I also carried out the invaluable task of preserving classical Greco-Roman culture through the work of copyists and translators in the monasteries.

Thanks to the above, it is possible to know today the enormous cultural legacy that otherwise, and very possibly, would have been lost forever; and, especially, because in some contexts he performed a job worth mentioning.

Renaissance and Reformation

Discoveries and Missionaries

The expansion of Catholicism to America, Asia, Africa and Oceania was carried out by European missionaries and explorers in the period from the end of the fifteenth century and throughout the sixteenth century.

Pope Alexander VI, through the papal bull Inter caetera, granted colonial rights over much of the newly discovered territories to Spain and Portugal. Through the patronage system, state authorities decided on clerical appointments and were not allowed any direct contact with the Vatican.

By December 1511, the Dominican friar Antonio de Montesinos openly recriminated the Spanish authorities that governed the island of Hispaniola for the mistreatment inflicted on the native Americans, pointing out to them “… you are in mortal sin… for the atrocity and the tyranny with which they treat these innocent people.” In response to this, the Laws of Burgos and Valladolid were enacted by King Ferdinand.

The application of these laws was lax, and while some blamed the Church for not trying hard enough to free the Indians, others recognized in the Church the only voice that was raised in favor of the indigenous peoples.

The affair gave rise to a crisis of conscience in sixteenth-century Spain. An avalanche of self-criticism and philosophical reflections occurred among Catholic theologians, particularly Francisco de Vitoria, which led to a debate on the issue of human rights and the birth of modern international law.

In 1521, through the leadership and preaching of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the first Catholics were baptized in what became the first Christian country in Southeast Asia, the Philippines. For the next year, the Franciscan missionaries arrived in what is now known as Mexico, seeking the conversion of the indigenous people and ensuring their well-being through the creation of schools and hospitals.

The Indians were taught better farming techniques, and easier weaving and pottery practices. Given the doubt of some people about whether the indigenous people could be considered as human and deserving of baptism, Pope Paul III in the papal bull Veritas Ipsa or Sublimis Deus of 1537 confirmed that the indigenous people were worthy of them. After that, the effort dedicated to its conversion gained momentum.

Over the next 150 years, the missions managed to expand into southwestern North America. The native peoples obtained the legal definition of sons, and the priests adopted a paternalistic role, often reinforced by corporal punishment. In other places such as India, Portuguese missionaries and the Spanish Jesuit Francis Xavier evangelized non-Christians and a Christian community said to have been established by Thomas the Apostle.

renaissance church

In Europe, the Renaissance defined a time in which there was a renewed interest in learning about the ancient and the classical. It also brought with it a re-evaluation of hitherto accepted beliefs. Cathedrals and churches had long served as picture books and art galleries for millions of uneducated people. The glass windows, the frescoes, effigies, paintings and panels reviewed the stories of the saints and biblical figures.

Major Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, who created some of the world’s most famous works of art, were sponsored by the Church. When humanism was accepted, certain effects were evident in the Church, which had to embrace it as well. In 1509, the scholar of the time, Erasmus, wrote “The Praise of Folly”, in which he expressed a general concern about corruption in the Church.

The papacy itself was challenged by the Conciliarist Reform that manifested itself in the Councils of Constance and Basel. There were various attempts to effect genuine Reforms through these ecumenical councils and the Fifth Lateran Council, but they were frustrated.

They were seen as necessary, but they were not successful, largely because of the internal struggles within the Church, the ongoing fights with the Ottoman Empire and the Saracens, and the simony and nepotism practiced by the Renaissance Church of the fifteenth century and early of the 16th century. As a result, wealthy, influential and worldly men like Rodrigo Borgia (Alexander VI) became elected as Pope.

Wars of the Reformation Era

The Fifth Lateran Council agreed to some, but only modest, reforms in March 1517. A few months later, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther released his Ninety-Five Theses, hoping to ignite debate.

His theses were to claim essential issues of Catholic doctrine, as well as the sale of indulgences. Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and others likewise questioned certain Catholic teachings. These challenges, supported by powerful regional political forces, led to the Protestant Reformation.

In Germany, the Reformation led to conflict between the Protestant Schmalkaldic League and the Catholic Emperor Charles V. The first nine-year war ended in 1555, but continuing tensions led to an even more serious conflict, the Thirty Years’ War, which began in 1618. In France, a succession of fights called the French Wars of Religion were fought from 1562 to 1598 between the Huguenots and the forces of the French Catholic League.


The English Reformation was ostensibly based on the desire of Henry VIII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and was nothing more than a political dispute that later became theological. The Acts of Supremacy made the English sovereign head of the local church, thereby establishing the Church of England. So since 1536, some 825 monasteries in England, Wales and Ireland have been dissolved and Catholic churches confiscated.

When this king died in 1547, all the monasteries, nunneries and sanctuaries were demolished or dissolved. Mary I of England had the Church of England reunited with Rome and, against the recommendation of the Spanish ambassador, had Protestants persecuted during the Marian persecutions.

