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Organization of the Catholic Church
CHN ^ | December 2, 2009 | David W. Emery

Posted on 12/03/2009 1:53:53 PM PST by NYer

The following is something I wrote at the petition of a forum member who asked me for some information to provide to a relative who is an Evangelical who was asking about these things. It is a quick rundown of some points of how the Catholic Church is put together and some ideas as to why it must be that way. The topics are not strictly separated from one another, perhaps because the Church itself is a complex organism that defies precise categorization, and again because my own mind works intuitively rather than systematically. Much of the presentation centers on meeting common misconceptions rather than supplying lists and charts, which would provide a more easily absorbed notion of the Church. But I feel such an approach would end up being less accurate. Your comments are encouraged.

*   *   *

The Catholic Church is the world’s oldest and most complex organized entity, and by far the largest religious body in the history of the world. A census is taken yearly; in 2008 there were 1.17 billion people worldwide who had been baptized into the Catholic faith. In terms of population, it is exceeded only by the People’s Republic of China, and because of the Chinese government’s harshly enforced one-child-per-family policy, even this gap is closing. With the exception of a handful of repressive Islamic countries and one repressive Communist country, adherents of the Catholic Church are visibly present in every country of the world.

Contrary to the popular misconception, the Catholic Church is not a single, monolithic entity. It is actually a communion of 23 self-governing (sui juris) Churches, only one of which (albeit the largest) is the Latin or Roman Church. Here is a list, in alphabetical order by rite (liturgical tradition), of the different entities that make up the worldwide Catholic Church:

Alexandrian liturgical tradition:
   Coptic Catholic Church (Egypt; patriarchate)
   Ethiopian Catholic Church (Ethiopia)

Antiochian liturgical tradition
   Maronite Church (Lebanon, diaspora; patriarchate)
   Syriac (Syrian) Catholic Church
      (Lebanon, Syria, diaspora; patriarchate)
   Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
      (India; major archbishopric)

Armenian liturgical tradition
   Armenian Catholic Church
      (Armenia, diaspora; patriarchate)

Chaldean or East Syrian liturgical tradition
   Chaldean Catholic Church (Iraq, diaspora; patriarchate)
   Syro-Malabar Church (India; major archbishopric)

Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) liturgical tradition
   Albanian Greek Catholic Church (Albania)
   Belarusian Greek Catholic Church (Belarus)
   Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church (Bulgaria)
   Byzantine Church of the Eparchy of Krizevci
      (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro)
   Greek Byzantine Catholic Church (Greece, Turkey)
   Hungarian Greek Catholic Church (Hungary)
   Italo-Albanian Catholic Church (Italy)
   Macedonian Greek Catholic Church (Macedonia)
   Melkite Greek Catholic Church
      (Syria, diaspora; patriarchate)
   Romanian Church United with Rome
      (Romania; major archbishopric)
   Russian Catholic Church (Russia, China)
   Ruthenian Catholic Church (Ukraine, diaspora)
   Slovak Greek Catholic Church (Slovakia, Canada)
   Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
      (Ukraine, diaspora; major archbishopric)

Roman (Latin) liturgical tradition
   Latin Catholic Church (ubiquitous; patriarchate)

Some Definitions:
   diaspora = migrants to other parts of the world
   patriarch = a bishop (eparch) of the highest order
   major archbishop = a bishop of the second highest order
   archbishop = a bishop of an important jurisdiction
   bishop = a primary governing official of the Church
   eparch = bishop in the non-Roman Churches
   monsignor = an honorary title bestowed on certain
      outstanding priests; however, in certain regions of the
      world, it is the proper form of address for a bishop;
      honored priests are there called archpriests
   diocese = territory under the jurisdiction of a bishop
   eparchy = territory under the jurisdiction of an eparch
   patriarchate = jurisdiction of a patriarch
   sui juris = self governing
   canon law = the Church’s own system of law, as distinct
      from civil law
   curia = the body of jurisdictional departments within the
      Church
   dicastery = a jurisdictional department within the Church,
      equivalent to a government department or agency
   sacrament = one of the seven symbolic acts which provide
      divine grace to those who celebrate and receive them
   mystery = in theology, an article of belief that is beyond
      human comprehension; in rites other than the Latin
      Rite, this word is used instead of “sacrament”

