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Catholic Dictionary




Universality of the Church founded by Christ. In the Nicene Creed the Church is said to be "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic." The Church's catholicity is first of all spatial, on account of her actual extension over the whole earth. This kind of catholicity may be actual, when the Church is actually extended everywhere; it is virtual in that Christ's intention was to have the Church present among all peoples. Actual catholicity is said to be physical if it embodies all persons of the earth, even if not literally every individual. It is moral if it includes only the greater part of them. Although moral catholicity suffices for the Church's universality, yet it is Christ's will that the Church constantly endeavor to extend. The ideal toward which the Church strives is physical catholicity. A common position among apologists holds that moral catholicity demands that the Church extend over the whole earth simultaneously. Thus after a certain time of development, moral catholicity will be realized and from that time on is to be perpetuated.