The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, There is some ambiguity about the title "Catholic Church", since the Church is not the only institution to claim catholicity. The Church is referred to and refers to itself in various ways, in part depending upon circumstance. The Greek word καθολικός (katholikos), from which we get "Catholic", means "universal".<ref>Concise Oxford English Dictionary (online version). Oxford University Press (2005). Retrieved on 10 April 2009.</ref> It was first used to describe the Christian Church in the early second century.<ref>Marthaler, Berard (1993). The Creed. Twenty-Third Publications. Retrieved on 9 May 2008. </ref> After the East-West Schism, the Western Church took the name "Catholic", while the Eastern Church took the name "Orthodox".<ref name="McBrien"/>[dubious — see talk page] Following the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the church in communion with the Bishop of Rome used the name "Catholic" to distinguish itself from the various Protestant churches.<ref name="McBrien">McBrien, Richard (2008). The Church. Harper Collins. p. xvii. Online version available here. Quote: The use of the adjective "Catholic" as a modifier of "Church" became divisive only after the East-West Schism ... and the Protestant Reformation ... In the former case, the West claimed for itself the title Catholic Church, while the East appropriated the name Holy Orthodox Church. In the latter case, those in communion with the Bishop of Rome retained the adjective "Catholic", while the churches that broke with the Papacy were called Protestant.</ref> The name "Catholic Church", rather than "Roman Catholic Church", is usually the term that the Church uses in its own documents. It appears in the title of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.<ref>Libreria Editrice Vaticana (2003). "Catechism of the Catholic Church." Retrieved on: 2009-05-01.</ref> It is also the term that Pope Paul VI used when signing the documents of the Second Vatican Council.<ref>The Vatican. Documents of the II Vatican Council. Retrieved on: 2009-05-04. Note: The Pope's signature appears in the Latin version.</ref><ref>Declaration on Christian Formation, published by National Catholic Welfare Conference, Washington DC 1965, page 13</ref><ref>Whitehead, Kenneth (1996). ""How Did the Catholic Church Get Her Name?" Eternal Word Television Network. Retrieved on 9 May 2008.</ref> Especially in English-speaking countries, the Church is regularly referred to as the "Roman" Catholic Church; occasionally, it refers to itself in the same way.<ref>Example: 1977 Agreement with Archbishop Donald Coggan of Canterbury</ref> At times, this can help distinguish the Church from other churches that also claim catholicity. Hence this has been the title used in some documents involving ecumenical relations. However, the name "Roman Catholic Church" is disliked by many Catholics, as a label applied to them by others to suggest that theirs is only one of several catholic churches, and to imply that Catholic allegiance to the Pope renders them in some way untrustworthy.<ref>Walsh, Michael (2005). Roman Catholicism. Routledge. p. 19. Online version available here</ref> Within the Church, the name "Roman Church", in the strictest sense, refers to the Diocese of Rome.<ref>Beal, John (2002). New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. Paulist Press. Retrieved on 13 May 2008. p. 468</ref><ref>The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: "There is a further aspect of the term Roman Catholic that needs consideration. The Roman Church can be used to refer, not to the Church universal insofar as it possesses a primate who is bishop of Rome, but to the local Church of Rome, which has the privilege of its bishop being also the primate of the whole Church."</ref>|group=note}} is the world's largest Christian church. With more than a billion members, over half of all ChristiansUnknown extension tag "ref" and more than one-sixth of the world's population, the Catholic Church is a communion of the Western, or (Latin Rite) Church, and 22 autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches (called particular churches), comprising a total of 2,795 dioceses in 2008. The Church's highest earthly authority in matters of faith, morality, and governance is the Pope,<ref name="Schreck158">Schreck, pp. 158–159.</ref> currently Pope Benedict XVI, who holds supreme authority in concert with the College of Bishops, of which he is the head.<ref name="LumenG3">Paul VI, Pope (1964). Lumen Gentium chapter 3, section 22. Vatican. Retrieved on 9 March 2008.</ref><ref>Code of Canon Law, canons 331 and 336</ref><ref>Teaching with Authority, by Richard R. Gaillardetz, p. 57</ref> The Catholic community is made up of an ordained ministry and the laity; members of either group may belong to organized religious communities.<ref name="Schreck153">Schreck, p. 153.</ref>