After certain provocations, the next sovereign, Elizabeth I, made the Acts of Supremacy effective. With them, Catholics were prevented from joining the professions, holding public office, voting, or educating their children.

Executions of Catholic and Protestant dissidents under Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned for a long time, surpassed that of Marian persecutions and persisted under subsequent English monarchs. Elizabeth I also enacted other criminal laws that were activated in Ireland but were less effective than in England.

And this was in part because the Irish people associated Catholicism with nationalism and national identity, so they opposed the stubborn efforts of the English to eliminate the Catholic Church.

Trento council

In his work “The Reformation, A History”, the scholar Diarmaid MacCulloch, noted that through all the carnage of the Reformation era emerged the cherished notion of religious toleration and the improved Catholic Church. This in response to doctrinal challenges and abuses that were highlighted by the Reform movement at the Council of Trent (1545-1563).

The council became the driving force of the Counter Reformation, reaffirming certain central Catholic tenets such as transubstantiation, and the requirements of love and hope, as well as faith for redemption.

He also reformed numerous other areas of relevance to the Church, the most important being the improvement of clerical education and the strengthening of the central jurisdiction of the Roman Curia. Criticism of the Reformation was among some of the factors that gave rise to the new religious orders, including the Theatines, Barnabites, and Jesuits, some of whom came to form the great missionary orders in later years.

The spiritual renewal and reform had as a source of inspiration numerous new saints such as Teresa of Ávila, Francisco de Sales and Felipe Neri, whose works gave rise to various schools of spirituality within the Church (Oratorians, Carmelites, Salesians), etc. The improvement of secular education was another positive effect of the era, with a significant proliferation of secondary schools that reinforced higher studies such as history, philosophy and theology.

To popularize Counter-Reformation education, the Church encourages the Baroque style in art, music, and architecture. Baroque religious manifestations were moving and emotional, created to stimulate religious fervor. Elsewhere, the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier brought Christianity to Japan, and by the end of the 16th century, tens of thousands of Japanese had joined.

The growth of the church in Japan was halted in 1597 when the shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in an effort to isolate the nation from foreign influences, began a cruel persecution of Christians. The Japanese were prohibited from leaving the country and the Europeans were prohibited from entering. Despite this, a minority of the Christian population managed to survive well into the 19th century.

Baroque, the Enlightenment and the Revolutions

Marian devotions

The Council of Trent produced a revival of religious life and Marian fervor in the Catholic Church. Through the Reformation, the Church defended its Marian beliefs against Protestant views. Simultaneously, the Catholic world was mired in the protracted Ottoman wars in Europe against Turkey, which were fought and won under the protection of the Virgin Mary.

The victory at the Battle of Lepanto (1571) was credited to her “and meant the beginning of an energetic resurgence of Marian devotions, focusing particularly on Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Earth and her powerful role as intercessor of many favors. The Marianum Colloquium, an elite group, and the Brotherhood of Our Lady base their activities on a virtuous existence, without the burden of capital sins.

Popes Paul V and Gregory XV decreed in 1617 and 1622 that it should not be admissible by the state that the Virgin had been conceived in an impure way. This supported the belief that she came into the world without original sin, through the intended protection of divine grace (she is known as the Immaculate Conception).

Alexander VII stated in 1661 that Mary’s soul was free from original sin. Pope Clement XI decreed the feast of the Immaculate for the entire Church in 1708. The feast of the Rosary was introduced in 1716 and that of the Seven Sorrows in 1727. The Angelus prayer had immense support from Pope Benedict XIII in 1724.

Enlightenment secularism

The Enlightenment became a new challenge for the Church. In contrast to the Protestant Reformation, which questioned some Christian dogmas, the Enlightenment questions Christianity as a whole.

In a general way, it places human reason above divine revelation and disqualifies religious authorities such as the papacy. In a parallel way, the Church tried to defend itself from Gallicanism and Conciliarism, ideologies that were a threat to the papacy and the ecclesial structure.

Towards the end of the 17th century, Pope Innocent XI saw the increasing Turkish attacks on Europe, supported by France, as the greatest threat to the Church. He led a Polish-Austrian coalition that was able to defeat the Turks at Vienna in 1683.

Scholars have cataloged him as a saintly Pope, since he advanced the reforms against the abuses of the Church, which included simony, nepotism and ostentatious papal expenses that had caused him to inherit a papal debt of about 50,000,000 of shields. By eliminating certain honorary charges and incorporating new fiscal policies, Innocent XI was able to regain control of church finances.

Popes Innocent X and Clement XI battled Jansenism and Gallicanism, which in addition to supporting Conciliarism, rejected papal primacy and demanded special concessions for the Church in France. This could have weakened the Church’s ability to respond to Gallicanist thinkers like Denis Diderot, who challenged the fundamental doctrines of the Church.

By 1685, the Gallicanist King Louis XIV of France issued the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, thereby ending a century of religious toleration. France forced Catholic theologians to show their support for Conciliarism and to deny the infallibility of the Pope. The French sovereign threatened Pope Innocent XI with a General Council and a military occupation of the Papal State.

