Nicolas Poussin - Jesus Heals the Blind Man, The Louvre, Paris, ~1640.


The following is a capsule summary of the top 20 events in the History of Christianity, events which shaped the Church itself, Western Christian civilization, and the modern world. The Church transcends the contingent facts of this world, yet at the same time is deeply connected to historical events, for its very foundation is rooted in the centrality of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Christian view of history is a vision and interpretation of time in terms of eternity and of human events in the light of divine revelation. Christianity is the dynamic element in the history of our Western culture. The life of Jesus Christ, the birth of Christianity, and the Apostolic Age (the first 100 years) speak for themselves, for great historical movements do not spring from non-events. 1-9

This capsule summary is offered as a study guide of Church History. The links and references provide a more in-depth discussion of the subject.


The point of origin and central figure of the Christian faith is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Son of God. Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:18 - 2:23), in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Scriptures, such as Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:2. To avoid Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents, Joseph took flight to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus. Upon their return, they settled in Nazareth, where Jesus grew and spent his childhood and early years as an adult. Hardly anything is known of his life at that time except that at age 12 he was found teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41).

The life of Jesus is best described in the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, while his teachings are presented by all the writers of the New Testament of the Bible.

Jesus began his public ministry when he was about thirty years old. He spent much of his ministry in Galilee, preaching in Capernaum (John 6:59), Bethsaida (Mark 8:22), Magdala (Matthew 15:39), and other towns along the Sea of Galilee. He took many journeys to surrounding areas, such as Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13), Cana (John 2:1-11), and Tyre (Mark 7:24-30). When his hour came near, he headed toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

Jesus often taught in parables, an ancient Eastern literary genre. A parable is a narrative that presents comparisons to teach an important moral lesson. The Parables are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Some parables are common to all three Synoptic Gospels, such as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15). Matthew relates ten Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven, seven of which occur in Chapter 13 and are central to his Gospel. Examples of parables unique to each Gospel are the Weeds Among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16); the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29); the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37); the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31); and the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14) .

Jesus performs many miracles, demonstrating his power over nature and spirits, and thus confirming that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). In a physical miracle, such as making the blind see, or walking on water, or calming a storm, the laws of the universe are suspended through divine intervention. In a moral miracle, such as forgiveness of sins or driving out demons, the blessing of Jesus purifies the spirit. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus performed a physical miracle, healing the paralytic, to demonstrate a moral miracle, the forgiveness of sins. Only two miracles appear in all four Gospels - his own Resurrection, the greatest miracle of them all; and the feeding of the 5000 through the multiplication of the loaves, found in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-14. The Gospel of John enumerates seven miracles of Jesus, as well as records three visits of Christ to his disciples following his Resurrection. The Gospels record twelve miracles in Capernaum, more than anywhere else in the Holy Land.

His public ministry lasted about three years, prior to his Passion, Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.

Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of salvation history, and the mediator and fullness of all revelation. We refer you to our home page, Jesus Christ our Savior, for links to the Beatitudes, his life and teachings, and the Seven Words on the Cross.
1, 3, 5-7, 9-14

Map of The Holy Land in the Time of Jesus Christ.


Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,
set apart for the gospel of God
which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,
the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness
by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about
the obedience of faith
for the sake of his name among all the nations
St. Paul to the Romans 1:1-5

Jesus named the Apostles, often called the Twelve (John 6:67), to be with him and carry on his ministry: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Nathaniel Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, Jude Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:14-19, Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:13). Following the Resurrection, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:26).

Prior to his Ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). With the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Apostles were strengthened to spread the word of Christ Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles describes the infancy period of the Church, a time following the Pentecost when Christianity spread like wildfire.

Heeding the message of Jesus to Go therefore and teach all nations [Matthew 28:19-20], the Apostles traveled to all parts of the known world to spread Christianity. The Conversion of Paul, who persecuted Christians, occurred when he was struck from his horse on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). The Acts of the Apostles then primarily describes the missionary efforts of Peter and Paul.

Peter and Paul first went to Antioch [Galatians 2:11]. Peter then went to Rome, while Paul made three missionary journeys from Antioch [Acts], visiting many places, as far round as Illyricum [Romans 15:19]. The Acts of the Apostles concludes with Paul's fourth missionary journey to Malta and Rome as a prisoner in chains.

Saints Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome during the persecution of Christians 64-68 AD by Nero, Emperor of the Roman Empire. St. Peter was crucified head down and St. Paul was beheaded, both probably in the years 67-68 AD. In fact, all of the Apostles were martyred for having preached the Gospel, except for John the Evangelist.

Mark, who became the Gospel writer, traveled with Paul and Barnabas, and then went to Rome to help Peter; but it was Peter who was especially fond of him, calling Mark his son [1 Peter 5:13]. Mark later founded Christianity in Alexandria.

Tradition has it that Matthew as well went to Antioch and wrote his Gospel there; John the Evangelist went to Ephesus and later was exiled to the island of Patmos. Andrew crossed Asia Minor to Byzantium, and Philip preached the Gospel in Phrygia, Asia Minor and was martyred in Hierapolis. Nathaniel Bartholomew and Jude Thaddeus brought the faith to Armenia; and Thomas traveled through Chaldea all the way to India!

There were two Apostles named James. James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, is believed to have preached in Spain; he is the only Apostle to have his martyrdom recorded in the Bible (Acts 12:1-2). James, the son of Alpheus, was named the author of the Epistle of James by St. Jerome, the father of Biblical scholars. Nothing definite is known about Simon the Zealot or Matthias.
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Map of Paul's Missionary Journeys.


