Catholic Church authority in brief
Christ himself is the source of the Church’s authority.

The New Testament shows that Christ deliberately created his Church to be the vehicle of his continuing mission in the world. He promised to remain present in his Church for all time, and he lovingly guides it through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

To ensure the success of this mission, Christ gave his Church the ability to teach, govern and sanctify with Christ’s own authority. The Apostles appointed successors to ensure that the Gospel would continue to be handed on faithfully as “the lasting source of all life for the Church” (Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium” 20; also Catechism #860).

The source and guarantee of this Church authority is Christ’s continuing presence in his Church — “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

The purpose of this authority is to give the Church the ability to teach without error about the essentials of salvation: “On this rock, I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

The scope of this authority concerns the official teachings of the Church on matters of faith, morals, and worship (liturgy & sacraments). We believe that, because of Christ’s continued presence and guarantee, his Church cannot lead people astray with its official teachings (which are distinct from the individual failings and opinions of its members, priests, bishops, and Popes).

Church authority in Scripture
The New Testament bears witness in numerous places to the fact of Church authority. It clearly shows that Christ gave his Apostles his own authority to continue his mission.

(Remember that Catholics view the Bible as one of two definitive witnesses to divine Revelation. Christ taught many other things to the Apostles that are not recorded in Scripture; we call this Catholic Tradition, literally meaning “that which is handed on”. Tradition is the full, living faith of the Apostles as received from Christ.)

Here are some of the more important Scriptural references that address Church authority.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20)

This brief passage contains several critical points about Church authority: * Jesus tells the Apostles that the authority he is giving them derives from his own, divine authority. (“All authority…” / “Go therefore”.) * The Apostles’ authority and mission comes directly from Christ himself. * The nature of this mission is to lead or govern (“make disciples”), sanctify (“baptizing them”), and teach (“teaching them to observe”). * Christ promises to remain present with them always in support of this mission (“I am with you always”).
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” (Jn 20:21)

In this passage, Jesus commissions the Apostles with continuing his own mission. Again, this mission has its source in the divine authority of the Father. (CCC 859)
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” (Mt 10:40) 
“He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Lk 10:16)

Here, Christ explicitly identifies himself with the Apostles: this identification is so complete that accepting or rejecting the Apostles is the same as accepting or rejecting Christ. What’s more, both passages compare the union between Christ and his Apostles to that of the Son and the Father within the Holy Trinity.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19)

This is a key passage for understanding the Catholic doctrine of Church authority: * Christ’s deliberate intent to establish a new Church (“I will build My Church”) * His choice of Peter as the foundation, or head, of this Church * Christ confers on Peter his own divine authority (“the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”) for ruling the Church (“bind” and “loose”). This power to “bind and loose”, repeated also in Mt 18:18 to the Apostles as a whole, is understood as applying first to Peter and his successors (the Pope), and then to the rest of the Apostles and their successors (the other Bishops) in union with Peter.
The Acts of the Apostles (a New Testament book) provides abundant evidence of how Church authority was practiced during the Apostolic age (during the lives of the Apostles themselves, after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ).

In Acts, we see repeated examples of the Apostles teaching, governing, and sanctifying (baptizing and confirming, as well as “breaking the bread”).

One of the most striking passages in Acts tells how the Apostles describe their decision about whether pagan converts should submit to the Jewish laws of circumcision. They say, “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” that those laws of the Old Covenant should not apply (Acts 15:28). This passage shows:

The Apostles knew that they had the governing power necessary to decide this question (this is a huge point: they’re overriding the ritual law of the Old Covenant!); and
They are conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit who is guiding their decision, so ultimately it is God who has decided the matter.
This passage in Acts would be meaningless, even blasphemous, if the Apostles did not in fact possess the authority of Christ, supported and guided by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, the various Epistles in the New Testament (the letters of Paul, Peter, etc.) likewise give many examples of the Apostles exercising their teaching and governing offices. In fact, those letters only exist because the Apostles knew that it was their role to teach and lead the various local churches!

The nature & scope of Church authority
It is important to repeat that this authority exists so that Christ can continue to guide his Church in the continuing work of salvation. Church authority is entirely at the service of that work.

We believe that Christ desired the Church to have this authority so that we could be sure of essential matters of the Faith.

The scope of this authority is limited to things that are essential to our salvation: faith, morals, and worship (the sacraments and liturgy). Additionally, since the Church’s authority is at the service of Christ’s gift of divine Revelation, the Church takes care to show how its declarations about faith and morals are consistent with that Revelation (Scripture and Tradition).

It’s important to see this authority as something other than a simplistic being able to “boss you around.” Actually, most Catholics experience Church authority in the form of straightforward declarations regarding faith & morals:

That something is or is not a part of the Faith; and
That living in accordance with the Faith requires or forbids certain actions.
You always retain the freedom to decide whether or not to remain in the Faith by following those teachings.

(In the Gospels, there are many cases where people hear Christ but evidently decide not to follow him. By definition, his disciples are those who seek to follow him closely and learn from him. Even when it’s hard. Catholics see the Church as continuing in Christ’s role of teaching the truth: “He who hears you hears me.”)

Why do Protestants reject this claim?
Non-Catholics usually base their rejection of Church authority on the common misconception of “misplaced worship”: it is claimed that Catholics worship the Church instead of God.

Opponents of this authority sometimes also accuse the Catholic Church of claiming power that is only proper to God.