The French absolutist state used Gallicanism to gain control of almost all the great appointments of the Church, as well as much of its property. The power of the State over the Church was popularized in other nations as well. In Belgium and Germany, Gallicanism manifested itself in the form of Febronianism, which likewise rejected papal privileges. Emperor Joseph II of Austria (1780-1790) practiced Josephinism by regulating church life, appointments, and mass confiscation of Church property.

Church in North America

In what is now the western United States, the Catholic Church expanded its missionary work, however, until the 19th century, it had to work together with the Spanish crown and the military. Junípero Serra, the Franciscan priest who was charged with this work, created a succession of missions and prisons in California that became institutions of economic, political, and religious importance.

With these missions it was possible to bring grains, cattle and a new political and religious order for the indigenous tribes of California. Overland and coastal routes were established from Mexico City and mission posts in Texas and New Mexico that became 13 of the major California missions by 1781. Diseases brought by visitors from Europe killed up to a third of the population. original population.

Mexico closed the missions in the 1820s and sold the land. It was not until the 19th century, after the emancipation of most of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, that the Vatican was able to gain control of Catholic missionary activities through the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide).

Church in South America

In this period, the Church had to face the colonial abuses of the governments of Portugal and Spain. In South America, the Jesuits protected indigenous peoples from slavery through the establishment of semi-independent settlements called reductions.

Pope Gregory XVI, challenging Spanish and Portuguese sovereignty, appointed his own candidates as bishops in the colonies, condemned slavery and the slave trade in 1839 (papal bull In supremo apostolatus), and authorized indigenous clerics to be ordained despite government racism.


Jesuits in India

Christianity in India recounts the tradition of Saint Thomas bringing the faith to Kerala. The community created then was very modest until the Jesuit Francisco Javier (1502-1552) started the missionary work. Roberto de Nobili (1577-1656), a Jesuit missionary from Tuscany sent to South India followed in his footsteps. He was a pioneer of inculturation, that is, the adoption of numerous Brahmin customs that were not, from his point of view, opposed to Christianity.

He led his life as a Brahmin, learned the Sanskrit language, and displayed Christianity as part of Indian beliefs, not at all like the colonialist Portuguese culture. The use of all kinds of attire was allowed, which in his opinion did not contradict Christian teachings.

By 1640 there were 40,000 Christians living in Madurai alone, which was authorized in 1632 by Pope Gregory XV. Still, powerful anti-Jesuit sentiments in Portugal, France, and even Rome caused its revocation. This ended the successful Catholic missions in India.

On September 12, 1744, Pope Benedict XIV outlawed the so-called Malabar rites in India, causing major Indian castes who wanted to adhere to their cultural traditions to withdraw from the Catholic Church.

Jesuits in China

Through inculturation, Jesuits like Matteo Ricci, Adam Schall von Bell, and others successfully incorporated Christianity into China. Ricci and Schall were appointed by the Chinese emperor as court mathematicians and astronomers and were even appointed as mandarins.

The first of the Catholic churches was built in Beijing in 1650 and the emperor authorized freedom of belief for Catholics. Ricci adapted the Catholic faith to Chinese ideology, which made it possible to venerate the deceased.

The Vatican demonstrated its disagreement and vetoed any adaptation in the so-called Chinese Rites Controversy of 1692 and 1742. Pope Benedict XIV’s bull “Ex Quo Singulari” of 1742 was emphatic regarding the purity of Christian teachings and customs, which must be defended against all heresy. This bull practically ruined the plans of the Jesuits to Christianize the powerful upper classes in China.

The Church suffered major setbacks in its missionary activity in 1721, when the Chinese Rites Controversy led the Kangxi Emperor to ban Christian missions. In 1939 Pope Pius XII went back 250 years in Vatican politics by allowing the veneration of deceased family members.

Later the Church began a new stage of growth with twenty new dioceses for a total of seventy-nine and thirty-eight in charge of apostolic studies, but only until 1949, when the communist revolution took over the country.

Existence of the Jesuits

While the controversial inculturation was maintained, the very existence of the Jesuits was attacked in Portugal, Spain, France, and the Kingdom of Sicily. This controversial inculturation and the support given by the Jesuits to the native Indians of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina added fuel to the growing criticism of the order, which apparently symbolized the strength and autonomy of the Church.

The defense of the rights of the native peoples of South America was an obstacle to the efforts of Spain and Portugal to maintain absolute control of their domains. The Portuguese Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal was the staunchest enemy of the Jesuits.

Pope Benedict XIV tried to keep the existence of the Jesuits unchanged: Sint ut sunt aut no sint, (they must be the way they are or they will not be).  In 1773, a series of European rulers banded together to force Pope Clement XIV to dissolve the order. A few decades later Pope Pius VII reestablished the Jesuits through the bull of 814 Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum.

Pope Francis, and former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, became the first member of the Jesuit order to be elected on March 13, 2013 to such a high position. Pope Francis was selected on the second date of the papal conclave.