St. Ignatius of Antioch was Bishop of Syria about 75-110 AD, and is one of the Apostolic Fathers of the Christian Church. He followed St. Peter and Evodius as the third Bishop of Antioch, and served just after the time Matthew wrote his Gospel there. Tradition has it St. Peter, on his trip to Antioch to meet St. Paul [Galatians 2:11], designated Ignatius to become Bishop. St. Ignatius was the first to use the term Catholic Church in his Letter to the Smryneans [8:2]:

"Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present;
just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."

The word catholic means universal and refers to the universal Church of Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch would not worship the Emperor Trajan, and thus was placed in chains and ordered to Rome to be thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum. He wrote 7 letters to the local Churches on the way to Rome. He wrote 4 letters from the town of Smyrna, to the Churches in Ephesus, Tralles, Magnesia, and Rome. He wrote to the Church of Philadelphia and Smyrna from the town of Troas, as well as to Polycarp, then the young Bishop of Smyrna.

The occasion of his trip proved to be a unifying event for all of the early Churches on the way to Rome. He established the hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon for the early Churches, the pattern which still exists today. His Letter to the Romans is perhaps one of most moving letters written by a Christian martyr. It was his exceptional courage and his love of Jesus that has made him an outstanding model and given him a permanent place in the history of early Christianity.
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The Monastic Orders have been a premium influence on the formation of Christian culture. For not only have they been islands of asceticism and holiness that have served as ideals to a secular world, but also they have provided many if not most of the religious leaders within each historic age, especially during times of renewal and reform.

The practice of leaving the ambitions of daily life and retreating to the solitude of the desert was seen throughout Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, St. John the Baptist (Mark 1:4) an early example. Three monks of the East that had a profound impact on the life of the Church include St. Antony of the Desert, St. Pachomius, and St. Maron.

The father of Christian monasticism is St. Antony of the Desert (251-356), the first of the Desert Fathers. Most of what is known about him comes from his biography written by St. Athanasius. He was born to Christian parents in 251 in Coma, a village near Memphis, Egypt. When his parents died, he was left with considerable wealth and took care of his younger sister until she reached the age of 20. Antony took to heart the words of Christ to the rich young man, " Go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (Matthew 19:21). After placing his sister in a convent, he headed across the Nile to a mountain near Pispir to live a life of solitude, prayer, and poverty . The word monos is the Greek word for alone. Soon many gathered around him to imitate his life, living as hermits in nearby caves in the mountain, and in 305 he emerged from solitude to teach his followers the way of the ascetic. He then moved further into the desert by Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea, where a second group of hermits and later a monastery formed. He lived there for 45 years until his death in 356.

St. Pachomius (292-348) of Egypt was a convert to Christianity who settled in the desert of Tabennisi along the banks of the Nile, and in 320 built a monastery to house an entire community. He founded nine monasteries that housed 3000 monks before his death, and is considered the founder of communal monasticism.

St. Maron (350-410), a contemporary of St. John Chrysostom, was a monk in the fourth century who left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead a life of holiness and prayer. As he was given the gift of healing, his life of solitude was short-lived, and soon he had many followers that adopted his monastic way. Following the death of St. Maron in 410, his disciples built a monastery in his memory, which would form the nucleus of the Eastern Catholic Maronite Church of Lebanon.
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Christians were severely persecuted throughout three centuries of the Roman Empire, especially at the hands of Nero (64 AD), Trajan (98-117), right up to Diocletian (284-305). But their powerful witness through martyrdom for Jesus Christ only served to spread Christianity!

Early Christianity, in spite of persecution, fluorished primarily in five centers: Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Byzantium. The five centers became Patriarchates with the formal recognition of Christianity. The Eastern Catholic Churches originate from the three Eastern centers of Antioch, Alexandria, and Byzantium, while the Western Latin rite originates from Rome.

Constantine became Emperor of the West in 306. As he was in Gaul at the time, he still had to capture Rome where Maxentius held sway. Prior to battle, he had a dream or vision of Christ on the Cross, a cross of light, and was instructed to ornament the shields of his soldiers with the Savior's monogram - the Greek letters chi and rho. He defeated Maxentius at the Battle at Milvian Bridge over the River Tiber and became the sole Roman Emperor in 312, attributing his victory to the Christian God.

Welcome relief from Christian martyrdom came with the Edict of Milan in 313, through which Constantine and Licinius, the Emperor of the East, granted Christianity complete religious tolerance. His defeat of Licinius in 324 made him sole Emperor of the entire Roman Empire, and he moved the seat of the Empire to Byzantium, and renamed it Constantinople.

Constantine considered himself Christian, and did much to protect and support Christianity. Sunday as the Lord's Day was made a day of rest, and December 25 was celebrated as the birthday of Jesus. He restored property that once belonged to Christians. Often at the request of his mother Helena, he built exquisitely beautiful churches, particularly the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Church of St. Peter in Rome. He responded to the Arian crisis by calling the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325. In keeping with the custom of the time, he was baptized just prior to his death in 337.

Because he saw himself as both head of state and father of the Christian Churches, he is considered the architect of the Middle Ages as founder of Christendom.
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The development of the Apostles' Creed began from Apostolic times, as a profession of faith during the rite of Baptism, recalling the instruction of Jesus to his disciples to "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19-20]." In accordance with this, the person about to be baptized was asked three questions: "Do you believe in God the Father Almighty...? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his Son our Lord...? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church...?" The person being baptized would answer, Credo or I Believe.

This three-part profession of faith was gradually developped in the early Christian Church, often in response to heresies, as a defense of the faith. A continuous text resembling our present form of the Apostles' Creed has been cited by the Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian.

The Council of Nicaea in 325 addressed the Arian controversy. An Alexandrian priest named Arius claimed that Jesus the Son of God was created by the Father, referring primarily to the passage on Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31. The Council declared that the Son was of the same substance - homoousios - with the Father, and formed the Nicene Creed.