Catholics believe that this criticism is mistaken.

The best argument for the Catholic doctrine of Church authority comes from the New Testament itself: the Acts of the Apostles reveals the Church’s self-image as a body at the service of Christ’s saving Gospel, acting in the ways and structures taught to them by Christ himself. The Apostles are keenly aware of the authority that has been given to them by Christ, and of their own need to remain ever faithful to Christ as they exercise that authority.

Additionally, this same Church authority is the only thing that guarantees the accuracy and inerrancy of the Bible itself. It was the Church that selected the books of New Testament and defined the canon of the Bible. Those who believe that the Bible is reliable, are in fact relying on the Church’s testimony that the New Testament books accurately reflect the faith & teachings of the Apostles, which is in turn grounded in the faith & teachings of Christ.

(There were many other writings available that were not selected to be a part of the Bible because their contents were flawed in some way. The Church itself made the selection many years after the death of the Apostles, based on its living witness to the Faith, guaranteed by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.)

Further Reading
The Acts of the Apostles (New Testament), especially chapters 1 - 15.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church covers this topic in a large section on the Church. See especially sections 748-769, 811-812, and 857-896.

There is an excellent and accessible discussion of this issue in Leo Trese’s book, The Faith Explained. (This topic is addressed throughout the two chapters about the Church.)

The article “Church: Nature, Origin, and Structure of” in Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine is another good, though brief, treatment of the subject.

The Second Vatican Council addressed this in Chapter III of its 1964 document Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (also known by its Latin title, “Lumen Gentium”) 


As traditionally the oldest form of Christianity, along with the ancient or first millennial Orthodox Church, the non-Chalcedonian or Oriental Churches and the Church of the East,[1] the history of the Roman Catholic Church is integral to the history of Christianity as a whole. It is also, according to church historian, Mark A. Noll, the "world's oldest continuously functioning international institution." This article covers a period of just under two thousand years. 

34 AD: Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is stoned to death in Jerusalem.
50 AD: Council of Jerusalem determines that Gentile converts to Christianity do not have to abide by Mosaic Laws. This begins the separation between Christianity and Judaism.[4]
52 AD: Traditional arrival of St. Thomas, the Apostle in India.
64 AD: The Neronian Persecution begins under Nero after the great fire of Rome. Martyrdom of Saint Peter. Persecution of Christians continues intermittently until 313 AD.
67 AD: Martyrdom of Saint Paul outside of Rome. Pope Linus becomes the first official pope.
68 AD: Neronian Persecution ends with the suicide of Nero.
70 AD: Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.
72 AD: Martyrdom of Saint Thomas the Apostle at Mylapore.
76 AD: Martyrdom of Pope Linus.
96 AD: Traditional date of First Epistle of Clement attributed to Pope Clement I written to the church in Corinth.
100 AD: St. John, the last of the Apostles, dies in Ephesus.[5][6]
110 AD: Ignatius of Antioch uses the term Catholic Church in a letter to the church at Smyrna, in one of the letters of undisputed authenticity attributed to him. In this and other genuine letters he insists on the importance of the bishops in the church and speaks harshly about heretics and Judaizers.
150 AD: Latin translations (the Vetus Latina) from the Greek texts of the Scriptures are circulated among non-Greek-speaking Christian communities.
154 AD: The teachings of Marcion, the gnostic Valentinus and pentecostal Montanists cause disruptions in the Roman community. Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire continues.
155 AD: Justin Martyr composes his First Apology in Rome.[7]
156 AD: Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, disciple of John, and teacher of Irenaeus, is martyred.[8]
177 AD: Irenaeus becomes bishop of Lyons, France.[9]
180 AD: Irenaeus's Adversus Haereses brings the concept of "heresy" further to the fore in the first systematic attempt to counter Gnostic and other aberrant teachings. In the same work, he taught that the most reliable source of apostolic guidance was the episcopacy of Rome.
195 AD: Pope Victor I, first African Pope, excommunicated the Quartodecimans in an Easter controversy.
200 AD: Tertullian, first great Christian Latin writer, coined for Christian concepts Latin terms such as "Trinitas", "Tres Personae", "Una Substantia", "Sacramentum"
249 AD: Pope Fabian is said to have sent out seven bishops from Rome to Gaul to preach the Gospel: Gatien to Tours, Trophimus to Arles, Paul to Narbonne, Saturnin to Toulouse, Denis to Paris, Austromoine to Clermont, and Martial to Limoges.
250 AD: Emperor Decius begins a widespread persecution of Christians in Rome. Pope Fabian is martyred. Afterwards the Donatist controversy over readmitting lapsed Christians disaffects many in North Africa.
312 AD: Emperor Constantine leads the forces of the Roman Empire to victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Tradition has it that, the night before the battle, Constantine had a vision that he would achieve victory if he fought under the Symbol of Christ; accordingly, his soldiers bore on their shields the Chi-Rho sign composed of the first two letters of the Greek word for "Christ" (ΧΡΙΣΤΌΣ). 