French Revolution

Although initially the French revolution did not have a hostile behavior towards the Church, the movement manifested itself in a more radical way from the issue of ecclesiastical property. The National Constituent Assembly decided to expropriate all the possessions of the Church, which led, from then on, to the worsening of relations until in 1790 the religious orders were suppressed, except for those that were dedicated to works of charity.

After a couple of months, the law was published that expropriated and secularized all the ecclesial patrimony. In that same year, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was approved, with which it was sought to separate the French Church from Rome, and for which all the clergy were forced to take an oath before said constitution.

The rejection of this by two thirds of the clergy was followed by bloody persecutions in which 40,000 priests were imprisoned, exiled or executed, as part of a succession of policies to force France to abandon Christianity.

The murders perpetrated in September 1792 gave rise to the Government of Terror, and in 1793 Christianity was banned in France, establishing in its place the “cult of Reason” as the persecutions against the followers of the monarchy continued. and to the church. This harassment would only culminate after Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup d’etat, on November 9, 1799, in which the Directory government was overthrown.

Through his mandate, the Catholic religion was reestablished and it was recognized by means of a concordat that Catholicism was the faith of the majority of the French. In 1808 Napoleon, already Emperor of the French, invaded Rome and the Papal States , placing the Pope under confinement to be taken later to Fontainebleau, where Napoleon tried unsuccessfully to force him to resign from the Papal State.

The advance of the French Empire also led to the spread of revolutionary ideology, and secularization also had consequences in Germany, where the Church also suffered the seizure of its assets. However, the loss of power and the impoverishment of the Church favored the material restructuring as well as the internal reform of ecclesial life, with an important alliance between bishops, priests and lay faithful.

This gave rise to a Catholic movement that spread to other European countries, aided by Romanticism and its attraction to medieval art and literature, which brought with it greater respect for the Church and numerous conversions to Catholicism. Numerous Catholic organizations sprang up, and religious brotherhoods gained new momentum. Popular missions emerged, novel forms of piety and, gradually, a Catholic press also made its appearance.

Industrialization was an opportunity for the Church to appreciate the social question, an important fact at a time when legislation ignored social problems, generally entrusted to Christian charity. In this way, the novel charitable and educational activities of the religious brotherhoods and the orders that were dedicated to the care of the sick were relevant.

19th century France

France remained essentially Catholic. 36 million people were counted in the 1872 census, of whom 35.4 million defined themselves as Catholics, 600,000 as Protestants, 50,000 as Jews, and 80,000 as Freethinkers. The revolution failed in its goal of destroying the Catholic Church, and Napoleon’s concordat of 1801 restored its position.

The return of the Bourbons in 1814 brought with it numerous wealthy noblemen and landowners who lent their support to the Church, which was seen as a bastion of conservatism and monarchy. However, the monasteries, with their enormous land holdings and political power, had disappeared; much of their land was sold to urban entrepreneurs who lacked historical ties to the land and the peasants.

Few new priests were trained in the period 1790-1814, and many left the church. As a result, the number of parish clergymen fell from 60,000 in 1790 to 25,000 in 1815, many of whom were elderly. Entire regions, particularly around Paris, were left almost without priests. On the other hand, certain traditional regions remained clinging to the faith by being led by local nobles and traditional families.

The return was slow, and very slow in the big cities and industrial zones. With a methodical missionary work and a new emphasis on the liturgy and devotions to the Virgin Mary, added to the support of Napoleon III, if he returned. By 1870 there were 56,500 priests, representing an even younger and more dynamic force in towns and villages with a wide network of schools, charities and secular organizations.

Conservative Catholics held sway in the country’s government from 1820 to 1830, but more often played secondary political roles or had to hold off the assault of Republicans, Liberals, Socialists, and secularists.

Third Republic 1870-1940

Throughout the life of the Third Republic there were fights over the status of the Catholic Church. The French clergy and bishops were closely associated with the monarchists and much of their hierarchy came from noble families.

The Republicans who were basically composed of the anticlerical middle class who saw the alliance of the Church with the monarchists as a political threat to republicanism, and a threat to the modern yearning for progress.

The republicans repudiated the church for its political and class leanings, since for them, the church represented antiquated traditions, superstition and monarchism. The Republicans were strengthened by the support of the Protestants and the Jews. Numerous laws designed to weaken the Catholic Church were passed.

In 1879, priests were excluded from hospital management committees and charity boards; in 1880, new regulations were issued against religious congregations; from 1880 to 1890 the replacement of lay women by nuns began in numerous hospitals. Napoleon’s Concordat of 1801 remained in operation, but in 1881, the government cut the salaries of priests it disliked.

Republican Jules Ferry’s 1882 school laws established a national system of public schools that taught strict Puritan morality but no religion. For a time privately financed Catholic schools were allowed. Civil marriage was compulsory, divorce was allowed, and chaplains were separated from the army.