A word about Rites: This term has to do with the liturgical tradition of a sui juris Church. “Liturgy” (literally, “the work of the citizenry”) refers to the ceremonial with which the Eucharistic sacrament (the church service known in the Latin Rite as the Mass) and the other sacraments is carried out. By extension, it also refers to the official public prayer of the Church (consisting mostly of the Psalms and other scriptural readings, but including other prayers and readings according to the season and occasion) used primarily by clergy and consecrated religious (people vowed to follow Christ more closely through the disciplines of poverty, chastity and obedience), but also by many of the faithful. This latter is known variously as the Liturgy of the Hours, the Work of God, and (in condensed form) the Breviary.

Hierarchy, Authority, Jurisdiction: According to Catholic doctrine, the sacrament of Orders, by which men are ordained to the clergy, is a sacrament of service, not of privilege. This corresponds to the principle of subsidiarity, whereby whatever is to be done should be done at the lowest practicable level of government. This keeps the broadest level of faith, that of the laity (the common believer), at the apex of importance in the Church.

Nevertheless, it is also scripturally known that the Christian religion is to be a kingdom (Jesus called it the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God). This king is none other than Jesus Christ himself; the Church celebrates an annual solemnity in honor of Christ the King to remind the faithful of this point. And as all wise kings do, Christ delegates authority to others so that they can act on his behalf. This is the origin of the twelve Apostles. In order to serve the Church in perpetual fashion, the Apostles had to have successors, and so the order of Bishops arose even in apostolic times. Timothy, Titus and Apollos are the names of some of the earliest bishops, as recorded in the bible. Bishops served, then, as preservers of Church unity, of authentic doctrine and overall order within their respective jurisdictions. From biblical times, usually the jurisdictions were of cities and their surrounding areas. However, other kinds of jurisdictions did occur. For instance, according to scripture, Paul was assigned to serve the various Gentile missions which he established wherever he went, whereas other apostles had different territorial assignments, whether among the Jews (James the Greater was assigned to Jerusalem), Scythia (Ukraine, assigned to Andrew), Iraq (assigned to Jude Thaddeus) or other ethnic peoples.

In scripture, there are two other levels of clergy mentioned: Presbyters (literally, Elders; the name eventually morphed into the English word Priests) and Deacons (Helpers). The former were designated, as seen in Paul’s letters, as the primary representatives of the bishop within his jurisdictional territory, able to celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy and perform most other clerical functions, with the exception of ordaining others. The latter served the Church in a mostly non-clerical (social) capacity, but sometimes had certain clerical duties assigned, such as preaching, baptizing, marrying and presiding at funerals. These assignments are outlined in documents of the immediate post-apostolic period, such as in the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Thus it is that we have five basic classes of people in the Church: bishops, priests, deacons, laity (non-clergy), and religious (clergy or non-clergy, but set apart specifically for the Lord). Each class has its duties. Some of the duties of the clergy and religious have been outlined above. The task of the laity is to fulfill the vocation of Adam given in Genesis 2:15; he is the steward of God’s creation and of human society.

Authority in the Catholic Church begins not with the bishops, but with Jesus Christ and God’s divine revelation in him. This revelation is the reason for the Church’s existence as the People of God, just as the Israelites (Jews) were the People of God before the incarnation of the Son of God, whom they referred to as Messiah (Christ, the Anointed One — because anointing with a special oil was the symbolic way used by the peoples of the middle east to designate their civil and religious leaders; thus Elisha was anointed by the prophet Elijah to serve as his assistant and eventual successor, and the prophet Samuel anointed the shepherd youth David to succeed Saul as king of Israel). Catholics believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, is the definitive revelation of the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and that there will be no further revelation until the end of time. This does not preclude what are known as “private revelations,” which reveal nothing new for the deposit of faith. The purpose of these revelations is to call certain already revealed truths to mind for the People of God.

