Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
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Its original meaning of "general" or "universal" has taken on a variety of applications in the course of Christian history. First used by St. Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 35-107) (Letter to the Smyrneans, 8, 2), it is now mainly used in five recognized senses: 1. the Catholic Church as distinct from Christian ecclesiastical bodies that do not recognize the papal primacy; 2. the Catholic faith as the belief of the universal body of the faithful, namely that which is believed "everywhere, always, and by all" (Vincentian Canon); 3. orthodoxy as distinguished from what is heretical or schismatical; 4. the undivided Church before the Eastern Schism of 1054; thereafter the Eastern Church has called itself orthodox, in contrast with those Christian bodies which did not accept the definitions of Ephesus and Chalcedon on the divinity of Christ.
In general, today the term "Catholic" refers to those Christians who profess a continued tradition of faith and worship and who hold to the Apostolic succession of bishops and priests since the time of Christ. (Etym. Latin catholicus, universal; Greek katholikos, universal.)