However, the battle was not yet over. Athanasius, the champion of orthodoxy, was exiled 5 times by Arian bishops. He argued his case from the theology of Christian redemption, that Christ had to be divine for our own salvation and redemption. Then controversy arose over the Holy Spirit. Joined finally by the Cappodochian Fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa) who supported homoousios for the Holy Spirit as well, the Nicene Creed was expanded to quote John 15:26, the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father, at the Council of Constantinople in 381. The final version was known as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, or We Believe.

The two Creeds are important to the Tradition of the Catholic Church.
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St. Augustine (354-430 AD) was the greatest of the Latin Fathers of the Church and a foundational figure to Western Christian civilization. He was born in Tagaste, near Hippo, in north Africa. His mother St. Monica was a devout Christian and taught him the faith. However, when he studied rhetoric in Carthage, he began living a worldly life. At first he was attracted to the dualistic heresy of the Persian Mani, in which matter was evil, and only the spirit was good, but soon became disillusioned with Manichaeism.

He obtained a post as master of rhetoric in Milan, accompanied by an unnamed woman and child Adeodatus, born out of wedlock in 372. The woman soon left him and their son and returned to Africa, and Monica joined them in Milan. Under the incessant prayers of his mother, and the influence of St. Ambrose of Milan, he eventually converted at age 32 in 386 AD. Perhaps the most eloquent examination of conscience is found in The Confessions of St. Augustine, where he describes his moment of conversion in the garden reading St. Paul to the Romans 13:14, But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the lusts of the flesh.

Both his mother and son died soon afterwards, and he returned in 388 to his home in Tagaste. He was ordained a priest in 391, and became Bishop of Hippo in 395. Augustine was people-oriented and preached every day. Many of his followers lived an ascetic life. He had a great love for Christ, and believed that our goal on earth was God through Christ himself, "to see his face evermore." Our goal in life should be to please God, not man.

Augustine was one of the most prolific writers in history, and his writings show an evolution of thought, and at times a reversal of ideas, as seen in his Retractations. His Scriptural essays on Genesis and Psalms remain starting points for modern Biblical scholars. Perhaps most debated are his views on predestination.

In his book Grace and Free Will, he explains simply why he believes in free will. If there was no free will, then why did God give us the ten commandments, and why did he tell us to love our neighbor?

St. Augustine is the doctor of grace. In his Tractates on the Gospel of John (81), he quotes Jesus the Gospel of John 15:5, I am the vine, you are the branches. Augustine pointed out that "Jesus did not say, 'without me, you can do a little. No, he said, without me you can do nothing!'"

Augustine's arguments against the Pelagian heresy set the doctrine of grace for the Catholic Church to the present day. Pelagius thought that man could achieve virtue and salvation on his own without the gift of grace, that Jesus was simply a model of virtue. This of course attacks the Redemption of man by Christ! If man could make it on his own, then the Cross of Christ becomes meaningless! But Augustine saw man's utter sinfulness, and the wonderful blessing and efficacy of grace, disposing man to accept his moment of grace, and hopefully ultimate salvation. Grace raises us to a life of virtue, and is the ground of human freedom. "When I choose rightly I am free." The Council of Orange enshrined Augustine's teaching on grace and free will in 529 AD.

Perhaps one of his greatest works was The City of God, which took 13 years to complete, from 413 to 426. History can only be understood as a continued struggle between two cities, the City of God, comprised of those men who pursue God, and the City of Man, composed of those who pursue earthly goods and pleasures. He refers to the two sons of Adam, Cain and Abel, as the earliest examples of the two types of man. The Roman empire was an example of the city of man (which had just been sacked by Alaric in 410, and was the occasion of the book).

St. Augustine was a living example of God's grace that transformed nature. He died August 28, 430, during the sack of Hippo by Geneseric and the Vandals, and August 28 is celebrated as his Feast Day in the liturgical calendar.


The written Word of God actually began with St. Paul, with the letters he wrote to the Christian communities he had established in his travels spreading the Word of Christ. His first two letters were to the Thessalonians in 51 AD.

The Gospel of St. Matthew, the most quoted of the four Gospels, is noted for identifying Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah foretold in the Old Testament, and may have been written about 80 AD. The concise narrative Gospel of St. Mark, the close disciple of St. Peter, may have been composed about 70 AD. It is believed that St. Luke, a disciple of St. Paul, completed his Gospel about 80-85 AD. The Gospel of St. John was completed before 100 AD.

The canon of the New Testament was formed within the early Christian community, the Church. The Tradition of the Church Fathers was important to the early Church, for they were the ones who had an important role in the process of the formation of the canon of the New Testament, as well in the interpretation of Scripture. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, first proposed a canon of the New Testament in his work Against the Heresies in 180 AD. Three Fathers of the Church - Athanasius of Alexandria in his Letter of 367, Jerome in Rome with the publication of his Latin New Testament in 384, and Augustine at the Council of Hippo in 393 - agreed that 27 Books were the inspired Word of God. The Canon of the New Testament of the Bible was confirmed at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD.
1, 3, 7, 22


And I say to you, thou art Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Gospel of Matthew 16:18

Pope Leo entered the Papacy at a difficult time. Alaric had sacked Rome in 410, and the Huns and the Visigoths were gaining strength. However the Pope proved to be a master statesman and history has deservedly accorded him the title of Pope Leo the Great.

One of his first actions in 441 was to bless the missionary efforts of St. Patrick and to ordain him as Bishop of Ireland.

A tension in Church leadership between Papal primacy and Collegiality of the Bishops was developing over theological questions. Rome was the place of martyrdom for Saints Peter and Paul, two great Apostles of the Church. The Bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter was generally given a leadership role, as seen with Clement of Rome, in his First Letter to the Corinthians in 96 AD. Rome's position as the capital of the Roman Empire was also supportive of a leadership role for the Bishop of Rome.