It is the duty of bishops to preserve this deposit of faith (what has already been definitively revealed) so that it will be fully and authentically available to all of the People of God throughout the world until the end of time. There are strict rules as to how this must be done; these rules are, in great part, embodied in canon law (defined above).

The bishops govern individually within their respective jurisdictions, as assigned by the chief (or universal) bishop, who is known as the Pope or the Holy Father. Bishops also govern collectively through their participation in the one faith and in conferences and councils, again under the specific guidance of the pope.

Each bishop, according to the duties assigned him, has a body of priests and deacons to help him in administering the faith and the sacraments to those under his jurisdiction. A priest may be a pastor (head priest) or a curate (assistant priest) in a parish, or may be assigned other duties as the bishop sees fit. Once again, priests and deacons, like the bishops, are governed by strict rules as to what they can and cannot do, the limits of their authority, etc. Every priest, for example, must be incardinated (assigned) to a bishop; priests are not allowed to act as free agents, just as bishops are not allowed to act as free agents, but are under assignment by the pope.

The pope, far from being a despot, is far too encumbered by duty and obligation to have a life of his own; he is truly the servant of the servants of God. After all, he has over one billion people looking to him for leadership and example. For this reason, the vast majority of popes have been exemplary men of God, righteous and God-fearing in every way. The few who have led wicked lives have simply betrayed their charge.

The defining of doctrines is shared between the bishops as a whole and the pope. All together must participate in the process, even if it is the pope alone who makes the announcement. Nothing can be defined except that which has already been revealed, at least implicitly, from the time of the apostles. Innovations are never permitted. Also, a thorough check must be made to assure that no contradiction of other doctrines is possible. Therefore, the frequent charge by outsiders that the pope or the bishops just make up something and call it a new doctrine which must be believed by all is simply impossible from the standpoint of the rules.

The end result is that the one faith has been preserved intact from the beginning of Christianity on the day of Pentecost. Understanding and expression of various points may grow and be filled out, but the doctrine is never changed. And the proof of this can be seen in the continuing doctrinal agreement after a thousand years of separation between the Catholic Church and the several Orthodox Churches.

Other Considerations: Vatican City State is a secular entity, a tiny principality in the middle of the city of Rome, Italy. Its purpose is to provide neutral ground as the seat of the Catholic Church, a residence for the pope and his assistants. It is not directly an arm of the Catholic Church, but merely a convenient tool to allow the Church to interact with governments around the world, either directly or through the United Nations Organization, of which it is a member — the only non-voting member, and that by choice rather than being forced into submission. Its purpose is to promote human solidarity, peace and welfare worldwide and to protect the lives and well-being of the Catholic faithful, wherever they may live.

One of the necessities of administering a Church of one billion members is a corps of assistants and counselors. The President of the United States has his: the presidential cabinet, the heads of the various departments and agencies of the governmental organization. And the pope has his: the curia of cardinals. A cardinal is equivalent to a governmental secretary, an official who takes care of a specific function of the organization. Thus we have the current advisors and assistants in the following dicasteries or departments of the pope’s government:

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Congregation for the Oriental Churches
   (those of rites other than the Latin Rite)
Congregation for Divine Worship
   and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Congregation for Bishops
Congregation for Catholic Education
   (for Seminaries and Institutes of Study)
Congregation for the Causes of Saints
Congregation for the Clergy
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life
   and Societies of Apostolic Life

There are additional departments, such as the Vatican Bank and the Department of State, that are not part of the Church proper, but rather are for the governance of the Vatican City State.