The Church defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity.<ref name="OneFaith50">Barry, pp. 50–51.</ref> It operates social programs and institutions throughout the world, including Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, missions and shelters, as well as Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities that help families, the poor, the elderly and the sick.<ref name="OneFaith98">Barry, pp. 98–99.</ref>
The Catholic Church believes itself to be original Church founded by Jesus upon the apostles,<ref name="Cat857">Paragraphs number 857-859 (1994). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved on 25 October 2009.</ref> among whom Simon Peter held the position of chief apostle.<ref name="Cat551">Paragraphs number 551-553 (1994). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved on 25 October 2009.</ref> The Church also believes that its bishops, through apostolic succession, are consecrated successors of these apostles,<ref name="Cat860">Paragraphs number 860-862 (1994). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved on 25 October 2009.</ref><ref name="Cat1562">Paragraph number 1562 (1994). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved on 25 October 2009.</ref> and that the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) as the successor of Peter, possesses a universal primacy of jurisdiction and pastoral care.<ref name="Cat880">Paragraphs number 880-882 (1994). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved on 25 October 2009.</ref>
Church doctrines have been defined through various ecumenical councils, following the example set by the first Apostles in the Council of Jerusalem.<ref name="Schreck152">Schreck, p. 152.</ref> On the basis of promises made by Jesus to his apostles, described in the Gospels, the Church believes that it is guided by the Holy Spirit and so protected from falling into doctrinal error.<ref name="OneFaith43">Barry, p. 37, pp. 43–44.</ref><ref name="Matthew">Matthew 16:18–19</ref><ref>John 16:12–13</ref>
Catholic beliefs are based on the deposit of Faith (containing both the Holy Bible and Sacred Tradition) handed down from the time of the Apostles, which are interpreted by the Church's teaching authority. Those beliefs are summarized in the Nicene Creed and formally detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.<ref name="cat"/> Formal Catholic worship is termed the liturgy. The Eucharist is the center of Catholic worship. It is one of seven sacraments which mark key stages in the lives of believers.
With a history spanning almost two thousand years, the Church is "the world's oldest and largest institution"<ref name="O'CollinsPref">O'Collins, p. v (preface).</ref> and has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilization since at least the 4th century.<ref name="Orlandis">Orlandis, preface</ref> In the 11th century, a major split, sometimes called the Great Schism, occurred between Eastern and Western Christianity. Those Eastern churches which remained in, or later re-established, communion with the Pope, form the Eastern Catholic churches and those which remain independent of papal authority are usually known as Orthodox churches. In the 16th century, partly in response to the rise of the Protestant Reformation, the Church engaged in its own process of reform and renewal, known as the Counter-Reformation.
Although the Church maintains that it is the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" founded by Jesus and in which is found the fullness of the means of salvation,<ref>Vatican Council, Second (1964). Lumen Gentium paragraph 14. Vatican. Retrieved on 17 December 2008.</ref><ref>Paragraph number 846 (1994). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved on 27 December 2008.</ref> it also acknowledges that the Holy Spirit can make use of other Christian communities to bring people to salvation.<ref>Paragraph number 819 (1994). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Retrieved on 16 May 2009.</ref><ref name="Kreeft110"/> It believes that it is called by the Holy Spirit to work for unity among all Christians, a movement known as ecumenism.<ref name="Kreeft110">Kreeft, pp. 110–112.</ref> Modern issues facing the Church include secularism, abortion, euthanasia, birth control, and sexual ethics.<ref>Shorto, Russel. "Keeping the Faith", The New York Times, 8 April 2007. Retrieved on 29 March 2008. </ref>