The Council of Ephesus in 431 supported Mary as Theotokos over the controversy of the nature of Christ, but the controversy between the Schools of Antioch and Alexandria raged on concerning the relation of Christ's human and divine natures. Leo made a study of the theological question and addressed a letter known as the Tome, a masterpiece of dogmatic theology and a synthesis of the two opposing schools. The Council of Chalcedon was called in 451 that ultimately supported Leo's stance that Christ had two natures, both Divine and human, without confusion, in one Person. Resolution of the controversy by Leo was important to the primacy of the Pope and Christian unity.

Just one year later (452), Attila and the Huns were threatening outside the walls of Rome. The legends surrounding this event are innumerable, but Pope Leo met Attila, who decided to call off the invasion! Later when Geneseric the Vandal invaded Rome in 455, Leo influenced him to spare the destruction of Rome.
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The fall of the Roman Empire to the barbarian invasions left European civilization in disarray, for the social structure under one ruler in Rome was destroyed. The preservation of culture and the conversion of the barbarians to Christianity was left to an unlikely group: the monastics of Europe. Their missionary efforts converted one tribe after another, so that eventually all of Europe was united in the worship of the one Christian God.

St. Patrick as Apostle to Ireland pioneered the founding of monasteries throughout Ireland. As the social unit in Ireland and much of Europe at the time was the tribe in the countryside, the monastery was the center of Church life and learning. The Irish monks that followed him converted much of northern Europe. St. Columba (521 -597) and his followers converted Scotland and much of northern England. The strict and austere St. Columban, also known as Columbanus (542-615), crossed over to Gaul and founded a number of monasteries in France and converted many of the Franks. His disciple the Irish monk St. Gall (550-645) became the disciple to Switzerland and founded the monastery of St. Gall in 612. St. Aidan served Northumbria in England by the North Sea and became Bishop of Lindisfarne. The lasting legacy of the Irish monks has been the present-day form of confession. In early times, penance was in public and severe, often lasting for years, such that Baptism was generally postponed until one's deathbed. The Irish monks began private confession and allowed one to repeat confession as necessary.

The monk St. Benedict (480-547) was born in Nursia of nobility but chose a life of solitude in Subiaco outside of Rome. Soon he moved nearby to build a monastery at Monte Cassino in 529 and there wrote the Rule of Benedict. Monte Cassino placed all of the monks in one monastery under an abbot. The guiding principle for the monastery was ora et labora, or pray and work. The monastery provided adequate food and a place to sleep and served as a center of conversion and learning. Known for its moderation, Monte Cassino and Benedict's rule became the standard for monasteries throughout Europe and the pattern for Western civilization.

The first monk to become Pope was St. Gregory the Great (540-604). Born to Roman nobility, Gregory at first pursued a political career and became Prefect of Rome. However he gave up position and wealth and retreated to his home to lead a monastic life. He was recalled to Rome and soon was elected Pope in 590 and served until his death in 604. A man of great energy, he is known for four historic achievements. His theological and spiritual writings shaped the thought of the Middle Ages; he made the Pope the de facto ruler of central Italy; his charisma strengthened the Papacy in the West; and he was dedicated to the conversion of England to Christianity. Gregory sent the Benedictine monk Augustine to England. The conversion of King Aethelbert of Kent led St. Augustine to be named the first Bishop of Canterbury. Soon English Benedictine monks were being sent to convert the rest of Europe, such as St. Wilfrid, a missionary to the Saxons and Friesland (part of Holland); St. Willibrord, named Bishop of the Netherlands in 695; and the English monk Winfrid, better known as St. Boniface, who evangelized Germany from 723-739 AD and is known as the Apostle to Germany.
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The Carolingian Empire began with Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian Franks. He stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe at the Battle of Tours and Poitiers in 732, and supported St. Boniface in his conversion of Germany.

His son Pepin and the Papacy formed an historic alliance. Pepin needed the blessing of the Pope in his seizure of leadership of Gaul from the Merovingians. Pope Stephen ll, besieged by the Lombards in Italy, was the first Pope to leave Italy and cross the Alps in 754. He named King Pepin Patrician of the Romans, and in turn Pepin swept into Italy and conquered the Lombards, securing the Papal states. Pepin died in 768 and divided his realm between his two sons, Carloman and Charles.

Charles took over all of Gaul upon the death of his brother in 771, and soon conquered most of mainland Europe. He was a vigorous leader and ruled until 814, and has been called Charles the Great or Charlemagne. Charlemagne was a strong supporter of Christianity. He instituted a school of learning in his palace at Aachen. In the Middle Ages there was in theory a division between temporal power and spiritual authority, but in practice one saw a strong Emperor take control of some spiritual affairs and a strong Pope take control of some affairs of state. Charlemagne, as Constantine, considered himself the leader of Christendom as political head of state and protector of the Church. Pope Leo lll crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day, 800, and this marked the formal alliance of the Carolingian Empire and the Papacy. The historian Christopher Dawson has called this the beginning of medieval Christendom.
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One of the most tragic events in Church history has been the Great Schism between the Roman Catholic Church in the West and the Byzantine Churches of the East, known as the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

While the Schism was formally declared July 16, 1054 and occurred by the mutual excommunication through an abrasive emissary of Pope Leo IX and the Byzantine Patriarch Michael Cerularius, the Schism evolved over centuries, and was sealed in 1204 with the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

On 11 May 330 Constantine renamed the Greek city of Byzantium in his honor, and Constantinople became the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor. While Church authority rested in Rome, the Patriarch of Constantinople had the ear of the Byzantine Emperor.