The pope has authority to create, rearrange or disband the various curial congregations as the need arises, for the overall good of the Church and for ease of governance. There are, for instance, task forces under each congregation to examine and act on specific issues. For instance, under the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, there is a Secretariat for Christian Unity. This secretariat has responsibility for maintaining healthy relations with other Christian groups with the ultimate intention of total reunification of all Christians in a single Church, as Christ himself specifically prayed for in John 17:11. He also has the authority to assign the various duties of governance among the congregations as he sees fit.

The heads of the various Vatican congregations are called Cardinals. The name refers to the traditional red hats these officials wear. A cardinal may be a bishop, a priest, a deacon, or even (legally, at least) a layman or woman. But the vast majority of cardinals are bishops who are named to the post by the current reigning pope.

Life as a lay Catholic is, on the whole, much more free than is sometimes depicted by outsiders. The Church has not defined or ruled on all that many points of doctrine or discipline, outside of the points of governance that those in authority have to adhere to, so in reality it is the higher-ups who have the greater burden. Obedience is insisted on for all, even the pope; it is not just a “top down” flow of command, for bishops and pope are subject to the Lord himself, and are charged with faithful fulfillment of their duties as part of the requirement for their own salvation. “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).


TOPICS: Catholic; History; Religion & Culture; Worship
KEYWORDS: 1tim47; catholic

1 posted on 12/03/2009 1:53:54 PM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; markomalley; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; ...

This is one of the best descriptions and explanations I have ever read. Hope you find it informative as well.


2 posted on 12/03/2009 1:55:24 PM PST by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone" - Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer

Bookmarking, thanks


3 posted on 12/03/2009 2:01:04 PM PST by Lorica
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To: markomalley; wagglebee

Ping!


4 posted on 12/03/2009 2:02:54 PM PST by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone" - Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer
Bill O’Reilly should read this but he is too busy writing books about wayward priests.
5 posted on 12/03/2009 2:04:48 PM PST by GregB (According to The Constitution Sarah Palin is eligible to be President!)
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To: GregB

Thank you so much!


6 posted on 12/03/2009 2:08:25 PM PST by BenKenobi
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To: NYer

Succinct and useful for instruction. Thanks for your work.


7 posted on 12/03/2009 2:18:43 PM PST by arthurus ("If you don't believe in shooting abortionists, don't shoot an abortionist." -Ann C.)
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To: NYer

This is an excellent outline.


8 posted on 12/03/2009 2:20:40 PM PST by ThanhPhero (di tray hoi den La Vang)
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To: NYer

Thank you! I am going to pass this on as supplemental material to the candidates in our RCIA class.


9 posted on 12/03/2009 2:22:43 PM PST by Ol' Sox
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To: NYer

**Authority in the Catholic Church begins not with the bishops, but with Jesus Christ and God’s divine revelation in him. This revelation is the reason for the Church’s existence as the People of God, just as the Israelites (Jews) were the People of God before the incarnation of the Son of God, whom they referred to as Messiah (Christ, the Anointed One — because anointing with a special oil was the symbolic way used by the peoples of the middle east to designate their civil and religious leaders;**

Excellent post. Thank you!


10 posted on 12/03/2009 2:53:20 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: NYer

It is very good.


11 posted on 12/03/2009 2:58:55 PM PST by steve86 (Acerbic by nature, not nurture)
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To: Ol' Sox
You should encourage the candidates in your RCIA class to attend mass at some of the other liturgical traditions; they are much more authentic and true to the faith than is the heavily protestantized Novus Ordo.
12 posted on 12/03/2009 3:01:45 PM PST by steve86 (Acerbic by nature, not nurture)
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To: Ol' Sox
Thank you! I am going to pass this on as supplemental material to the candidates in our RCIA class.

An excellent idea! Hopefully others will borrow your suggestion and apply it to their classes as well.

BTW - I maintain a Catholic Ping List for articles on current news and topics of interest to Catholics. Please freepmail me if you would like to be added to the list.

