Catholicism is a term which in its broadest sense refers to the beliefs and practices of Christian denominations that describe themselves as catholic.

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organisation, leadership and doctrine.

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It commonly reflects traditions of Catholic theology, doctrine, liturgy, ethics, and spirituality.

Catholic theology is the understanding of Catholic doctrine or teachings, and results from the studies of theologians.

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Associated traits often include or claim to include episcopal polity, sacramental theology, apostolic succession and sacred tradition.

Sacred tradition or holy tradition is a theological term used in some Christian traditions, primarily those claiming apostolic succession such as the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Catholic and Anglican traditions, to refer to the foundation of the doctrinal and spiritual authority of the Christian Church and of the scriptures.

Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, which has usually been associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops.

A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.


"Catholicism" and "catholic" in these senses refer to various Christian churches, as well as their beliefs and practices.


The most frequent uses refers to the faith and practices of the Catholic Church, consisting of the Latin Church and 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See of Rome, as understood by the Four Marks of the Church.

The Four Marks of the Church, also known as the Attributes of the Church, is a term describing four distinctive adjectives—"one, holy, catholic and apostolic"—of traditional Christian ecclesiology as expressed in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed completed at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381: "[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church.

The Latin Church, sometimes called the Western Church, is the largest part of the Catholic Church, governed directly by the Pope, tracing its history to the earliest days of Christianity.


"Catholic" and "Catholicism" are also especially used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Church of the East, the Anglican Communion and the Independent Catholic denominations, all of which consider themselves within the universal and apostolic church.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, also known as the Orthodox Church, or officially as the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church and one of the oldest extant religious institutions in the world.

Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising the Church of England and churches which are historically tied to it or hold similar beliefs, worship practices and church structures.

The Anglican Communion is an international association of autonomous churches consisting of the Church of England and national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with it.


In the sense of indicating continuity of faith and practice from the first millennium, "catholic" is also used in some other Christian traditions, such as some Methodist Lutheran, Moravian, and Reformed churches, in claiming to be "heirs of the apostolic faith", as delineated in the Nicene Creed.

Methodism, or the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their inspiration from the life and teachings of John Wesley.

Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice of John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.

Lutheranism is a major branch of Protestant Christianity which identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German friar, ecclesiastical reformer and theologian.


These denominations consider themselves to be catholic, teaching that the term "designates the historic, orthodox mainstream of Christianity whose doctrine was defined by the ecumenical councils and creeds" and as such, most Reformers "appealed to this catholic tradition and believed they were in continuity with it."

An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.


For instance, within the Anglican Communion, the Oxford Movement of the 19th century promoted Anglo-Catholicism, which emphasized the importance of doctrines such as the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and apostolic succession.

The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a term used in Christian theology to express the doctrine that Jesus is really or substantially present in the Eucharist, not merely symbolically or metaphorically.

Anglo-Catholicism, Anglican Catholicism, or Catholic Anglicanism comprises people, beliefs and practices within Anglicanism that emphasise the Catholic heritage and identity of the various Anglican churches.

The Oxford Movement was a movement of High Church members of the Church of England which eventually developed into Anglo-Catholicism.

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