Upon becoming Pope in 1878 Leo XIII sought to calm Church-State relations. In 1884, he asked the French bishops not to act in a hostile way against the state. In 1892 he published an encyclical recommending French Catholics to show their support for the Republic and to defend the Church, being part of republican politics. The attempt to improve relations was a failure. Deep suspicions were kept alive on both sides and were inflamed by the Dreyfus Affair.

Catholics were mostly opposed to Dreyfus. The Assumptionists published anti-Semitic and anti-Republican articles in their newspaper La Croix, which outraged Republican politicians, who were eager for revenge. They frequently worked in conjunction with Masonic lodges. The ministries of Waldeck-Rousseau (1899-1902) and Combes (1902-1905) clashed with the Vatican over the appointment of bishops.

Chaplains were separated from naval and military hospitals (1903-1904), and soldiers were ordered not to frequent Catholic clubs (1904). Combes being Prime Minister in 1902, he was determined to completely defeat Catholicism. He closed all parochial schools in France. He then managed to get Parliament to reject the authorizations of all religious orders.

With this, all fifty-four orders were dissolved and some 20,000 members immediately left France, many headed for Spain. In 1905 the Concordat of 1801 was repealed, Church and State were finally separated. All church property was confiscated.

Public worship was ceded to groups of Catholic laity in whose hands control of access to churches remained. In practice, the masses and rituals continued. The Church suffered serious injuries and half of her priests left her. In a long term, however, it obtained autonomy and the State already participated in the selection of bishops and Gallicanism was dead.


At the end of the 19th century, Catholic missionaries arrived in Africa after the establishment of colonial governments and built schools, hospitals, monasteries and churches.

Who Founded the Church? industrial age

Vatican Council I

When on December 8, 1854, the ancient belief of the Immaculate Conception was defined as a dogma, which assured that Mary had been conceived without any sin, Pope Pius IX ended the struggle between theological schools that had lasted several centuries.

The dogma was admitted and no voice was raised in the Church to oppose it, but since the Pope proceeded ex cathedra, and the resolution had not come from a council, such a dogmatic determination again raised the question whether the Pope could by his own account announce undoubted truths of faith.

When a council was called by Pius IX to begin at the end of 1869, the issue of infallibility was on the table. The general tension that existed and the separation between supporters and detractors of infallibility caused, however, the Pope to abandon such a topic among the issues to be considered. Even so, in the conciliar assembly, from the beginning there was a majority group in pro of the dogmatic definition of infallibility, which proposed the subject.

The minority who were opposed did so not because they were against infallibility, but because such a matter seemed inconvenient at the time. Finally, the Pastor Aeternus constitution (with the theme of the papal primacy and its infallibility) was endorsed. Immediately, the council had to be interrupted after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War and the invasion of Rome that would end the Papal States. ​

A group of academics from German theological faculties refused to admit the dogma and were excommunicated, departing from the Catholic Church and creating the so-called Old Catholic Church. Although the number of supporters was diminished, Bismarck gave them help in order to submit the Church to the State, as it had achieved with the Protestant territorial Church.

The fight against the Church was called Kulturkampf and, despite the enormous damage to the German Church, the Catholics allied themselves and in the 1874 elections the Center Party won 91 seats in the Reichstag. After its failure, the Kulturkampf was finally broken up and Pope Leo XVI helped Bismarck with it.

Social Teachings

The Church was slow to respond to the progressive industrialization and the impoverishment of the workers, initially trying to remedy the situation with an increase in charity. In 1891 Pope Leo XIII published the Rerum novarum in which the Church provides its definition of dignity and the rights of industrial workers. With the Industrial Revolution came numerous concerns about the deterioration of the working and living conditions of city workers.

In 1891 and under the influence of the German bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler, Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Rerum novarum, which provides Catholic social education in its context with expressions that repudiated socialism, but protected the regulation of working conditions. Rerum novarum supported the setting of a living wage and the privilege of workers to form unions.

The encyclical Anno Quadragesimo was approved by Pope Pius XI on May 15, 1931, four decades after Rerum novarum. In contrast to Leo XIII, who addressed himself primarily to the condition of workers, Pius XI focused on ethical considerations of a social and economic nature.

He called for the restoration of social order based on the thesis of solidarity and contribution to the common good. He indicated the main risks to freedom and human dignity, which derive from unbridled capitalism and communist totalitarianism.

The social doctrine of Pope Pius XII reiterates these teachings, and applies them in greater detail, not only for workers and owners of capital, but also in other activities such as politics, education, the home, agriculture, librarians, organizations international, and any aspect of life, including the military.

Even more than Pius XI, he also establishes social teachings in sectors such as medicine, psychology, sports activities, television media, science, jurisprudence and education. There is hardly any social problem that was not addressed by Pius XII and related to the Christian faith. He was called “the Pope of technology” because of his willingness and ability to assess the social implications of technological progress.

The essential concern was the continuing rights and dignity of every man. With the beginning of the space age, at the end of his pontificate, Pius XII considered the social consequences of satellites and space exploration in the fabric of human society, imploring a new sense of community and solidarity based on papal teachings already known about the contribution to the common good.

