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The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with more than 1.27 billion members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilisation. Headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, its doctrines are summarised in the Nicene Creed. The Catholic Church is notable within Western Christianity for its sacred tradition and seven sacraments.

Emblem of the Holy See
Catholic Church
Latin: Ecclesia catholica
Saint Peter's Basilica
Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Classification Catholic
Polity Episcopal
Head Pope Francis
Administration Holy See via the Roman Curia
Churches
sui iuris
Latin Church
Eastern Catholic churches: 23
Dioceses Archdioceses: 640
Regular dioceses: 2,851
Region Worldwide
Headquarters Vatican City
Founder Jesus Christ, according to
Catholic tradition
Origin 1st century
Jerusalem, Judea, Roman Empire
Members 1.27 billion
Clergy Bishops: 5,237
Priests: 415,792
Deacons: 44,566
Website Holy See

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with more than 1.27 billion members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilisation. Headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, its doctrines are summarised in the Nicene Creed. The Catholic Church is notable within Western Christianity for its sacred tradition and seven sacraments.

The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true church founded by Jesus Christ, that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles, and that the pope is the successor to Saint Peter. The Catholic Church maintains that the doctrine on faith and morals that it declares as definitive is infallible. The Latin Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as institutes such as mendicant orders and enclosed monastic orders, reflect a variety of theological and spiritual emphases in the Church.

Of the seven sacraments, the principal one is the Eucharist, celebrated liturgically in the Mass. The church teaches that through consecration by a priest the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. The Catholic Church practises closed communion, with only baptised members in a state of grace ordinarily permitted to receive the Eucharist.

Mary is venerated in the Catholic Church as Queen of Heaven and honoured in numerous Marian devotions. The Catholic Church has defined four Marian dogmas: the Immaculate Conception, the dogma that Mary was conceived without original sin; her status as the Mother of God; her perpetual virginity; and her bodily assumption into Heaven at the end of her earthly life.

The Catholic Church has influenced Western philosophy, science, art and culture, and from the Middle Ages until the Modern Age acted as the principal force of unity in the Western world.

Catholic spiritual teaching includes spreading the Gospel while Catholic social teaching emphasises support for the sick, the poor and the afflicted through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and medical services in the world.

From the late 20th century, the Catholic Church has been criticised for its doctrines on sexuality, its refusal to ordain women and its handling of sexual abuse cases.


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