13 posted on 12/03/2009 3:08:39 PM PST by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone" - Benedict XVI)
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To: steve86; Ol' Sox
You should encourage the candidates in your RCIA class to attend mass at some of the other liturgical traditions; they are much more authentic and true to the faith than is the heavily protestantized Novus Ordo.

There is great merit in this suggestion. I am a cradle Catholic but, except for one event in HS when an Armenian Catholic priest celebrated that liturgy for us, I do not recall any other time in my life when mention was made of the other 22 churches that make up the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In fact, I am a Roman Catholic, practicing my faith in a Maronite (Antiochene) Catholic Church. "Same faith, different flavor". As more and more RC Churches are being closed in this diocese, our small parish continues to thrive. Catholic visitors are often very confused by the liturgy and think they are in an Orthodox Church.

14 posted on 12/03/2009 3:15:47 PM PST by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone" - Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer

As a somewhat lapsed but still church-going Catholic(and I went to Catholic schools in the ‘60s) I’ve never had any use for the Vatican. Never needed it to know the miracle of faith , the love of Christ and the power of The Holy Spirit. Incidently the Vatican owes its existence to Benito Mussolini. He gave them their status as a state in exchange for making Catholicism the official religion of Italy.


15 posted on 12/03/2009 3:22:58 PM PST by JoeMac (''Dats all I can stands 'cuz I can't stands no more''. Popeye The Sailorman)
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To: JoeMac

Your point is?


16 posted on 12/03/2009 3:39:29 PM PST by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone" - Benedict XVI)
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To: NYer; JoeMac

I believe the point is that God works in mysterious ways. :)


17 posted on 12/03/2009 3:43:25 PM PST by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: BenKenobi
I starting his book A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity and there is a chapter where he start on the Priest scandal involving children and went on to say it would talk about it later.I gave the book back to the person who lent it to me. You could do a book and the abuse of children and it cuts across all people not just a group of people.
18 posted on 12/03/2009 4:19:50 PM PST by GregB (According to The Constitution Sarah Palin is eligible to be President!)
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To: JoeMac
Incidently the Vatican owes its existence to Benito Mussolini. He gave them their status as a state in exchange for making Catholicism the official religion of Italy.

That's revisionist history on the order of the famous line from "1066 and All That", about how "in 1536, the Pope and his minions left the Church of England". The Vatican was part of a independent state, ruled by the Pope, long before Mussolini was a glimmer in his daddy's eye.

Italy was united as a nation in 1871. Prior to that time, the Pope ruled the central part of the Italian penninsula -- an area much, much larger than the current Vatican City -- as its secular ruler. The nation was called the "Papal States".

After the Pope's armies were defeated by the Italians under Garibaldi, the Pope retreated to the Vatican and refused to recognize the new Italian state. (The term "prisoner of the Vatican" was used to describe the Popes of that era.)

What the concordat with Mussolini in 1929 did was simply to end that irregular situation. The Popes accepted the conquest of most of their traditional territory by the Italians. The Italians accepted the independent existence of Vatican City as a tiny remnant of the Papal States.

19 posted on 12/03/2009 5:26:36 PM PST by Campion ("President Barack Obama" is an anagram for "An Arab-backed Imposter")
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To: NYer

I think the majority of U.S. Catholics think they’re “just supposed to” assist at the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite and really nothing else (although some are aware of the Extraordinary Form if it is available in their area). Back a few years ago when when a Byzantine visiting priest celebrated mass here once a month I was possibly the only person to attend who didn’t already have some ethnic or other link with that rite. What a wonderful celebration of Catholic worship that others missed! Were only that priest to resume his visits as some of us Extraordinary Form people would have somewhere to go when the Latin Mass is not offered.


20 posted on 12/03/2009 5:26:45 PM PST by steve86 (Acerbic by nature, not nurture)
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To: NYer

Copied and pasted into my little folder on the Church. Very useful. Thank you!


