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The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious body in the world, and has the oldest continuous existence. Officially, the Catholic Church traces its beginnings from the moment that Christ selected the Apostle Peter as the rock upon which His Church would be built. Although the basic liturgy, doctrine and organization of the Roman Catholic Church is standard, there is some diversity at the local level. Catholic devotion is largely focused on the praying of the rosary and the veneration of Mary as the mother of Jesus. Parishes offer a variety of groups and programs for greater devotions and personal piety. On social issues, such as abortion and gay rights, most Catholics tend to be liberal while the official positon of the Church is conservative on these issues, opposing both. The structure of the Roman Catholic Church is hierarchical, but Vatican II encouraged more lay participation in parishes. At the head of the Church is the Pope, who is also the Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ on earth. The Pope's authority is viewed as supreme in all matters of faith and practice. Second in the hierarchy is the College of Cardinals. Although the Church once appointed laypeople as cardinals, the office has been limited to priests since 1918. When a Pope dies, cardinals elect the successor and hold the authority of the Church in the meantime. The administrative body of the Church is the Roman Curia. An archbishop is in charge of an archdiocese. Bishops are appointed by Rome, and are the ruling authorities in the dioceses. Parish priests are responsible to the bishop, and holds the authority to celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments. Priests are educated in theological seminaries. The church clergy may also include deacons, many of whom are married. They have the authority to preach, baptize, distribute Holy Communion, and officiate at weddings. Typically, deacons hold secular jobs and work in the ministry on weekends and evenings.


Traditionalist Catholic



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