The five Patriarchates held seven Councils that defined theological beliefs on the Trinity and Jesus Christ, all of which were accepted by Rome and Constantinople. The Council of Ephesus in 432, which defined Mary as the mother of God, was rejected, however, by the Nestorians, a group that became the Assyrian Church of the East. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 declared that Jesus was one Person with two natures, Divine and human. The Armenians, Syrians, Coptics, and Ethiopians, who held the belief that Christ had one Divine nature, became known as the Monophysites, and formed the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The Byzantine Empire fluorished for hundreds of years, while the West was under constant attack by barbarian invasions. The Empire reached its greatest size under Emperor Justinian, the author of the Justinian Code of Law, who ruled from 527 to 565.

The language of Rome was Latin, but that of Constantinople Greek.

There was a difference in perception of Church authority between the East and West. Rome believed the Pontiff, as the representative of Peter, had supreme authority over all of Christianity, whereas the East saw the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and representative of Peter, as presiding with love in a sense of collegiality, as a first among equals.

This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque - and the Son - to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son. The Council of Toledo, Spain in 587, in an effort to combat Arianism, added the word filioque to the Creed. Charlemagne in 794 insisted on the addition of filioque to the Creed, so that the phrase read the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son (as said today in the West). Pope Leo lll at the time refused to allow the change and supported the original Creed; however the Papacy finally accepted the addition of filioque at the coronation of King Henry ll in 1014. The Eastern Churches claim that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is the common possession of the whole church and that any change must be done by an ecumenical Council.

The different perception of Papal authority, the filioque controversy, the iconoclast controversy, and other matters led to the formal Schism of 1054. Nearly all of the remaining Eastern Churches, except the Maronites and the Italo-Albanians, joined the Byzantine or Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople.
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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, present-day Jerusalem.


Undertake this journey for the remission of your sins,
with the assurance of the imperishable glory of the Kingdom of Heaven!

Pope Urban II, in one of history's most powerful speeches, launched 200 years of the Crusades at the Council of Clermont, France on November 27, 1095 with this impassioned plea. In a rare public session in an open field, he urged the knights and noblemen to win back the Holy Land, to face their sins, and called upon those present to save their souls and become Soldiers of Christ. Those who undertook the venture were to wear an emblem in the shape of a red cross on their body. And so derived the word Crusader, from the Latin word cruciare - to mark with a cross. By the time his speech ended, the captivated audience began shouting Deus le volt! - God wills it! The expression became the battle-cry of the crusades.

Why did Pope Urban II call for the recapture of the Holy Land? Three reasons are primarily given for the beginning of the Crusades: (1) to reclaim the Land of Christ and stop the Moslem invasion; (2) to heal the rift between Roman and Orthodox Christianity following the Schism of 1054; and (3) to marshal the energy of the constantly warring feudal lords and knights into the one cause of penitential warfare. One cannot but help observe that the effort restored Papal Primacy and Christendom.

Led by Bishop Adhemar de Puy, the only successful Crusade (of eight major efforts) was the First, when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem on July 14, 1099. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was once again in Christian hands. The four Crusader states of Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch, and Edessa were established. The effort lasted only 88 years, when Saladin recaptured Jerusalem October 2, 1187. Richard the Lionheart of England negotiated a settlement with Saladin during the Third Crusade whereby Christian pilgrims were given free access to Jerusalem.

The four Crusader states eventually collapsed, and with the surrender of Acre in 1291, the Christian presence in the Holy Land ended.
1, 5, 24, 25


The thirteenth century was the peak of the Medieval Age. It was the flowering of Christendom, a time of extraordinary intellectual activity, due to the introduction of Arabian, Hebrew, and Greek works into the Christian schools, and the rise of the University. A new form of religious order arose whose aim was to pursue the monastic ideals of poverty, renunciation, and self-sacrifice, but also, instead of withdrawing from the world, to maintain a presence and convert the world by example and preaching. They were known as friars and called the mendicant orders ( Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Augustinians, and the Servites), because of begging alms to support themselves.

St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was born to wealth. He loved adventure, but experienced conversion after joining the military. He returned home, and heard a voice saying to him, "Francis, go and rebuild my house; it is falling down." He adopted a life of poverty, and began to preach the Kingdom of Heaven. Francis loved creation (unlike the Cathari) and considered it good, for Christ himself took on flesh in the Incarnation. He loved all living creatures. St. Francis originated the Christmas manger scene. He founded the Franciscan order, and received approval from Rome in 1209. The Poor Clare Nuns began when St. Clare joined the Franciscans in 1212 in Assisi. In 1219 St. Francis risked his life in the Fifth Crusade by calling directly upon the Sultan of Egypt in an effort to convert him and bring peace. He received the stigmata of Christ in 1224, 2 years before his death in 1226.

St. Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) was born in Calaruega, Spain. On a journey through France he was confronted by the Albigensian heresy (as Manichaeism and the Cathari). As he came with a Bishop in richly dressed clothes on horses, he realized the people would not be impressed with his message. This led him to a life of poverty. He spent several years preaching in France in an attempt to convert the Albigensians. In 1208 in Prouille, France, he received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and began to spread devotion to the Rosary. Dominic was a man of peace and converted many through prayer, preaching, and his example of poverty. He founded the Order of Preachers in 1216 known as the Dominican Friars.

The universities in Europe began as guilds of scholars, which first attracted members of the clergy and were supported financially by the Church. The first two universities in Europe were founded in Bologna and Paris, and Oxford and Cambridge soon followed. Theology, law, and medicine were the fields of advanced study. The University of Paris was especially noted for studies in Theology. The age was the time of Scholasticism - of the schools, a method of learning that placed emphasis on reasoning. Important writers at the time were Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus, and his student Thomas Aquinas, who became the greatest theologian and philosopher of the age.

St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican priest who lived from 1225 to 1274. Born in Roccasecca, Italy to the Aquino family, he joined the Dominicans at the age of 18. He received his doctorate in theology and taught at the University of Paris during the height of Christendom.