313: The Edict of Milan declares the Roman Empire neutral towards religious views, in effect ending the persecution of Christians.[10]
318: Arius condemned and excommunicated by a council convened by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria.[11]
321: Granting the Church the right to hold property, Constantine donates the palace of the Laterani to Pope Miltiades. The Lateran Basilica (Basilica of Our Savior) becomes the episcopal seat of the Bishop of Rome.
November 3, 324: Constantine lays the foundations of the new capital of the Roman Empire in Byzantium, later to be known as Constantinople.
323 Pope Sylvester I in his calendar give to Sunday, first day of the week, name Lord´s day and give commandment to churchmembers to keep it as a holy day and so he changed old Christian and Jewish sabbath to Sunday.[12]
325: The Arian controversy erupts in Alexandria, causing widespread violence and disruptions among Christians.
325: The First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, convened as a response to the Arian controversy, establishes the Nicene Creed, declaring the belief of orthodox Trinitarian Christians in the Holy Trinity.[13]
November 18, 326: Pope Sylvester I consecrates the Basilica of St. Peter built by Constantine the Great over the tomb of the Apostle.
336: Date of the first recorded celebration of Christmas in Rome.[14]
345: Pope Julius I officially sets the date of December 25 for the celebration of the Nativity or Christmas.
360: Julian the Apostate becomes the last non-Christian Roman Emperor.
February 380: Emperor Theodosius I issues an edict, De Fide Catolica, in Thessalonica, published in Constantinople, declaring Catholic Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire.[15]
381: First Ecumenical Council of Constantinople.
382: The Council of Rome under Pope Damasus I sets the Canon of the Bible, listing the accepted books of the Old Testament and the New Testament. No others are to be considered scripture.
July, 387: Ambrose, bishop of Milan, baptizes Augustine of Hippo, along with his son, Adeodatus, in Milan.
391: The Theodosian decrees outlaw most pagan rituals still practiced in Rome, thereby encouraging much of the population to convert to Christianity.
400: Jerome's Vulgate Latin Bible translation is published. This remained the standard text in the Catholic world until the Renaissance, was used in Catholic services until the late 20th century, and remains an influence on modern vernacular translations.
August 24, 410: Sack of Rome. Alaric and his Visigoths burst in by the Porta Salaria on the northeast of the city Rome.
431: The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus declares that Jesus existed both as Man and God simultaneously, clarifying his status in the Holy Trinity. The meaning of the Nicene Creed is also declared a permanent holy text of the church.
October 8, 451: Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon opens.
November 1, 451: The Council of Chalcedon, the fourth ecumenical council, closes. The Chalcedonian Creed is issued, which re-asserts Jesus as True God and True Man and the dogma of the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. The council excommunicates Eutyches, leading to the schism with Oriental Orthodoxy.
452: Pope Leo I (the Great) meets Attila the Hun and dissuades him from sacking Rome.
455: Sack of Rome by the Vandals. The spoils of the Temple of Jerusalem previously taken by Titus are allegedly among the treasures taken to Carthage.
September 4, 476: Emperor Romulus Augustus is deposed in Rome, marked by many as the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The focus of the early Church switches to expanding in the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire, with its capital at Constantinople. 


480: Traditional birth of St Benedict, author of a Monastic Rule, setting out regulations for the establishment of monasteries.
496: Clovis I pagan King of the Franks, converts to the Catholic faith.
502: Pope Symmachus ruled that laymen should no longer vote for the popes and that only higher clergy should be considered eligible.
529: The Codex Justinianus (Code of Justinian) completed. First part of Corpus Iuris Civilis (Body of Civil Law).
January 2, 533: Mercurius becomes Pope John II. He becomes the first pope to take a regnal name. John II obtains valuable gifts as well as a profession of orthodox faith from the Byzantine emperor Justinian.
533: The Digest, or Pandects, was issued; second part of Corpus Iuris Civilis (Body of Civil Law). The Institutes, third part of Corpus Iuris Civilis (Body of Civil Law) comes into force of law.
536: Belisarius recaptures Rome.
553: Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople condemned the errors of Origen of Alexandria, the Three Chapters, and confirmed the first four general councils.
590: Pope Gregory the Great. Reforms ecclesiastical structure and administration. Establishes Gregorian chant. Was also elected. (To be Pope)
595: In a deed of manumission that freed two Roman slaves, Pope Gregory I declared that no heathen who wished to become a Christian should continue to be held a slave.[16]
596: Saint Augustine of Canterbury sent by Pope Gregory I to evangelize the pagan English.
638: Christian Jerusalem and Syria conquered by Muslims.
642: Egypt falls to the Muslims, followed by the rest of North Africa.
664: The Synod of Whitby unites the Celtic Church in England with the Catholic Church.
680: Third Council of Constantinople puts an end to Monothelitism.
685: The Maradites used their power and importance to choose John Maron, one of their own, as Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. John received the approval of Pope Sergius I, and became the first Maronite Patriarch.
698: St Willibrord commissioned by Pope Sergius I as bishop of the Frisians (Netherlands). Willibrord establishes a church in Utrecht.
711: Muslim armies invade Spain.
718: Saint Boniface, an Englishman, given commission by Pope Gregory II to evangelise the Germans.
726: Iconoclasm begins in the eastern Empire. The destruction of images persists until 843.
731: Venerable Bede, Benedictine monk and only English born Doctor of the Church (St. Anselm of Canterbury being Italian born), completes his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
732: Muslim advance into Western Europe halted by Charles Martel at Poitiers, France.
751: Lombards abolish the Exarchate of Ravenna effectively ending last vestiges of Byzantine rule in central Italy and Rome.
756: Popes granted independent rule of Rome by King Pepin the Short of the Franks, in the Donation of Pepin. Birth of the Papal States.
787: Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea resolved Iconoclasm.
793: Sacking of the monastery of Lindisfarne marks the beginning of Viking raids on Christian Europe. 


