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The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide . As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church consists of 24 particular churches and almost 3,500 dioceses and eparchies around the world. The pope, who is the Bishop of Rome (and whose titles also include Vicar of Jesus Christ and Successor of St. Peter), is the chief pastor of the church, entrusted with the universal Petrine ministry of unity and correction. The church's administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, a tiny enclave of Rome, of which the pope is head of state.
The core beliefs of Catholicism are found in the Nicene Creed. The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission, that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles, and that the pope is the successor to Saint Peter, upon whom primacy was conferred by Jesus Christ. It maintains that it practises the original Christian faith, reserving infallibility, passed down by sacred tradition. The Latin Church, the twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches, and institutes such as mendicant orders, enclosed monastic orders and third orders reflect a variety of theological and spiritual emphases in the church.
Of its seven sacraments, the Eucharist is the principal one, celebrated liturgically in the Mass. The church teaches that through consecration by a priest, the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. The Virgin Mary is venerated in the Catholic Church as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, honoured in dogmas and devotions. Its teaching includes Divine Mercy, sanctification through faith and evangelisation of the Gospel as well as Catholic social teaching, which emphasises voluntary support for the sick, the poor, and the afflicted through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Catholic Church operates thousands of Catholic schools, hospitals, and orphanages around the world, and is the largest non-government provider of education and health care in the world. Among its other social services are numerous charitable and humanitarian organisations. (Full article...)
Ecclesiastical heraldry is the tradition of heraldry developed by Christian clergy. Initially used to mark documents, ecclesiastical heraldry evolved as a system for identifying people and dioceses. It is most formalized within the Catholic Church, where most bishops, including the Pope, have a personal coat of arms. Clergy in Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern Catholic, and Orthodox churches follow similar customs. Institutions such as schools and dioceses bear arms called impersonal or corporate arms.Ecclesiastical heraldry differs notably from other heraldry in the use of special symbols around the shield to indicate rank in a church or denomination. The most prominent of these symbols is the ecclesiastical hat, commonly the Roman galero or Geneva Bonnet. The color and ornamentation of this hat carry a precise meaning. Cardinals are famous for the "red hat", but other offices are assigned a distinctive hat color. The hat is ornamented with tassels in a quantity commensurate with the office.
Saint Peter Claver (in Spanish: Pedro Claver) was a Jesuit who, due to his remarkable life and work, become the patron saint of slaves, of Colombia and of African Americans. Although his detractors often accused Claver of lacking intelligence, boldness and self-confidence, he became a compassionate leader who lived out the commitment he added to his vows: that he was Peter Claver, forever a servant to the blacks. He insisted on seeing the slaves taken from Africa as his brothers in Christ and demanded that his fellow-Christians treat them as equals. As new slaves arrived, Claver ran out to meet them, carrying food and clothes to the living and removing the bodies of those who had died. He cared for the weakest first and took the sick to a nearby hospital he had built. Using natives as interpreters, he then began sharing the Gospel with all who would hear. Having won their good will, he instructed and baptized them into the Faith.
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Feast Day of May 6
||After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.
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