One of the greatest contributions by Thomas was his incorporation of the philosophy of Aristotle into the theology of the Catholic Church. Thomas saw reason and faith as one and mutually supportive, and combined the Bible and Church Fathers and the reasoning of Aristotle into one unified system of understanding Christian revelation through faith enlightened by reason.

His most noted work was the Summa Theologica, a five-volume masterpiece. St. Thomas Aquinas presented the classical approach to Biblical Exegesis. Recalling the words of Gregory that Scripture transcends every science, " for in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery." In addition to the literal sense, Thomas described the three spiritual senses of Scripture, the allegorical, the truth revealed, the moral, the life commended, and the anagogical, the final goal to be achieved.
1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 21, 26


The Protestant Reformation was the result of the failure of the Catholic Church to reform itself in time.

The dark side of the thirteenth century saw the Fourth Crusade to Constantinople in 1204, the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathari, and the beginning of the Inquisition, which became severely punitive. One of the victims of the Inquisition was St. Joan of Arc, who saved France during the Hundred Years War with England. She was burned at the stake in 1431 in Rouen, France. The Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century was particularly ruthless. These events led many to question the compassion and integrity of the Church.

The Papacy suffered a great loss of respect during the Avignon Papacy (1305-1378), and especially during the Papal Schism (1378-1417), when two and at one point three men declared themselves Pope and fought with each other. The Papal Schism had to be resolved by Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg and the Council of Constance 1414-1417, which finally deposed all three Popes and chose Martin V to continue the Papacy.

Scholasticism became detached from Biblical roots and became obsessed with nonsensical questions, and the writings of William of Ockham occasioned the rise of Nominalism, which was skeptical that human reason could explain faith.

Christian humanism, a rejoicing in man's achievements and capabilities reflecting the greater glory of God, had perhaps its beginning with the Divine Comedy, published in 1320 by Dante Alighieri. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries generated the Renaissance or rebirth in art, architecture, literature, and sculpture. Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli led the way in art. Brunelleschi revived the ancient Roman style of architecture and introduced linear perspective. The great sculptors were Donatello and Michelangelo. St. Thomas More and Erasmus were the leading Christian humanists in literature. St. Thomas More of England wrote Utopia on an ideal society in 1516, and Erasmus called for reform of the Church and a return to spiritual values, but was left without response.

The rise of Nationalism led to the end of Christendom, and the countries resented any effort to support Rome, especially in its dismal state. The lack of Church funds led to even further corruption, including simony and the selling of indulgences.

For example, Archbishop Albert of Mainz had to pay Rome ten thousand ducats for the right to hold three dioceses at once, and agreed to a three-way split with the Roman Curia and the Fugger Banking firm from the proceeds of the selling of indulgences.

The stage was set for the reform-minded Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk of Wittenberg, Germany. At first, his only interest was one of reform when he posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church October 31, 1517.

But the intransigence of the Church, and poor handling of the situation by the Pope and Curia only worsened matters, such that a break was inevitable. In a 1519 debate with the Catholic theologian John Eck, Luther stated that sola Scriptura - Scripture alone - was the supreme authority in religion. He could no longer accept the authority of the Pope or Councils, such as Constance, which condemned John Hus (whom he agreed with).

In 1520 Luther utilized the printing press and published 3 documents which laid down the fundamental principles of the Reformation. In To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther attacked the corruptions of the Church and the abuses of its authority, and asserted the right of the layman to spiritual independence. In On the Freedom of the Christian Man, he expounded the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and gave a complete presentation of his theological position. In the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he criticized the sacramental system, and set up the Scriptures as the supreme authority in religion. The Augsburg Confession of 1530, written by Philip Melanchthon and approved by Martin Luther, was the most widely accepted Lutheran confession of faith.

Once sola Scriptura became the norm, it became a matter of personal interpretation. Huldrich Zwingli of Switzerland was next, and he broke with Luther over the Eucharist, but his sect died out. The Anabaptists survived as the Mennonites.

One that had an international impact, for example, on John Knox of Scotland, the French Huguenots, the American pilgrims and puritans, and the Presbyterians was Jean Calvin, a systematic thinker, with his publication of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. While he agreed with Luther on the basic Protestant tenets of sola scriptura, salvation by faith alone, and the priesthood of all believers, he went even further on such issues as predestination and the sacraments. George Fox, the son of Puritan parents, founded the Quakers in England in 1647.

When King Henry Vlll was refused an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, he had himself declared Supreme Head of the Church of England. Thomas Cranmer became the new Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533, and the Anglican Church of England was established. Archbishop Cranmer married Henry Vlll and Anne Boleyn that same year. Thomas More refused to attend the wedding, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London and later beheaded in 1535. Two major sects that split off from the Anglicans were the Baptists, founded by John Smyth in 1607, and the Methodists, founded by John Wesley and his brother Charles in 1784.
1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 21, 27


Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6

The four appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Aztec Indian Juan Diego December 9-12 of 1531 generated the conversion of Mexico, Central and South America to Catholicism.

On December 12, 1531, Juan Diego was obedient to the Blessed Virgin Mary's instruction to gather beautiful roses in his tilma and take them to the Franciscan Bishop Don Fray Juan de Zumarraga, his third visit in days to request the building of a Church as requested by Our Lady.

Juan called for the third time on Bishop Zumarraga and explained all that had passed. Then Juan put up both hands and untied the corners of crude cloth behind his neck. The looped-up fold of the tilma fell; the flowers he thought were the precious sign tumbled out on the floor.

The Bishop rose from his chair and fell on his knees in adoration before the tilma, as well as everyone else in the room. For on the tilma was the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary just as described by Juan Diego, and still present today in Tepeyac, the outskirts of Mexico City.