Role of Women’s Institutes

Catholic women have played a prominent role in providing educational and health services consistent with Catholic social teaching. Orders of great antiquity such as the Carmelites had been part of social work for centuries. When the 19th century arrived, a new emergence of institutes for women became evident, destined to provide health and education services.

Of these, the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, Claretian Sisters and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary came to be among the largest Catholic women’s religious institutions in the world. The Sisters of Mercy were created by Catherine McAuley in Ireland in 1831, and her nuns began to set up hospitals and schools all over the globe.

The Little Sisters of the Poor was created in the 19th century by Saint Joan Jugan in the vicinity of Rennes, France, for the care of the numerous poor elderly who formed lines on the roads of towns and cities in France.

Out of Britain’s Australian colonies came the first canonized Saint, Mary MacKillop, who co-founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart as a religious educational institution for the poor in 1866, from which emerged schools, orphanages and shelters for the homeless.

By 1872, the Order of the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco (also known as the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians) was created by Maria Dominica Mazzarello. This educational institution would go on to be the largest institute for women in the modern world, with nearly 14,000 members in 2012.

Santa Marianne Cope founded and directed one of the first general hospitals in the United States, implementing innovative cleaning regulations that defined the development of the hospital system in that country. Also in the United States, Saint Katharine Drexel created Xavier University in Louisiana to provide assistance to African and Native Americans.


The Popes have always emphasized the internal link between the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God and the total acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As of the 19th century, these concepts were of great relevance for the development of Mariology to explain the veneration of Mary through her decisions, not only in the environment of Marian beliefs (Mariology), but also in the practices and devotions marianas.

Prior to the 19th century, the Popes promulgated Marian veneration by authorizing new Marian festivities, prayers, initiatives, acceptance and support for Marian congregations. Since the 19th century, Popes began to use encyclicals more frequently.

In this way, Pope Leo XIII, the Pope of the Rosary, published eleven Marian encyclicals. More recent popes promoted the veneration of the Blessed Virgin with two dogmas, the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX in 1854 and the Assumption of Mary by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

Pius XII also promulgated the new Reign of Mary festivity to commemorate Mary as Queen of Heaven and he decreed the initial Marian year in 1954, the second was decreed by John Paul II. Popes Pius IX, Pius XI and Pius XII made possible the veneration of the Marian Apparitions of Lourdes and Fatima.

Subsequent Popes, from John XXIII to Benedict XVI, promoted attendance at Marian shrines (Benedict XVI in 2007 and 2008). The Second Vatican Council II highlighted the relevance of Marian veneration in its document Lumen gentium. Through the Council, Paul VI proclaimed Mary as the Mother of the Church.


The 20th century witnessed the rise of some governments with radical and anticlerical policies. The Calles Law of 1926 that separates the Church from the State in Mexico led to the Cristero War in which more than 3 thousand priests were exiled or assassinated, churches were desecrated, services were neglected, nuns were outraged and he shot the held priests.

After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 in the Soviet Union, the harassment of the Church and Catholics continued until well into the 1930s. Added to the execution and exile of clerics, monks and laity, the confiscation of religious implements and the closure of churches was common.

In the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, the Catholic hierarchy gave its support to the nationalist rebel forces of Francisco Franco against the Popular Front regime, highlighting the republican violence against the Church.

The Church had been an active component in the polarized politics of the years leading up to the Civil War. Pope Pius XI referred to these three nations as the “terrible triangle” and the absence of protests from Europe and the United States as a “conspiracy of silence.”



Pope Pius XI set himself the goal of putting an end to the prolonged rupture between the papacy and the Italian government and of once again obtaining recognition of the sovereign independence of the Holy See. A large part of the Papal States was occupied by the armies of the Italian King Victor Emmanuel II (1861-1878) in 1860 claiming the unity of the country.

Rome itself was forced into submission in 1870 and the Pope became the “convict in the Vatican.” The policies of the Italian government were always anticlerical until the First World War, when certain compromises were achieved.

To strengthen his own dictatorial fascist government, Benito Mussolini was equally eager to reach an agreement. An agreement was reached in 1929 with the Lateran Treaties, which was helpful to both sides. Under the terms of the first agreement, Vatican City was granted autonomy as an independent nation, on the condition that it renounce its claim to the former territories of the Papal States.

Due to the above, Pius XI became the ruler of a modest state with its particular territory, army, radio station, and diplomatic representation. Within the Concordat of 1929, Catholicism was agreed as the only religion in Italy (yet other religions were tolerated), the payment of salaries to clerics and bishops, the recognition of ecclesiastical marriages (a previous civil ceremony was required), and the that religious instruction be permitted in public schools.

On the other hand, the bishops promised loyalty to the Italian State, which reserved the power of veto over their choice. The Church was not officially forced to give its support to the fascist regime; Important differences remained, but the stubborn hostility ended. The Church particularly supported one or another foreign policy such as the support of the anti-communist side in the Spanish Civil War, and the endorsement for the conquest of Ethiopia.

