The Catholic (meaning Universal) Church is the oldest of the Christian traditions, tracing its history over two thousand years, to its founder, Jesus Christ. Catholics believe that the Living Christ is still the head of his Church, to which we are privileged to belong, but which we do not own. The Leader of the Church under Christ, now-a-days known as the Pope, holds an Office that can be traced through his predecessors to St. Peter, who Christ installed as the first leader (Matt.16:18-20).

The Catholic Church is a Sacramental Church, centred on the Eucharist (Christ's Sacramental Body and Blood), which he instituted at the Last Supper (Luke 22:19-20). We believe that during the Consecration Prayers in the Holy Mass, Christ (working through the priest), changes the elements of bread and wine into His Sacramental Body and Blood, making present his once and for all time, Sacrifice. The word used to describe what happens is, 'transubstantiation' (meaning that although the substance of the elements are completely changed, they retain the appearances of the original elements).

Catholics believe that the Bible is the 'Word of God', revealed through the prophets of the Old Testament and the Evangelists and writers of the New Testament. Another description of Jesus Christ is "The Word made flesh" (John 1.14).

The qualification 'Roman' was introduced by Protestant theologians towards the end of the sixteenth century. In 1901,  Cardinal Vaughan declared that the term Roman Catholic could rightly be used, as it draws attention to the unity of the Church, under its leader, the Bishop of Rome (Pope).

The Catholic Church acknowledges the wider Christian family and yearns for the unity Christ prayed for at the "Last Supper" (John 17:21). It therefore takes its full part in Ecumenical structures, such as 'Churches Together', where differences of belief and practice by the various traditions are respected and where we work together to the glory of God.

Rev. Clive Brooks, Roman Catholic Ecumenical Officer for Suffolk.

Text Box: 31/08/2004