December 25, 800: King Charlemagne of the Franks is crowned Holy Roman Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III in St. Peter's Basilica.
829: Ansgar begins missionary work in Sweden near Stockholm.
859: Pope Leo IV confirms and anoints Alfred the Great king of Wessex, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
863: Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius sent by the Patriarch of Constantinople to evangelise the Slavic peoples. They translate the Bible into Slavonic.
869: Fourth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople condemns Photius. This council and succeeding general councils are denied by the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
910: Great Benedictine monastery of Cluny rejuvenates western monasticism. Monasteries spread throughout the isolated regions of Western Europe.
966: Mieszko I of Poland converts to Catholicism, beginning the Baptism of Poland.
988: St. Vladimir I the Great is baptized; becomes the first Christian Grand Duke of Kiev.
1012: Burchard of Worms completes his twenty-volume Decretum of Canon law.
July 16, 1054: Liturgical, linguistic, and political divisions cause a permanent split between the Eastern and Western Churches, known as the East–West Schism or the Great Schism. The three legates, Humbert of Mourmoutiers, Frederick of Lorraine, and Peter, Archbishop of Amalfi, entered the Cathedral of the Hagia Sophia during mass on a Saturday afternoon and placed a papal Bull of Excommunication on the altar against the Patriarch Michael I Cerularius. The legates left for Rome two days later, leaving behind a city near riots.
November 27, 1095: Pope Urban II preaches to defend the eastern Christians, and pilgrims to the Holy Land, at the Council of Clermont.
1098: Foundation of the reforming monastery of Cîteaux, leads to the growth of the Cistercian order.
1099: Retaking of Jerusalem by the 1st Crusade, followed by a massacre of the remaining non-Christian inhabitants, and the establishment of the Crusader kingdoms, in Latin bishops are appointed to dioceses still largely populated by the Orthodox. 

1123: First Ecumenical Lateran Council. Among other internal issues it tackled, Canon 3 of the Council (in response to widespread abuse among the clergy) forbade priests, deacons, and sub-deacons to associate with concubines or women in general other than with female family members.
1139: Second Ecumenical Lateran Council, promulgated a rule forbidding diocesan or secular priests to marry.
1144: The Saint Denis Basilica of Abbot Suger is the first major building in the style of Gothic architecture.
1150: Publication of Decretum Gratiani.
1179: Third Ecumenical Lateran Council.
1182: The Maronite Church reaffirms its unbroken communion with the Holy See.
1184: Pope Lucuis III bans the Waldensians [17]
October 2, 1187: The Siege of Jerusalem. Ayyubid forces led by Saladin capture Jerusalem, prompting the Third Crusade.
1188: Pope Innocent III issued a bull that proclaimed the emancipation of all slaves.[18]
January 8, 1198: Lotario de' Conti di Segni elected Pope Innocent III. His pontificate is often considered the height of the temporal power of the papacy.
April 13, 1204: Sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade. Beginning of Latin Empire of Constantinople.
1205: Saint Francis of Assisi becomes a hermit, founding the Franciscan order of friars.
November 11, 1215: Fourth Ecumenical Lateran Council opened by Pope Innocent III.
November 30, 1215: Fourth Ecumenical Lateran Council is closed by Pope Innocent III. Seventy decrees were approved, the definition of transubstantiation being among them.
1215: Cardinal Stephen Langton, one of the early Catholic English cardinals became an important player in the dispute between King John and Pope Innocent III. The tense situation led to the signing and promulgation of the Magna Charta.
1216: The Order of Preachers (Dominican Order) founded by Saint Dominic is approved as a body of Canons Regular by Pope Honorius III on December 22 (Pope Innocent III having died in July).
1229: Inquisition founded in response to the Cathar heresy, at the Council of Toulouse.
1231: Charter of the University of Paris granted by Pope Gregory IX.
1233: In a papal bull or charter, Pope Gregory IX gave graduates of Cambridge University the right to teach "everywhere in Christendom." Other popes encouraged researchers and scholars from other universities to visit Cambridge, study there, and give lecture courses.
1241: The death of Ögedei Khan, the Great Khan of the Mongols, prevented the Mongols from further advancing into Europe after their easy victories over the combined Christian armies in the Battle of Liegnitz (in present-day Poland) and Battle of Mohi (in present-day Hungary).
1245: First Council of Lyon. Excommunicated and deposed Emperor Frederick II.
1248: Commencement year of the building of Cologne Cathedral; later finished in 1880.
1254: Pope Innocent IV grants to Oxford University a charter (via the papal bull, Querentes in argo).
1274: Second Council of Lyon; Catholic and Orthodox Churches temporarily reunited. Thomas Aquinas dies.
1295: Marco Polo arrives home in Venice.
February 22, 1300: Pope Boniface VIII published the Bull "Antiquorum fida relatio"; first recorded Holy Year of the Jubilee celebrated.
1298: St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome are made Doctors of the Church.
November 18, 1302: Pope Boniface VIII issues the Papal bull Unam sanctam.
1305: French influence causes the Pope to move from Rome to Avignon.
August 12, 1308: Pope Clement V issues the Bull Regnans in coelis calling a general council to meet on October 1, 1310, at Vienne in France for the purpose "of making provision in regard to the Order of Knights Templar, both the individual members and its lands, and in regard to other things in reference to the Catholic Faith, the Holy Land, and the improvement of the Church and of ecclesiastical persons".
1308: Meister Eckhart, Dominican mystic, composes his Book of Spiritual Consolations for Agnes, Queen of Hungary.[19]
August 17–20, 1308: The leaders of the Knights Templar are secretly absolved by Pope Clement V after their interrogation was carried out by papal agents to verify claims against the accused in the castle of Chinon in the diocese of Tours.
October 16, 1311: The first formal session of the Ecumenical Council of Vienne begins under Pope Clement V.
March 22, 1312: Clement V promulgates the Bull Vox in excelsis suppressing the Knights Templar.
May 6, 1312: The Ecumenical Council of Vienne is closed on the third formal session.
1320: Dante Alighieri completes the Divine Comedy, one of the greatest works of world literature.
May 26, 1328: William of Ockham flees Avignon. Later, he was excommunicated by Pope John XXII, whom Ockham accused of heresy.
1370: Saint Catherine of Siena calls on the Pope to return to Rome.
1378: Antipope Clement VII (Avignon) elected against Pope Urban VI (Rome) precipitating the Western Schism.
1387: Lithuanians were the last in Europe to accept the Catholic faith.
c. 1412–1431: St. Joan of Arc, a peasant girl from France, has visions from God telling her to lead her countrymen to reclaim their land from the English. After success in battle she is captured by the English in 1431 and is condemned as a heretic and was executed by burning at the age of 19. Later investigation authorized by Pope Callixtus III would conclude she was innocent and a martyr.
1395: Julian of Norwich, mystic and contemplative, writes her Revelations of Divine Love.
1400: Chaucer finishes The Canterbury Tales, a compilation of stories told by pilgrims on a journey to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury.
1425: The Catholic University of Louvain is founded in Louvain, Belgium.
1440: Johannes Gutenberg completes his wooden printing press using moveable metal type revolutionizing the spread of knowledge by cheaper and faster means of reproduction. Soon results in the large scale production of religious books including Bibles.
May 29, 1453: Fall of Constantinople. 