Frictions remained over the Catholic Action Youth Network, which Mussolini wanted to see merged with his Fascist Youth group. A compromise was reached in which only the fascists were allowed to sponsor sports teams.

The Vatican managed to get Italy to pay it some 1.75 billion lire (some US$100 million at the time) for appropriations of Church property since 1860. Pius XI invested that sum in the stock and property markets.

For the management of these investments, the Pope appointed the layman Bernardino Nogara, who through a bold investment in stocks, gold and futures markets, significantly increased the financial participation of the Catholic Church.

The profits more than covered the cost of maintaining the costly infrastructure of historic buildings in the Vatican, which had previously been preserved through money collected from the Papal States until 1870.

The Vatican’s ties to the Mussolini regime deteriorated dramatically after 1930 as the Church’s autonomy was increasingly affected by Mussolini’s totalitarian ambitions. For example, the Fascists tried to absorb the youth groups of the Church. In response, Pius XI issued the encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno (“We have no need”) in 1931. Governmental persecution of the church was denounced and “the pagan cult of the State” was condemned.

Austria and Nazi Germany

The Vatican shows its support for Christian socialists in Austria, a nation with a largely Catholic population but a powerful secular element. Pope Pius XI collaborated with the government of Engelbert Dollfuss (1932-1934), who wanted to model society based on papal encyclicals. Dollfuss suppressed anticlerical and socialist elements, yet in 1934 he was assassinated by the Austrian Nazis.

His successor, Kurt von Schuschnigg (1934-1938) was also pro-Catholic and had the support of the Vatican. Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938, on which he imposed his own policies. Pius XI was willing to negotiate agreements with the country that was willing to do so, considering that written treaties were the best way to protect ecclesial rights against governments that were increasingly prone to intervene in such matters.

Twelve concordats were signed throughout his papacy with various types of governments, including some German state governments. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, he requested a concordat, which Pius XI accepted. The 1933 Concordat agreed on guarantees of freedom for the Church in Nazi Germany, autonomy for Catholic organizations and youth groups, and religious education in schools.

Nazi ideology was spearheaded by Heinrich Himmler and the SS. In the struggle for total dominance over German minds and bodies, the SS pursued an anti-religious agenda. Catholic or Protestant chaplains were not allowed in their units (although they were authorized in the regular army).

A special unit for the identification and suppression of Catholic influences was created by Himmler. The SS had resolved that the German Catholic Church was a serious threat to its hegemony and although it was too powerful to be abolished it was partly stripped of its influence, for example through the closure of its youth clubs and publications.

Following repeated violations of the Concordat, Pope Pius XI issued the 1937 encyclical Mit brennender Sorge in which he publicly condemned the Nazis’ persecution of the Church and its ideology of neo-paganism and racial supremacy.

Second World War

Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the Church made public its condemnation of the occupation of Poland and the subsequent Nazi invasions of 1940. Throughout the Holocaust, Pope Pius XII ordered the Church hierarchy to to lend his help to protect the Jews and Gypsies from the Nazis.

While Pius XII has been given credit for his help in rescuing hundreds of thousands of Jews, the Church has also been falsely accused of promoting anti-Semitism. Albert Einstein, addressing the role of the Catholic Church through the Holocaust, noted the following:

Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came to Germany, I looked to the universities for their defense, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth, but no, the universities were immediately silenced.

So I sought out the big newspaper editors whose rousing editorials of bygone days had proclaimed their love of freedom, but they, like the universities, were silenced within a few weeks. Only the Church stopped dead in its tracks in Hitler’s campaign to suppress the truth.

I never had any particular interest in the Church before, but now I have great appreciation and admiration for it since only the Church has been courageous and persistent in defending intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am thus forced to confess that what I once belittled I now praise unreservedly.

This quote was shown on page 38 of the December 23, 1940 issue of Time magazine. Other biased opinions have accused Pius of not having done enough to stop the Nazi barbarities. The debate about the validity of these criticisms continues today.

The Post-Industrial Age

Second Vatican Council

The Catholic Church committed itself to an exhaustive reform process after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Envisioned as a continuation of Vatican Council I, under the papacy of John XXIII the council became an engine for modernization. He undertook the task of making the historical teachings of the Church transparent for a modern world, and made pronouncements on issues such as the character of the church, the mission of secularism, and religious freedom.

The council authorized the revision of the liturgy and allowed in Latin liturgical rituals the use of vernacular languages ​​as well as Latin in masses and other sacraments. The Church’s efforts to improve Christian unity became a priority. In addition to finding common ground on certain issues with Protestant churches, the Catholic Church has discussed possible unification with the Eastern Orthodox Church.


Changes in ancient rituals and ceremonies as a result of the Second Vatican Council have produced a diversity of responses. Some stopped going to church, while others tried to preserve the old liturgy with the help of sympathetic priests. These came to form the base of those traditionalist Catholic groups of today, who consider that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council went too far.

Liberal Catholics constituted another dissident group that considers that the reforms of Vatican II have not gone far enough. The liberal views of theologians such as Hans Küng and Charles Curran led to the withdrawal of the Church’s authorization to teach as Catholics.

