The Christianity Portal
Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is the Christ, whose coming as the messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.
Christianity remains culturally diverse in its Western and Eastern branches, as well as in its doctrines concerning justification and the nature of salvation, ecclesiology, ordination, and Christology. Their creeds generally hold in common Jesus as the Son of God--the logos incarnated--who ministered, suffered, and died on a cross, but rose from the dead for the salvation of mankind; as referred to as the gospel, meaning the "good news", in the Bible (scripture). Describing Jesus' life and teachings are the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with the Jewish Old Testament as the gospel's respected background.
Christianity began as a Second Temple Judaic sect in the 1st century in the Roman province of Judea. Jesus' apostles and their followers spread around the Levant, Europe, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Transcaucasia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, despite initial persecution. It soon attracted gentile God-fearers, which led to a departure from Jewish customs, and, after the Fall of Jerusalem, AD 70 which ended the Temple-based Judaism, Christianity slowly separated from Judaism. Emperor Constantine the Great decriminalized Christianity in the Roman Empire by the Edict of Milan (313), later convening the Council of Nicaea (325) where Early Christianity was consolidated into what would become the State church of the Roman Empire (380). The early history of Christianity's united church before major schisms is sometimes referred to as the "Great Church". The Church of the East split after the Council of Ephesus (431) and Oriental Orthodoxy split after the Council of Chalcedon (451) over differences in Christology, while the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church separated in the East-West Schism (1054), especially over the authority of the bishop of Rome. Protestantism split in numerous denominations from the Latin Catholic Church in the Reformation era (16th century) over theological and ecclesiological disputes, most predominantly on the issue of justification and papal primacy. Christianity played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization, particularly in Europe from late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Following the Age of Discovery (15th-17th century), Christianity was spread into the Americas, Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world via missionary work.
The four largest branches of Christianity are the Catholic Church (1.3 billion/50.1%), Protestantism (920 million/36.7%), the Eastern Orthodox Church (230 million) and Oriental Orthodoxy (62 million/Orthodoxy combined at 11.9%), amid various efforts toward unity (ecumenism). Despite a decline in adherence in the West, Christianity remains the dominant religion in the region, with about 70% of the population identifying as Christian. Christianity is growing in Africa and Asia, the world's most populous continents. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, especially in the Middle-East, North Africa, East Asia, and South Asia.
The Roman Catholic Church
or Catholic Church
) is the Christian church
in full communion
with the Bishop of Rome
, currently Pope Francis
. It traces its origins to the original Christian community
founded by Jesus Christ
and led by the Twelve Apostles
, in particular Saint Peter
The Catholic Church is by far the largest Christian church and the largest organized body of any world religion. According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the Catholic Church's worldwide recorded membership at the end of 2005 was 1,114,966,000, approximately one-sixth of the world's population.
The worldwide Catholic Church is made up of one Western or Latin and 22 Eastern Catholic particular churches, all of which look to the Bishop of Rome, alone or along with the College of Bishops, as their highest authority on earth for matters of faith, morals and church governance. It is divided into jurisdictional areas, usually on a territorial basis. The standard territorial unit, each of which is headed by a bishop, is called a diocese in the Latin church and an eparchy in the Eastern churches. At the end of 2006, the total number of all these jurisdictional areas (or "Sees") was 2,782.
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