1462: Pope Pius II issued a bull in which he declared the Church's opposition to the slave trade. The pope's primary concern was that prisoners captured during the European wars should not be enslaved by the victorious powers.[20]
1492: Christopher Columbus reaches the Americas.
1493: With the Inter caetera, Pope Alexander VI awards sole colonial rights over most of the New World to Spain.
1497: John Cabot lands in Newfoundland, Canada, to claim land for King Henry VII and to recognize the religious tradition of the Catholic Church.
1498: Vasco da Gama reaches Calicut, India.
January 22, 1506: Kaspar von Silenen and first contingent of Swiss mercenaries enter the Vatican during the reign of Pope Julius II. Traditional date of founding of the Swiss Guards.
April 18, 1506: Pope Julius II lays cornerstone of New Basilica of St. Peter.
1508: Michelangelo starts painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
October 31, 1517: Martin Luther posts his 95 Theses, protesting the sale of indulgences.
1516: Saint Sir Thomas More publishes Utopia in Latin.
January 3, 1521: Martin Luther finally excommunicated by Pope Leo X in the bull Decet Romanum Pontificem.
1521: Baptism of the first Catholics in the Philippines, the first Christian nation in Southeast Asia. This event is commemorated with the feast of the Sto. Niño.
October 17, 1521: Pope Leo X confers the title Fidei Defensor to Tudor King Henry VIII of England for his defense of the seven sacraments and the supremacy of the pope in Assertio Septem Sacramentorum against Protestantism.
May 6, 1527: Sack of Rome.
1527: Bartolome de las Casas, Dominican friar, begins working on his History of the Indies.
1531: Our Lady of Guadalupe appears to Juan Diego in Mexico.
April 27, 1533: Juan de Zumarraga is consecrated first bishop of Mexico.
August 15, 1534: Saint Ignatius of Loyola and six others, including Francis Xavier met in Montmartre, then just outside Paris, to found the missionary Jesuit Order.
1534: The Diocese of Goa is created by Portuguese missionaries to serve the Western Coast of India.
October 30, 1534: English Parliament passes Act of Supremacy making the King of England Supreme Head of the Church of England, a national church canonically alienated from the bishop of Rome, the pope. The hegemony of one form of liturgy and order within the pre-Reformation English church is eventually broken or altered among ecclesial fractions, notably Dissenters, Anglicans (Church of England) and Catholics.
1535: Michelangelo starts painting the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.
1536 To 1540: Dissolution of the Monasteries in England, Wales and Ireland.
1537: Pope Paul III issued a bull in which he declared the Catholic Church's opposition to the slave trade. The pope's concern was similar to the concerns of his predecessor, Pius II, that prisoners captured during European wars should not be enslaved by victorious powers. He also issued the bull Veritas Ipsa, which decreed that indigenous people in the Americas were not to be enslaved.[21]
December 17, 1538: Pope Paul III definitively excommunicates King Henry VIII of England in papal bull, Cum redemptor noster.
1540: Pope Paul III confirmed the order of the Society of Jesus.
1541 The Archdiocese of Lima is founded as the diocese of Lima, Peru.
July 21, 1542: Pope Paul III, with the Constitution Licet ab initio, established the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.
1543: The Polish scientist-cleric, Nicolaus Copernicus, published a full account of the heliocentric Copernican theory titled, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium). Considered as the start of the Scientific Revolution.
December 13, 1545: Ecumenical Council of Trent convened during the pontificate of Paul III, to prepare the Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation. Its rulings set the tone of Catholic society for at least three centuries.
July 27, 1549: St. Francis Xavier, S.J., reaches Japan and goes ashore at Kagoshima, August 15.
1551: The first diocese of Brazil is created with a Portuguese appointed bishop reaching Bahia, Brazil, a year later.
1562: Palestrina finishes Missa Papae Marcelli.
December 4, 1563: Ecumenical Council of Trent closed. The decrees were confirmed on January 26, 1564, by Pius IV in the Bull "Benedictus Deus".
1568: St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzus, St. Athanasius and St. Thomas Aquinas are made Doctors of the Church.
July 14, 1570: Pope St. Pius V issues the Apostolic Constitution on the Tridentine Mass, Quo Primum.
October 7, 1571: Christian fleet of the Holy League defeats the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Lepanto.
1571: The French government of King Charles IX decreed that "all prisoners are free in this kingdom, as soon as a slave has reached these frontiers and becomes baptized, he is free."[22]
1577: Teresa of Ávila writes The Interior Castle, one of the classic works of Catholic mysticism.
February 24, 1582: Pope Gregory XIII issues the Bull Inter gravissimas reforming the Julian calendar.
October 4, 1582: The Gregorian calendar is first adopted by Italy, Spain, and Portugal. October 4 is followed by October 15 – ten days are removed.
1582: John of the Cross, begins his Dark Night of the Soul, another of the classic works of Catholic mysticism.
1582: Matteo Ricci, S.J., arrives at Macau to begin his missionary work in China.
September 28, 1586: Domenico Fontana successfully finished re-erecting the Vatican Obelisk at its present site in St. Peter's Square. Hailed as a great technical achievement of its time.
1589-91: William Byrd composed his Cantiones sacrae. His music, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, has "an intensity unrivaled in England and a breadth of scale unknown on the Continent." Byrd and his teacher, Thomas Tallis, though both Catholic, were allowed to compose and perform music during the reign of Elizabeth I.
1593: Robert Bellarmine finishes his Disputationes de controversiis christianae fidei.
1596: The signing of the Union of Brest between the See of Rome and the Ruthenian Orthodox Church.
1598: Papal role in Peace of Vervins. 


