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Catholicism is a Christian faith distinguished by a specific set of beliefs, practices, and behaviors. In addition to a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, which is shared by all Christian faiths, Catholicism recognizes the supreme authority of the Roman See, or Pope, and believes in the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ as the Eucharist. Catholicism also supports the adherence of practitioners to a set of actions known as the sacraments. In the long and bloody path of religion throughout history, Catholicism has branched into two main segments: the Roman, or Western Catholic Church, and the Eastern Catholic Church.
The dawn of Catholicism is believed by many to be the resurrection of Christ, but in fact can be traced to an early story in the Bible. Jesus, astonishing his followers by walking on water, invites them to join him. Only one, Peter, agrees to do so, and actually accomplishes the feat for a moment before becoming afraid and sinking. Jesus is so pleased by Peter's faith that he declares that Peter is the rock on which “I will build my Church,” (Matthew 16:18). This story is taken by many as a declaration that Peter is the first pope of the Catholic church, though that common term would not come into uses for many centuries.
The term catholic comes from an ancient Greek word for universal, and for many centuries following its initial rise to power, Catholicism reigned as the near-universal faith of the Western world. Dissent against church power and policies eventually lead to great divisions of faith in the Middle Ages, often resulting in blood-soaked revolutions.
The eastern and western arms of Catholicism have been divided in practice and tradition since early on in the development of the faith, made distinct from one another largely through the great divides of language, cultural tradition, and simple geography that isolated practice and development in the eastern and western realms. Though both arms of the faith remain true to certain core beliefs, Eastern Catholicism has been influenced to some degree by the development of other eastern faiths, political upheavals, and social changes, much as the Western Catholic Church has been influenced by the rise of Protestantism, the development of democracy, and the many wars of the western world.
Some important ideas in Catholicism include the acceptance the Holy Trinity, a theory that suggest that God actually consists of three presences: God the Creator, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. Catholicism also insists on the divinity of Jesus, supporting the idea that he was both divine and human and was conceived immaculately by Mary, his human mother. Another major tenant of the religion is the sacraments, which are seven actions by which humans can share directly in the grace of God, according to doctrine. The sacraments include baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation, matrimony, the taking of holy orders, and the anointing of the sick.
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