The Spanish conquistadors may have conquered the Aztecs in 1521, but their ruthlesss behavior antagonized the people, and conversions were few.

Our Lady of Guadalupe conveyed the beautiful message of Christianity: the true God sacrificed himself for mankind, instead of the horrendous life they had endured sacrificing humans to appease the frightful gods! It is no wonder that over the next seven years, from 1531 to 1538, eight million natives of Mexico converted to Catholicism!

Indeed, the Blessed Virgin Mary entered the very lifestream of Central America and became an inextricable part of Mexican life and a central figure to the history of Mexico itself. To this date the most important religious celebration in Mexico and Central America is December 12, the feast-day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her appearance in the center of the American continents has contributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe being given the title "Mother of the Americas."

Following the discovery of Florida by Ponce de Leon in 1513, St. Augustine, Florida became the first permanent European settlement in North America in 1565, from which missionaries spread Christianity to the native American Indians.

The first Mass of Thanksgiving on North American soil was actually celebrated by the Spanish with the Timucuan Indians from Seloy village in attendance on September 8, 1565 in St. Augustine, Florida.
1, 7, 28-31


"You should know how to behave in the household of God,
which is the church of the living God,
the pillar and foundation of truth."
1 Timothy 3:15

The Catholic Church reformed itself through the positive work of renewal and in the face of the Protestant Reformation. Efforts at reform had already begun with the Oratory of Divine Love in Genoa in 1497. The Capuchins were founded in Italy in 1528 to restore the Franciscan Order to its original ideals. St. Ignatius of Loyola began the Jesuit Order in 1534.

But the major thrust at reform was the Council of Trent. Pope Paul lll surmounted incredible obstacles to convene the first of three sessions on December 13, 1545. The second session was held 1551-1552, and the third session 1562-1563.

The Council addressed three areas: doctrine, discipline, and devotion.

Seven major areas were included in doctrine: that our justification was not just by faith alone, but also by hope and charity expressed in good works in cooperation with God's grace. Both Tradition and Scripture were essential to the faith. The Latin Vulgate was promoted as the only canonical Scripture. There was a clear definition of the seven sacraments. The Mass was a true Sacrifice, and the Council reaffirmed Transubstantiation.

The Mass, known as the Tridentine Mass, was given strict form and was celebrated only in Latin. The Latin Tridentine Mass provided unity for the universal Church, for it was the same Mass in every place and time.

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?
Can his faith save him?
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,
and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled,"
without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Epistle of St. James 2:14-17

Discipline involved strict reform, and the establishment of the seminary system for the proper and uniform training of priests. The office of indulgence seller was abolished, and doctrine on indulgences was clarified. The Bishops were given only one diocese and residence was required, begun by the reformer St. Charles Borromeo of Milan. Devotion became more interior, as in Marian devotion and in the Spanish mysticism of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Frequent reception of the Eucharist and the sacraments were encouraged.

Pope Pius IV confirmed the Decrees of the Council of Trent in January 1564. The Council of Trent marked an important turning point for the Catholic Church, for it provided clarity on the beliefs of the Church, and ecclesiastical discipline was restored. The doctrines established at Trent persist to this day.
1, 4, 5, 7

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages
but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations,
according to the command of the eternal God,
to bring about
the obedience of faith
- to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
St. Paul to the Romans 16:25-27


The period from 1650 to 1800 is known as the Age of Enlightenment. The time had come when men would set aside religious views and look to reason and social experience to guide society.

It was the loss of Christian unity that led to the secularization of Western culture.
The pluralism of religions led to skepticism and conflict rather than unanimous thought, for everyone thought they were right. Religion caused division, wars, and persecution throughout Europe, such as the thirty years war in Germany (1618-1648).

Discoveries in science had much to do with the Age of Enlightenment. Copernicus (1473-1543) proposed the sun is the center of the solar system and the earth revolved around the sun, and published his work shortly before his death. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the first to use a telescope, confirmed that Copernicus was right, and was condemned by the Catholic Church. Scientists such as Isaac Newton in Physics and Robert Boyle in Chemistry were pioneers and gave birth to technology, the application of science to practical problems, which led to the Industrial Revolution. Progress based on science and technology became a major goal of Western Society.

The critical rationalism of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) applied to philosophy the mathematical method so effective in science, that everything was questionable until it could be proved beyond all doubt. Pierre Bayle extended rationalist thought to Christianity and the Church. John Locke and Herbert Cherbury of England used reason to confirm Revelation.

The rise of nationalism threatened both the monarchy and the Church.

The secular world was born in the Age of Enlightenment, where reason and science were the measures, and, unlike religion, would bring an "enlightened" world.

In fact, the Age of Enlightenment brought the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror (1789), Naziism, Communism, and the twentieth century, with its two World Wars the bloodiest century in history.
1, 4, 5, 7


"Holy Father,
keep them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one, just as we are."
Gospel of John 17:11

The surprise announcement of a Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII was welcomed with open arms by all of Christianity, for the Pope called not only for an intense spiritual cultivation of the modern world, but also sought Christian unity.

His opening speech convening the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962 referred to Jesus in the Gospel of John [17:11]: "The Catholic Church, therefore, considers it her duty to work actively so that there may be fulfilled the great mystery of that unity, which Jesus Christ invoked with fervent prayer from His heavenly Father on the eve of His sacrifice."

The Pope then stressed the need for unity in three areas: namely, the unity of Catholics among themselves; the unity with those Christians separated from our Church, and unity in dignity for those who follow non-Christian religions.

The Second Vatican Council literally "reset the course" for the Catholic Church, a Church which had been described by some as a fortress Church embattled during the Enlightenment and the Modernist era. The reforms of the Council of Trent begun in 1545 were necessary following the Protestant Reformation. To coin the expression of Hans Urs von Balthazar in 1952, the time had come to raze the bastions of the Church. It was time for the aggiornamento of Pope John XXIII, the "opening of the window" of the Church to the outside world, "a translation of the Christian message into an intellectual language understandable by the modern world."