1600: Pope Clement VIII sanctions use of coffee despite petition by priests to ban the Muslim drink as "the devil's drink".[citation needed] The Pope tried a cup and declared it "so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall cheat Satan by baptizing it."[23]
1609: Francis de Sales publishes his Introduction to the Devout Life. Later, in 1616, he publishes the Treatise on the Love of God.[24]
1610: Claudio Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine is performed.
1614: Tokugawa Ieyasu bans Christianity from Japan.
April 19, 1622: Pope Gregory XV makes Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu a cardinal upon the nomination of King Louis XIII of France – becoming Cardinal Richelieu. His influence and policies greatly impact the course of European politics.
November 18, 1626: Pope Urban VIII solemnly dedicates the New Basilica of St. Peter 1,300 years after the first Constantinian basilica was consecrated by Pope Sylvester I.
1633: Trial of Galileo, after which he is sentenced to house arrest.
1638: Shimabara Rebellion leads to a further repression of Catholics, and all Christians, in Japan.
1653: The Coonan Cross Oath was taken by a group of Saint Thomas Christians against the Portuguese.
1671: Rose of Lima, Peruvian lay member of the Order of Preachers (Dominican order) and mystic, is canonized by Pope Clement IX.
1674: Quebec City, Canada, is elevated to a diocese with its own bishop, St. Francois de Montmorency-Laval. At one time (1712), the Quebec diocese covered most of the American continent (French, English and Native American territories/colonies) to the Gulf of Mexico. No other Christian community, Catholic or otherwise, had a bishop in those territories at the time.
September 12, 1683: Battle of Vienna. Decisive victory of the army of the Holy League, under King John III Sobieski of Poland, over the Ottoman Turks, under Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha. The Turks do not threaten Western Europe militarily again.
1685: Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes, and large numbers of Huguenot refugees leave France.
1687: John Dryden, dominant English literary figure and influence of his age, publishes The Hind and the Panther to celebrate his conversion to Catholicism.
1691: Pope Innocent XII declares against nepotism and simony. 


