What is the official name of the Church that is led by the pope?

a.                  The Catholic Church

b.                  The Roman Catholic Church

c.                   The Vatican




THE ANSWER IS…. A….The Catholic Church…..yes, the official name is, and always was, “The Catholic Church.” It was the official name of the church in the first centuries after Jesus. It was the name attached to councils and documents throughout the centuries, and if you look at your official catechism, you’ll see the cover says “Catechism of the Catholic Church.”


There is only one ancient Catholic Church. The title “Roman” is redundant. If you look at the writings of the Early Church Fathers, we find that by necessity, the term “Catholic Church” referred only to the Church and doctrines united to Rome, and only to a Church that was authoritative through the succession of the apostles.


Certain sects that broke off the Catholic Church a millennium and a half later, were not surprisingly, eager to perpetuate the prefix “Roman” because they wanted to believe in their hearts they somehow were still Catholic too. It bothered them that our Catholic Church was the original church, and that we had the name of the original Church, and who can blame them? Traditionally, there was nothing odd about referring to the Catholic Church as the Roman church. The new thing was using both the words Roman and Catholic together, as if the name needed a modifier.


That said, some of us Catholics have picked up the term ourselves and  many don’t mind it nowadays. Many use it interchangeably. The term has even been used on a few official documents.


If the term is used to emphasize our unity to the first Church in Rome, there isn’t anything wrong with it. But when those unfriendly to the Catholic Church use it to imply that the Catholic Church is just one of several Catholic churches, or if they insist on ALWAYS using the prefix whenever they say the word "Catholic," this is not done in good faith. Of course, some people just use the term because they hear others using it and have no idea of the background or history of the term, which, unsurprisingly, was started in the 1600s, and not by Catholics.


Using the term “Roman Catholic” can cause confusion though. That’s because some of the Catholic Church conducts Mass under the Roman rite, but others conduct Mass under other rites that are just as part of the Catholic Church as the Roman rite. For example, Byzantine Catholics, which use the Byzantine rite, are completely in union with the Bishop of Rome (pope), even though they would not be referred to as “Roman” Catholics.


Then there are the ancient Chaldeans, who practice their Catholics faith in Iraq, which happens to be home to the ancient city of Ur, from whence Abraham came. The Chaldean Catholic Churches in and around Baghdad are IN UNION WITH THE POPE, but you wouldn’t call them “Roman Catholics.”  These Chaldeans still inhabit what made up the ancient land of Mesopotamia, known as the “cradle of civilization” and actually conduct Mass in the ancient language of Aramaic, which was the native language of Jesus.


At a Byzantine Catholic Mass, the biggest difference you’d probably notice is the way the sign of the cross is done. After touching the forehead and heart, Byzantine Catholics touch their right shoulder before their left shoulder instead of vice versa. Also, instead of signing with their whole hand, they sign with the index and middle fingers. The two fingers symbolize the two natures of Christ: divine and human. Byzantine Catholics of course share all doctrines and sacraments with the rest of the Catholic Church, and are IN UNION with the pope.


Another difference is that infants in the Byzantine Rite are baptized and confirmed (they call it the Mystery of Chrismation) the same day. You can read about other Byzantine Rite stuff at http://www.byzantines.net/faq/


List of Churches in Union with Rome 


Finally, the Catholic Encyclopedia describes the term "Roman Catholic" like this:

"A qualification of the name Catholic commonly used in English-speaking countries by those unwilling to recognize the claims of the One True Church. Out of condescension for these dissidents, the members of that Church are wont in official documents to be styled "Roman Catholics" as if the term Catholic represented a genus of which those who owned allegiance to the pope formed a particular species."


Tip of the day: When surfing the Web, I have noticed that sites that insist on using the word Roman before all references to “Catholic” or “Catholicism” tend to be unfriendly to Catholics, to say the least. One way Protestants can help us move forward in ecumenism is to make a conscientious effort to use the terms “the Catholic Church” and “Catholics” in conversations, without attaching a prefix all the time.



 Read more about the Catholic Church at these web sites:





http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13121a.htm (the term “Roman Catholic”and its ill-intentioned origin)

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03449a.htm (the term “Catholic”)


Here St. Augustine, a Father of Christianity, speaks lovingly and in awe of the Catholic Church:
"The Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should.... With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me.... No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.... For my part, I should not believe the gospel
except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."




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