Sixteen documents were published throughout the Council. There were four principal Constitutions: the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium; the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum; the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium; and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. There were also nine Decrees - the Decrees on Ecumenism and the Eastern Catholic Churches; on the Missions and the Media, and five on the Clergy, Religious and Laity. There were three Declarations - on the importance of Religious Freedom, on improving relations with non-Christian religions, and the necessity of Christian Education.

The Second Vatican Council has had a positive impact on the Catholic Church, and occasioned the renewal of the Church. Important contributions of Vatican ll include:
1) The liturgy of the Mass may be said in the native (or vernacular) language, which allows the liturgy to be intelligible to the layman and helps secure their participation in the fullest.
2) Lumen Gentium shifted the emphasis of the Church away from its pyramidal structure to the vision of the whole People of God. The role of the hierarchy is seen as primarily one of service. The affirmation of the collegial relationship of the Pope and bishops was stressed at Vatican ll. The roles of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon were reaffirmed. The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience are ever more important for the religious orders, to serve as examples for the modern world. The role of the laity to order temporal affairs to the plan of God was emphasized.
3) The spirit of ecumenism and the change of heart towards all Christian brethren who have separated from us was truly a gift of the Holy Spirit, as our goal is now Christian unity, a movement begun by the Protestant World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910. Lumen Gentium declared the one Church of Jesus Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, although many elements of sanctification and truth exist outside its visible structure, elements which impel toward catholic unity.
4) The Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, Orientalium Ecclesiarum, and the Second Vatican Council have had a dramatic impact on the growth and viability of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
5) The call for dialogue with the modern secular world was a landmark step for the Church, as described in Gaudium et Spes. Dr. Alan Schreck of Franciscan University offers 3 keys to Gaudium et Spes: (a) the root of the world's problems is found in the human heart. (b) God has created each person in his image and likeness and therefore each person has his own value and dignity. Pope John Paul ll, who was involved in its writing, calls Gaudium et Spes the "magna carta of human activity, to be safeguarded and promoted." (c) The need for the Church to be a prophetic witness of the truth and to proclaim Jesus Christ.
6) The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of 1985 itself made a major contribution to improve the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, specifically, the decision to create the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992.
7) The greatest fruit of the Second Vatican Council was the exceptional Papacy of John Paul ll (1978-2005), who integrated the vision of Vatican ll into the life of his Papacy. Vatican ll was the lens, the perspective of his view of the Church and the world. In fact, the Pope, in his 1994 book Crossing The Threshold of Hope, called the Second Vatican Council "the Seminary of the Holy Spirit."
1, 4, 7, 32-35


Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005) will be remembered as Pope John Paul ll. A playwright, actor, and poet, he was born May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. In 1938 he enrolled in the school of drama at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, where he played goalie on the college soccer team. He entered a secret seminary in 1942 during the Nazi Regime, and was ordained a priest in 1946. He earned a doctorate in theology in 1948 and a doctorate in philosopy in 1954. His first book was Love and Responsibility, on love and sexual morality, published in 1958. His play The Jeweler's Shop was published in 1960 and subsequently made into a movie in 1988.

Karol Wojtyla became Bishop of Krakow, Poland in 1958. He attended the Second Vatican Council and helped to draft the documents on Religious Liberty and the Church in the Modern World. He then became Archbishop of Krakow in 1964 and Cardinal in 1967. Following the 33-day papacy of John Paul l, the Conclave of Cardinals elected the bright, personable, and vigorous Wojtyla the 264th Pope on October 16, 1978.

Pope John Paul ll was truly one of the most dynamic Popes in the history of the Catholic Church. The man lived his philosophy, that man is a relational being. The world was his parish, as the loving and outgoing Pope made an unprecedented 104 papal trips abroad. During his 1979 pilgrimage to Poland, his repeated call for freedom and solidarity was the turning-point that ultimately led to the non-violent collapse of Communism, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.

The world was moved when he visited and forgave the man who seriously wounded him in St. Peter's Square in 1981. He became a symbol of hope to the young with his inauguration of the annual World Youth Day in 1987. As expressed in his 1994 book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, his belief in Jesus Christ as the hope for man in the Third Millennium was an inspiration for all. In his 2000 visit to Jerusalem, referring to the Crusades, the Inquisition, and other events, the Pope as representative of Peter asked God forgiveness for the sins of the Catholic Church.

A persistent theme in his fourteen encyclicals was the dignity of the human person in the light of Christ, and the goal for humanity to become a civilization of love. The Pope called for social justice in three encyclicals, Laborem Exercens, On Human Work (1981), Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, On Social Concerns (1987), and Centesimus Annus, On the Consequences of Socialism (1991), in which he emphasized the dignity of the individual, in the face of man being unjustly treated as a unit of production in an utilitarian world. He appreciated man's thirst for truth, as noted in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, The Splendor of Truth, published in 1993. One of his favorite Scriptural quotes was John 8:32: You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Perhaps his mostly widely read encyclical was Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life, published in 1995, in which he defended the sanctity of life and described the culture of death. His weekly general audiences in St. Peter's Square led to his book on the Theology of the Body in 1997.

Pope John Paul ll was truly the moral and spiritual leader of the entire world, as one can appreciate by the worldwide outpouring of love on his death April 2, 2005. John Paul ll will be remembered for his emphasis on Christ and man, that the Gospel provides meaning and direction and supports the dignity of the human person. For "the truth is that only in the mystery of Christ the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light." He is only the third Pope to be called the Great, a title that is already being used for this holy and loving man.
1, 32, 36-40


The Via Dolorosa, The Way of the Cross, Jerusalem.


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