1713: Encyclical Unigenitus condemns Jansenism.
1715: Pope Clement XI rules against the Jesuits in the Chinese Rites controversy.Reversed by Pius XII in 1939.
1720: St. Anselm of Canterbury made Doctor of the Church.
1721: Kangxi Emperor bans Christian missions in China.
April 28, 1738: Pope Clement XII publishes the Bull In Eminenti forbidding Catholics from joining, aiding, socializing or otherwise directly or indirectly helping the organizations of Freemasonry and Freemasons under pain of excommunication. Membership to any secret society would also incur the penalty of excommunication.
1737: Vincent de Paul, French priest who dedicated his life and ministry to serving the poor, is canonized by Pope Clement XII.
1738: Grey Nuns founded.
1740: Publication of Richard Challoner's Garden of the Soul.[25]
1740–1758:Pope Benedict XIV,appointed first women as professors to Papal Universities in Bologna, reformed canonization procedures, intellectual open to all sciences;
1769: Passionist religious institute granted full rights by Pope Clement XIV.
1769: Junípero Serra establishes Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first of the Spanish missions in California.
1773: Suppression of the Jesuits by Pope Clement XIV, already excluded from many states. Only in the Russian Empire are they able to remain.
1789: John Carroll becomes the Bishop of Baltimore, the first bishop in the United States.
1789: Georgetown University is founded as Georgetown College. It is the oldest Catholic university in the United States and the first of 28 colleges and universities founded by the Jesuits in the US.
1791: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composes Ave verum corpus and his unfinished Requiem.
1793: French Revolution institutes anti-clerical measures.
1798: Joseph Haydn, Austrian composer and teacher of Beethoven, composed The Creation (Haydn), an oratorio that celebrates and portrays the creation as recounted in the Book of Genesis.
1798: Pope Pius VI taken prisoner by the armies of Napoleon I, dies in captivity in France. 

19th Century 

1800–1823: Pope Pius VII
July 16, 1802: French Concordat of 1801. The Catholic Church re-established in France.
December 2, 1804: Napoleon crowns himself Emperor of the French in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, in the presence of Pope Pius VII.
1823: Ludwig van Beethoven finishes his Missa solemnis, started in 1819, and dedicates it to his friend and pupil, Archduke Rudolf of Austria, archbishop of Olomouc.
1830: the Chaldean Church leaves the Nestorians to reunite with the Holy Catholic Church
1839: In a papal letter, Pope Gregory XVI declared the official opposition of the Church to the slave trade and to slavery. In the United States, Catholic slaveholders generally ignored the papal pronouncement and continued to participate in the institution of slavery.[26]
1842: The University of Notre Dame is founded in South Bend, Indiana, by Father Edward Sorin, of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
1846: Pope Pius IX begins his reign. During his reign he asks that an antiCatholic document written by Freemasons known as the Alta Vendita be distributed to alert Catholic officials of possible Masonic infiltration.
1847: The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem resumes residence in Jerusalem.
1848: John Bosco, priest, writer and educator, founded the Salesians, a religious community based on the spirituality and philosophy of St. Francis de Sales, a Catholic bishop of Geneva
1850: The Archdiocese of Westminster and twelve other dioceses are set up, re-establishing a Catholic hierarchy for the Catholic public in the United Kingdom against intense political opposition. Westminster Cathedral is formally consecrated 53 years later, in 1903.
1852: The First Plenary Council of Baltimore is held in the United States.
1854: Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX
1856: Gregor Mendel, Augustinian friar, scientist, and father of genetics, begins experiments that lead to the fundamental laws of inheritance.
1858: Apparitions in Lourdes.
1862: Paulo Miki and his companions, martyred in Nagasaki, Japan (1597), are canonized by Pope Pius IX.
1865: The Society of African Missions of Lyon establishes a mission in Lagos, Nigeria. The same Society establishes a mission in Benin, five years later.
1866: Cardinal John Henry Newman finishes his autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua.
December 8, 1869: Pope Pius IX opens the First Ecumenical Council of the Vatican
July 18, 1870 – The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church of Christ from the fourth session of Vatican I, "Pastor Aeternus", issues the dogma of papal infallibility among other issues before the fall of Rome in the Franco-Prussian War causes it to end prematurely and brings an end to the Papal States. Controversy over several issues leads to the formation of the Old Catholic Church. This council was not formally closed until 1960 by Pope John XXIII in preparation for the Second Vatican Council.
1873-75: The enactment of the Falk Laws, legislation in Germany during the Kulturkampf conflict with the Church which led to the expulsion of some religious orders from Germany. English poet and Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, dedicated his famous poem The Wreck of the Deutschland to five nuns who were forced to flee Germany because of the Laws and later drowned in a shipwreck.
1877: St. Francis de Sales is made a Doctor of the Church.
1878: Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, archbishop of Algiers and Carthage, sends ten missionaries to East Africa.
1879: Encyclical Aeterni Patris, by Pope Leo XIII, prepares a revival of thomism.
1888: The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile is founded. In 2018, it ranked #1 university of Latin America by QS rankings.
May 15, 1891: Pope Leo XIII issues encyclical Rerum novarum (translation: Of New Things).
November 30, 1894: Pope Leo XIII publishes the Encyclical Orientalium Dignitas (On the Churches of the East) safeguarding the importance and continuance of the Eastern traditions for the whole Church.
1895: Mark Twain's Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc is published by Harper's Magazine.
1896: Pope Leo XIII formally declares Anglican orders "absolutely null and void" in papal bull, Apostolicae Curae.
1897: Thérèse of Lisieux dies.
1898 – Secondo Pia takes the first photographs of the Shroud of Turin. 

