We explain what the Church is, what its attributes are and what its hierarchy is like. In addition, its general characteristics and sacraments.
What is the Church?
The term Church is distinguished from the term church, as the latter refers to a building or various religious institutions, while the former refers to a specific institution.
When we speak of the Church we refer specifically to the Catholic Church , which among Christian churches is the one with the most faithful (more than 1,200 million).
The Christian churches are those whose monotheistic religion postulates that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God , the Messiah, also called Christ.
The Church proclaims that her mission, entrusted by Christ, is to propagate the teachings of the messiah and to impart the sacraments.
Attributes of the Church
The Church describes itself according to four fundamental attributes, inseparable from each other:
- A. Since it maintains that it has been founded by Christ and that God is one ( monotheistic religion ), the Church is also one. This unity is one of faith, of government and of communion.
- Santa It is union with God. Since its founder is holy, so are its members and its mission. The faithful are called to perform sanctifying actions. The sacraments are the means of sanctification.
- Catholic This term means "universal." The Church is universal because it is by law, because Christ intended it for all human beings , throughout the world and in all ages. It also aims to be so in fact, that is, to put into practice the mission entrusted by Christ.
- Apostolic. The government of the Church has authority as the successor of Christ and the apostles. Its function is to transmit the teachings transmitted by them.
All authority in the Church comes from Christ and the apostles , that is, the clergy have authority as successors to their founders.
The highest hierarchy in the Land of the Church is the Pope . Immediately afterwards the bishops, at the head of each of the dioceses.
Only bishops can administer confirmation and priestly ordination. Some bishops are named cardinals and fulfill specific functions. However, no bishop, whether he was a cardinal or not, has authority over others.
The next hierarchy is that of a priest, who can administer the other sacraments . Priests include parish priests, vicars, and chaplains.
The lowest grade in the Holy Order is the deacon . Deacons are not priests, but they do belong to the ministry. They can be temporary or permanent.
- Participate in mass and refrain from working on Sundays and the holy days.
- Confess sins at least once a year.
- Communicate at least once a year, at Easter.
- Refrain from working and fasting on certain days.
Baptism of the ChurchIt is the ritual by which inclusion in the Church is carried out and it is one of the sacraments . The Church administers baptism by ablution, that is, it pours water on the faithful.
Once baptized, a person belongs to the Church but can voluntarily leave it through apostasy.
Excommunication, a punitive measure imposed by the Church , does not expel the faithful, but prevents them from participating in their activities.
Church OrganizationsTo carry out its social work, the Church has a large number of missions and a series of organizations.
- Caritas. It is present in various countries and performs humanitarian work.
- Hospitals and residences. More than 35,000 care institutions belong to the Church, including hospitals, homes for the elderly, people with disabilities, and the incurable, among others.
Church EducationIn most countries of the world there are numerous educational institutions belonging to the Church .
Currently, in the world there are more than 1,000 universities and more than 125,000 primary and secondary schools .
In terms of students, the Church currently educates more than 55 million children and youth .
Church FinancingDespite the centralized hierarchy of the Church, its financing is administered autonomously by each legal entity that represents parishes, associations of the faithful, etc.
Church funds come primarily from:
- Own or associated institutions.
- Earnings from investments .
- Public or private collections.
- State funding.
Church decision-makingWhen decisions must be made about the faith (dogma) and the moral guidelines of the institution, an ecumenical council is called : an assembly in which all the bishops of the world meet and which is presided over by the Pope.
One of the most important decisions that the Church must make is the election of a new Pope , when the mandate of the previous one ends due to his resignation or death.
The successor is chosen in a conclave , a meeting in which the cardinals debate in complete isolation with the outside world.
Sacraments of the churchA sacrament is a rite, a sensitive sign that, according to faith, has the efficacy of granting the grace of God. The Church administers seven sacraments:
- Baptism (sacrament of initiation). He begins the Christian life, incorporates him into the Church . It is administered through water .
- Confirmation (sacrament of initiation). Faith in Christ is reaffirmed.
- Eucharist (sacrament of initiation). The last supper, the passion and resurrection of Christ are remembered. It is administered through the consecrated host, which represents the body of Christ.
- Penance (sacrament of healing). It is the confession of sins to a priest and the fulfillment of penance, which allows reconciliation with Christ after having committed the sin.
- Anointing of the sick (sacrament of healing). The priest prays and anoints the sick, in this way healing can be stimulated through faith.
- Priestly order (sacrament at the service of communion and mission). To become a priest is to acquire the authority to exercise the functions of the cult.
- Marriage (sacrament at the service of communion and mission). It is the union between a man and a woman to found a new family.
Faithful of the ChurchCurrently there are more than 1,200 million people baptized in most of the countries of the world, which represents 17.5% of the global population .
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