The Catholic Catechism

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THE CATHOLIC CATECHISM
Part One: Doctrines of the Faith - VII. The Church
Universality of Catholicism

Universality of Catholicism

Universality of Catholicism. Literally, the word "Catholic" (Greek, katholike) means "general" or "universal." The title was first used in A.D.. 107, by St. Ignatius of Antioch in his letter to the Smyrneans, "Where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." 17 By the end of the second century, it had acquired the two meanings now mainly associated with the term: "universal" in the sense of extended throughout the world, and "orthodox" or faithful to the teachings of Christ. The two concepts are closely related.

The Gospels clearly show that Christ intended his Church not only for a chosen few, as among the Jews before the Messiah came, but for all mankind. "This Good News of the kingdom," he foretold, "will be proclaimed to the whole world as a witness to all the nations. And then the end will come" (Mt. 24:14).

Some have interpreted this to mean that once the Gospel had been preached everywhere, the end of the world will come. The more logical interpretation is that the apostles would begin to proclaim the Gospel and establish the Church among the nations---that is, beyond the confines of Jewish Palestine---before the destruction of Jerusalem. The city was destroyed by the Romans after a four year siege, A.D. 66 to 70. By the end of the first century, over one hundred dioceses had been founded throughout the Mediterranean world.

Responding to this mandate of the Savior, Christian missionaries since the time of St. Paul labored to make this intentional catholicity also actual. They succeeded to such a degree that, since apostolic times, the faithful have professed in the liturgy their belief "in the holy catholic Church," where the original Greek is never capitalized. The custom of using the separate title "Catholic Church" (initial capital letters) can be certainly traced to the time of the Eastern Schism,...
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