20th century Edit

1900: Edward Elgar sets to music Newman's The Dream of Gerontius.
1903–1914:Saint Pope Pius X numerous reforms, staunch defender of the faith, introducing frequent communion, promoting Gregorian chant. Problems with France. He was the most recent Pope to be canonized a saint until the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II on 27 April 2014 by Pope Francis.
1914–1918 Pope Benedict XV declares neutrality during World War I. His peace initiatives are rejected by both sides as favoring the other. Massive papal charity in Europe.
1916: Charles I of Austria is crowned Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He is one of the last Catholic monarchs. Charles attempted to negotiate peace between the warring nations during World War I. His attempts at peace are largely ignored.
1917: Canon law for the Roman Catholic Church published by Pope Benedict XV. The apparition of Our Lady of Fátima occurs in Fátima, Portugal over the course of six months ending in the Miracle of the Sun. This apparition is considered to be among the most important in the Catholic Church.
1918: Persecution of the Roman Catholic Church and especially the Eastern Catholic Churches in the Soviet Union (until 1985)
1922: Emperor Charles I of Austria dies in exile and poverty in Portugal. Later to become beatified as Blessed Charles.
1922: G. K. Chesterton, philosopher, poet, and writer converts to Catholicism.
1925: Holy Year proclaimed by Pope Pius XI. John Vianney, French priest referred to as the Cure d'Ars, is canonized by Pope Pius XI.
1926: Beginning of Church persecutions in Mexico until 1940 also known as the Cristero War or La Cristiada.
March 19, 1927 Foundation of the Sisters of the Destitute (SD) at Chunungumvely, Kerala by Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly.
1927: Georges Lemaître, Belgian priest scientist, first proposed on theoretical grounds that the universe was expanding. In addition, he was first to ascertain what is now known as Hubble's Law. He also proposed what became known as the Big Bang.
October 2, 1928: Saint Josemaría Escrivá founded Opus Dei, a worldwide organization of lay members of the Catholic Church.
February 11, 1929: The Lateran Treaty is signed by Benito Mussolini and Cardinal Gasparri establishing the independent State of the Vatican City and resolving the Roman Question between Italy and the Holy See since the seizure of the Papal States in 1870.
1928: Sigrid Undset wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.
1928: Year of the founding of the movement Opus Dei by a Spanish priest and saint, Josemaria Escriva.
October 5, 1929 Death of Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly
February 12, 1931: Vatican Radio is set up by Guglielmo Marconi and inaugurated by Pope Pius XI. First signal broadcast is in Morse code: In nomine Domini, amen.
1931–1936: Persecution of the Church in Spain It is estimated that in the course of the Red Terror (Spain), 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy were killed.[27]
July 20, 1933: Concordat Between the Holy See and the German Reich signed by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli and Franz von Papen on behalf of Pope Pius XI and President Paul von Hindenburg, respectively.
1933: Dorothy Day co-founded the Catholic Worker with Peter Maurin.
Dec. 8, 1933: Pope Pius XI canonized Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes.
1935: Thomas More and John Fisher, English martyrs, executed under the reign of Henry VIII, are canonized by Pope Pius XI.
1937: Mit brennender Sorge encyclical against National Socialism by Pope Pius XI, written by Cardinals Eugenio Pacelli and Michael von Faulhaber
September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland. Start of the Second World War. The Vatican, after trying to avoid the war, declares neutrality to avoid being drawn into the conflict. Massive Vatican relief intervention for displaced persons, prisoners of war and needy civilians in Europe. In 1939 St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia was finished being built.
1940: Graham Greene publishes The Power and the Glory.
During World War II: Convents, monasteries, and the Vatican are used to hide Jews and others targeted by the Nazis for extermination. (see The Myth of Hitler's Pope) St. Maximilian Kolbe is martyred in Auschwitz concentration camp after volunteering to die in place of a stranger. The Nazis imprison and at times execute Catholic clergy, monks and nuns not compliant to Nazi ideology.
1943: Encyclical of Pope Pius XII Mystici corporis defining the Catholic Church as the Body of Christ;
1943: Encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu, opening biblical research to Catholic scholars
1943: Year of the founding of the lay association Focolare Movement by Chiara Lubich. The Movement promotes the ideals of unity and universal brotherhood.
1944: The German Army occupies Rome. Adolf Hitler proclaims he will respect Vatican neutrality; however several incidents, such as giving aid to downed Allied airmen, nearly cause Nazi Germany to invade the Vatican. Rome is liberated by the Allies after only a few weeks of occupation.
1945: Evelyn Waugh publishes Brideshead Revisited.
1948: Thomas Merton, Trappist contemplative, publishes The Seven Storey Mountain.
1950:Holy Year declared by Pope Pius XII, who announced on December 25, 1950 that the Tomb of Saint Peter had been identified by archeologists underneath Saint Peter Basilica; canonization of Pope Pius X, Maria Goretti; encyclical Humani generis
1950: The Assumption of Mary is defined as dogma by Pius XII
1952: Francois Mauriac wins Noble Prize in Literature. He wrote the foreword to Elie Wiesel's book Night, having encouraged Wiesel earlier to write about his experiences as a Jew during the Holocaust.
1954: First Marian year in Church history proclaimed by Pius XII, who introduced Marian Feast Queenship of Mary
1954: J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Lord of the Rings, often cited for its Christian and Catholic themes.
1954: Year of the founding of the lay ecclesial movement, Communion and Liberation.
1957: Bernard Lonergan,S.J., publishes Insight: A Study of Human Understanding.
1957: Francis Poulenc, composes his opera, Dialogues des Carmelites and two years later, the Gloria (Poulenc).
1960: Senator John F. Kennedy is elected president, making him the only Roman Catholic president in United States history
October 11, 1962: Pope John XXIII opens the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council. The 21st ecumenical council of the Catholic Church emphasized the universal call to holiness and brought many changes in practicescludin read more

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