According to Professor Thomas Bokenkotter, most Catholics “accepted the changes relatively gracefully.” In 2007, Benedict XVI relaxed permission so that the old optional Mass could be officiated at the request of the faithful.

An innovative Codex Juris Canonici (Canon Law) requested by John XXIII, was decreed by Pope John Paul II on January 25, 1983. It includes numerous reforms and changes in the law of the Church and the discipline of the Church to the Latin Church. It replaced the 1917 version published by Benedict XV.


Liberation Theology

In the 1960s, the rising social consciousness and politicization in the Latin American Church gave rise to liberation theology. The Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez became its main exponent and, in 1979, the Episcopal Conference of Mexico officially declared a “privileged option for the poor” of the Latin American Church.

Archbishop Óscar Romero, a follower of the movement, became the region’s most famous contemporary martyr in 1980, when he was assassinated by government-allied forces while celebrating mass. Like Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI (while still Cardinal Ratzinger) denounced the movement. The Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff was ordered on a couple of occasions to cease his dissemination and teaching.

While Pope John Paul II received numerous criticisms for his harsh treatment of the movement’s followers, he was of the idea that the Church, in its efforts to defend the poor, should not do so by resorting to violence or partisan politics. The movement is still alive today in Latin America, despite the fact that the Church is currently facing the challenge of the Pentecostal revival in much of the region.

Sexuality and Gender Issues

With the sexual revolution of the 1960s, complex dilemmas arose for the Church. Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae upheld the Catholic Church’s traditional view of marriage and conjugal relations and firmed up its permanent ban on artificial birth control.

Additionally, the encyclical ratified the sanctity of life from conception to natural death and ensured its permanent condemnation of both abortion and euthanasia, qualifying them as serious sins that were comparable to murder. The efforts for the Church to consider the ordination of women led Pope John Paul II to issue two documents to explain the ecclesial doctrine.

Mulieris dignitatem was published in 1988 to illustrate the equally important and complementary role of women in the work of the Church. Later, in 1994, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis notes that the Church only officiates at the ordination of men with the purpose of continuing the example of Jesus, who chose only men for this particular task.

Catholic Church Today

In June 2004, Rome is visited by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on the festivities of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29) for another personal meeting with Pope John Paul II, in view of the dialogues with the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Christian Unity and to be part of the commemoration for the feast day in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The partial participation of the Patriarch in the Eucharistic liturgy presided over by the Pope was followed by the program of the past visits of Patriarch Dimitrios in 1987 and of Patriarch Bartholomew I himself: full participation in the Liturgy of the Word, the joint declaration of the Pope and of the Patriarch about the profession of faith according to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed in Greek and, as a closing, the final blessing imparted by both prelates at the Altar of Confession.

The patriarch did not fully participate in the liturgy of the Eucharist which included the consecration and distribution of the Eucharist itself. In keeping with the practice of the Catholic Church of incorporating the clause when the Creed is recited in Latin, but not when it is recited in Greek, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have enunciated the Nicene Creed together with Patriarchs Demetrius I. and Bartholomew I in Greek without the Filioque clause.

The fact that these Patriarchs recited the Creed, together with the Popes, has received strong criticism from certain individuals of Eastern Orthodoxy, such as the Metropolitan of Kalavryta, Greece, in November 2008. The Ravenna declaration in 2007 ratified these beliefs, and corroborated the notion that the bishop of Rome is in fact the first (protos), however future debates will be held under the specific ecclesiological exercise of papal primacy.

Sexual Abuse Cases

The most important lawsuits emerged in 2001 alleging that priests had sexually abused minors. In response to the ensuing scandal, the Church has established formal procedures to prevent abuse, to promote the reporting of any abuse that occurs and to manage this kind of reports promptly, despite the fact that the groups representing the victims have questioned their effectiveness.

Some priests have resigned, others were first removed from the priesthood only to be imprisoned, and financial settlements have been made with numerous victims. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has commissioned a comprehensive study that found that four percent of all clergy who served in this country from 1950 to 2002 had faced some type of accusation of sexual misconduct.

Benedict XVI

With the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, the Church has thus far been largely seen as a continuation of the policies of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, with some important exceptions: Benedict decentralized beatifications and reversed his predecessor’s resolution regarding the papal choice.

In 2007, a new record was set by approving the beatification of 498 Spanish martyrs. In his initial encyclical Deus caritas he discussed love and sex in permanent opposition to various other views on sexuality.

Who Founded the Church? Pope Francisco

With the election of Pope Francis in 2013, after the resignation of Benedict XVI, he became the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from America and the first Pope from the southern hemisphere. From his election and until To date, he has exhibited a simpler and less formal approach to the job, choosing to live in the Vatican guesthouse rather than the official residence.

Along the same lines, he has promoted many dramatic changes in politics, such as removing conservatives from the highest positions in the Vatican, calling on bishops to lead a simpler life, and to assume a more pastoral attitude. regarding homosexuality.

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