History of Catholicism

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Catholicism is one of the oldest religious institutions in the world and has played a prominent role in Western history and culture. This resource page tends to focus on the historical impact of Catholicism within the Western context.  The Global Catholicism page explores the expanding global impact of this religious tradition. The early and medieval developments of Christianity are positioned as chapters in the “history of Catholicism.” However, arguably these developments shape all major trajectories of Western Christianity including Catholicism.  The division of Western Christendom in the 16th century presents a complex, and often polemically charged, problem for the interpretation of Christian history.

                      1. GENERAL RESOURCES
                      2. EARLY CHRISTIAN PERIOD
                      3. MEDIEVAL PERIOD
                      4. EARLY MODERN CATHOLICISM
                      5. MODERN CATHOLICISM
                      6. MODERN ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS

1. General Resources


2. Early Christian Period

3. Medieval Period

4. Early Modern Catholicism

5. Modern Catholicism (19th and 20th centuries)

Vatican I (Documents)  (1869-1870): Council convoked by Pope Pius IX. Perhaps best-known for its proclamation of the doctrine of papal infallibility.

Vatican II (Documents)  (1962-65)  Council convoked by Pope John XXIII. The council addressed a wide range of concerns.  However, it is arguably best-known for its exploration of relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world.

Modern Papal History:  The Vatican sites contain complete lists of encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, decrees under various papacies

Church-State Concordats: Concordats are formal treaties between the Vatican and various nation states.

6. Modern Ecclesial Movements: 

Ecclesial movements are communal movements or associations within contemporary Catholicism that are primarily composed of laity, dedicated to a living Catholic faith within a community of lay and religious persons committed to formation, discipleship and a common mission or outreach.  Movements often define their unique charism in relation to a specific founder.  For movements that have international recognition by the Vatican see: International Associations of the Faithful. Below is a selective list of major ecclesial movements:

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