21 posted on 12/03/2009 5:54:31 PM PST by Melian ("Here's the moral of the story: Catholic witness has a cost." ~Archbishop Charles Chaput)
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To: Campion

Ah, no, thats a fact.


22 posted on 12/03/2009 6:01:58 PM PST by JoeMac (''Dats all I can stands 'cuz I can't stands no more''. Popeye The Sailorman)
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To: NYer
I've added what I understand to be the dates that each of the churches joined the Catholic Church:

Alexandrian liturgical tradition:
... Coptic Catholic Church (Egypt; patriarchate) ..(1741)
... Ethiopian Catholic Church (Ethiopia) ..(1846)

Antiochian liturgical tradition
... Maronite Church (Lebanon, diaspora; patriarchate)..(1182)
... Syriac (Syrian) Catholic Church ..(1781)
...... (Lebanon, Syria, diaspora; patriarchate)
... Syro-Malankara Catholic Church ..(1930)
...... (India; major archbishopric)

Armenian liturgical tradition
... Armenian Catholic Church..(1742)
...... (Armenia, diaspora; patriarchate)

Chaldean or East Syrian liturgical tradition
... Chaldean Catholic Church (Iraq, diaspora; patriarchate) ..(1692)
... Syro-Malabar Church (India; major archbishopric) ..(1599)

Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) liturgical tradition
... Albanian Greek Catholic Church (Albania)..(1628)
... Belarusian Greek Catholic Church (Belarus) ..(1596)
... Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church (Bulgaria) ..(1861)
... Byzantine Church of the Eparchy of Krizevci ..(1611)
...... (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro)
... Greek Byzantine Catholic Church (Greece, Turkey) ..(1829)
... Hungarian Greek Catholic Church (Hungary) ..(1646)
... Italo-Albanian Catholic Church (Italy) ..(same as Roman)
... Macedonian Greek Catholic Church (Macedonia) ..(1918)
... Melkite Greek Catholic Church ..(1726)
...... (Syria, diaspora; patriarchate)
... Romanian Church United with Rome ..(1697)
...... (Romania; major archbishopric)
... Russian Catholic Church (Russia, China) ..(1905)
... Ruthenian Catholic Church (Ukraine, diaspora) ..(1646)
... Slovak Greek Catholic Church (Slovakia, Canada)..(1646)
... Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church ..(1595)
...... (Ukraine, diaspora; major archbishopric)

23 posted on 12/03/2009 8:41:39 PM PST by BlessedBeGod (New Wizard of Oz: Pelosi as the Wicked Witch of the West & Michelle as the Wicked Witch of the East.)
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To: JoeMac

Campion’s account is correct. Yours is not.


24 posted on 12/03/2009 8:45:10 PM PST by Petronski (Global warming is indeed man-made: it was created by man-made manipulation of the data.)
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To: BlessedBeGod
Thank you for the post. Interesting dates; where did you obtain these?

Maronite Church (Lebanon, diaspora; patriarchate)..(1182)

This one is definitely wrong. The founding of the Maronite Church is due to three historical events: the life and deeds of St. Maron, the establishment of the Monastery of Bet Maroun ("the House of Maron"), and the organization of the Maronite Partriarchate. Based on the writings of Theodoret and Chrysostom, we usually date St. Maron's life from 350-410 (although some have placed his death as late as 423). In a letter addressed to Pope Hormisdas in 517, monks of St. Maron address the Pope as the one occupying the Chair of St. Peter, and inform him that they are undergoing many sufferings and attacks patiently. You can read the extensive history of the Maronite Catholic Church here.

25 posted on 12/04/2009 3:31:46 AM PST by NYer ("One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone" - Benedict XVI)
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To: Petronski

I’ve stopped in too many Piazzi XX Settembre in Rome, Umbria and the Marche to disagree. I don’t recall any Vie XI Febbraio. Republican triumphalism.


26 posted on 12/04/2009 7:39:57 AM PST by Oratam
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