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Saturday, 8 February 2014


The term “catholic” (a Greek word meaning “universal”) was used in the early 2nd century for the first time in a letter of Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch. to the Smyrnaeans. He was also the first Christian writer to stress the Virgin Birth.

In 1054, the Church split in two, in the East-West Schism. The church in Western Europe which followed the Pope became known as the Roman Catholic Church, and the churches in the rest of the world which did not think that the Pope should lead all Christians became known as the Orthodox Church.

In Elizabethan England, following the Reformation, the Roman Catholic religion was outlawed and many lost their lives because of their faith.

In 1568 William Allen, an exiled English Catholic priest, founded a seminary at Douai in The Netherlands, to train English priests for the Catholic community in England. He desired to restore Roman Catholicism in his home country and wanted to ensure there was a supply of trained clergy ready when Catholicism was restored.

The "Devils Advocate" was an official position within the Catholic Church, which was established in 1587 during the reign of Pope Sixtus V.  The Devils Advocate would argue against any proposed sainthood in order to uncover any hidden or overlooked flaws.

Oliver Cromwell insisted on absolute freedom of religion for all except Roman Catholics. He allowed God fearing believers in his army from all denominations except the Catholics.

John Southworth was the last English Catholic priest to be executed in 1654.

When the Franciscan, John Wall, was executed in 1678, he became the last Roman Catholic to die for his faith in England.

In 1759, for the first time, the Pope gave his permission for the Bible to be translated into all languages of the Catholic states.

In England a 1778 Catholic Relief Act lifted some of the restrictions on Roman Catholics placing them in the same category as dissenters. There was opposition to the measure and  Lord George Gordon formed the Protestant Association to secure repeal of act. In London violent anti-Catholic riots led by Lord Gordon resulted in Catholic chapels being wrecked and prisons stormed by mobs drunk on gin from a burning distillery.

The first Roman Catholic Church to be built by Royal permission since the Reformation in Britain was constructed at East Lulworth, Dorset in 1782. George III authorized the building of the Rotunda, as the architect’s design made it look more like a house than a church.

Samuel Wesley, a son of Charles Wesley, become a Catholic in 1784. His Uncle John commented,  “You can be saved in any church and you can be damned in any church. What matters is how is your heart with Christ?”

The priests of Maryland petitioned Rome for a bishop for the United States. They were allowed to select the city for a cathedral and on a one-off basis to name the candidate for presentation to the pope. Father John Carroll was selected Bishop of Baltimore by the American clergy in April 1789 by a vote of 24 out of 26. On November 6, 1789, Pope Pius VI approved the election, naming Carroll the first Catholic bishop in the newly independent United States.

Portrait of Bishop John Carroll, by Gilbert Stuart

Stephen T. Badin, a French Catholic missionary who emigrated to America after the French Revolution, completed his studies at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland in 1793, becoming the first Catholic priest to be ordained in America.

In 1787 Bishop John Carroll proposed the establishment of a local Roman Catholic college in Georgetown, Maryland (now a part of Washington, D.C.) after the American Revolution allowed for the free practice of religion. Georgetown College, the first Catholic university in the United States, was founded on January 23, 1789. Future Congressman William Gaston was enrolled as the school's first student on November 22, 1791, and instruction began on January 2, 1792.

John Carroll published his proposals for a school at Georgetown in 1787, 

King George III forced the British prime minister, William Pitt, to resign in 1801, when he refused to allow Catholic Emancipation, using his weapon of threatened madness to defeat him.

Bishop John Carroll oversaw the construction of the first cathedral in the 13 United States, The Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore. It was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol. The cornerstone of the cathedral was laid on July 7, 1806, by Carroll, but he did not live to see its completion.

Carroll lays the cornerstone for the Cathedral of the Assumption in Baltimore

Work on The Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore was completed in 1821. It is the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the Unites States.

The UK Home Secretary, Robert Peel, carried through the Catholic Relief Act on March 24, 1829, which repealed the penal laws against the 200,000 British and Irish Catholics.

By Issagm at en.wikipedia - Wikipedia Commons

In 1850 Rome re-established a hierarchy in England and Wales with 12 bishops in territorial dioceses under the archbishop of Westminster. The first Cardinal Archbishop was the celebrated scholar and bishop Nicholas Wiseman.

The Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization, was founded on March 29, 1862.  Started by Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882, it was named in honor of the mariner Christopher Columbus.

Originally serving as a mutual benefit society to working class and immigrant Catholics in the United States, The Knights of Columbus developed into a fraternal benefit society dedicated to providing charitable services, promoting Catholic education and Catholic public policy positions, and actively defending Catholicism in various nations. As of 2015 there were 1,918,122 knights, and membership has grown each year for 44 consecutive years.

George W. Bush greets Fourth Degree Knights at the 122nd Annual Convention.

Pope Pius IX issued the Syllabus of Errors in 1864, a list of 80 errors regarding the social, political and economical life of the 19th century. This ultra conservative document was an attack against the liberal forces, condemning many modern ideas such as socialism and secular education, which the pope associated with secularisation and anti-clericalism. It highlighted how the mid-nineteenth century Catholic church opposed progress and modernisation.

The Roman Catholic Specialized Association for Priests was founded in London in 1866, with a training house for missionaries to be sent throughout the British Empire.

The 1869 First Vatican Council was called by Pope Pius IX to deal with the many challenges to church authority perceived in the growth of democracy, socialism, industrialisation and secularism in general.

On becoming Pope, Leo XIII started working to reconcile the Catholic church and the modern world. He declared in 1879 Thomas Aquinas’ Scholastic system that science and religion could live together to be the official Catholic philosophy.

In 1961 Pope John XXIII issued an encyclical, Mater et Magistra, in which he sought reconciliation, unity and co-operation between individuals, social groups and denominations. For the first time the papacy was stressing the need for technologically advanced countries to help emerging nations by using their technological skills.

In 1966 The Catholic Church abolished its list of Forbidden Books, which had existed since the sixteenth century. By 1948 over 4,000 titles had been censored including works by Erasmus, Defoe, Descartes and Immanuel Kant.

A new updated Catechism was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1984, the first since 1566. It was the product of years of work by 12 cardinals. The 690–page document covered Catholic belief about God, the Sacraments, prayer and morality based on the Ten Commandments. It significantly lengthens a long list of existing sins. Amongst the new transgressions were speeding, artificial insemination, embryo research and taking too many aspirin.

In an 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II stated in unequivocal terms his opposition to abortion, birth control, genetic manipulation, and euthanasia, and employed the church's strongest language to date against capital punishment.

On the first Sunday in the first Lent of Christianity's third millennium at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Pope John Paul II apologized for Catholicism's history of "violence in the service of truth." He declared "that the Church “should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters.”

In 2012, there were more than 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide, making  up more than 17% of the world population.

The Catholic Church is the largest land owner in New York City.

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