The history of the 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
The calculations of Dionysius Exiguus put the birth of Jesus in the year that in consequence is called 1 BC; most historians place his birth between 6 and 4 BC.
28 AD: Jesus' baptism, start of ministry, and selection of the Apostles. The Gospel of Luke indicates that Jesus was baptized during the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar which is dated in 28 AD (found in Luke 3:1,21,22). Christian Gospels strongly suggest Peter as leader and spokesman of the Apostles of Jesus, being mentioned the most number of times in the Gospels. Peter and the sons of Zebedee, James and John, constitute the inner circle of the Apostles of Jesus, being witnesses to specific important events of the life of Jesus: preachings of Jesus such as the Sermon on the Mount and performance of miracles mainly involving cures and driving out demons, inaugurating the Messianic Age.
30 AD: Peter declares and other followers believe Jesus of Nazareth to be the Jewish Messiah promised by Yahweh according to the Jewish Scriptures and the predictions of the Hebrew prophets. Entry into Jerusalem, start of Passion of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is crucified in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea during the reign of Tiberius and Herod Antipas, after the Sanhedrin, under the High Priest Caiaphas, accuse Jesus of blasphemy. He was then crucified under Pontius Pilate. According to his followers, three days later, God raised him from the dead. Forty days after his resurrection (Ascension), the Christian Gospels narrate that Jesus instructed His disciples thus: "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of time." (Matthew 28:18–20). Ten days later (Pentecost) Peter makes the first sermon converting 3,000 to be baptized.
Dates in the Apostolic Age are mostly approximate, and all AD, mostly based on traditon or the new testament.
34 AD: Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is stoned to death in Jerusalem according to the new testament.
110: 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: Latin translations (the Vetus Latina) from the Greek texts of the Scriptures are circulated among non-Greek-speaking Christian communities.
180: Irenaeus's Adversus Haereses brings the concept of "heresy" 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.
250: 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: 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).
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 lists Sunday (rather than the Jewish Saturday) as the first day of the week, names it "the Lord's day", and commands church members to keep it as a holy day.
325: The Arian controversy erupts in Alexandria, causing widespread violence and disruptions among Christians.
August 24, 410: Sack of Rome. Alaric and his Visigoths burst in by the Porta Salaria on the northeast of the city of 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.
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 excommunicatesEutyches, leading to the schism with Oriental Orthodoxy.
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 Successor of Peter to take a new name as pope. 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.
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.
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; Latin bishops are appointed to dioceses still largely populated by the Orthodox.
Notre-Dame Cathedral – designed in the Gothic architectural style.
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.
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).
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".
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 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.
1440: Johannes Gutenberg completes his wooden printing press using movable metal type, revolutionizing the spread of knowledge by cheaper and faster means of reproduction. This soon leads to the large scale production of religious books including Bibles, more accessible now to the laity.
Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
1462: Pope Pius II issued a bill 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.
1520: Pope Leo X, release a Papal Bull, "Debitum Pastoralis" which conceded that neither the Bishop of Utrecht nor any of his successors, nor any of their clergy or laity, should ever have his cause taken to an external tribunal (Rome or anywhere else) for any reason. Any such proceeding would be null and void.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1600: Pope Clement VIII sanctions use of coffee despite petition by priests to ban the Muslim drink as "the devil's drink". 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."
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.
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.
1830: the Chaldean Church leaves the Nestorians to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church
1837: Arrival of the French Catholic Missionaries in Korea.
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.
1846: Pope Pius IX begins his reign. During his reign he asks that an anti-Catholic document written by Freemasons known as the Alta Vendita be distributed to alert Catholic officials of possible Masonic infiltration.
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.
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.
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. Charles attempted to negotiate peace between the warring nations during World War I. His attempts at peace are largely ignored.
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.
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.
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 who criticize Nazi ideology.
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.
1964: Year of the founding of the lay movement Neocatechumenal Way by Kiko Argnello and Carmen Hernandez.
December 7, 1965: Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. Mutual excommunication of the Great Schism of 1054 against Catholic and Orthodox is lifted by both parties.
December 8, 1965: Pope Paul VI solemnly closes the Second Vatican Council.
June 30, 1988: Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) consecrates four men as bishops at Écône, Switzerland, without the express permission of the Pope. Lefebvre et al. automatically incur excommunication. Traditionalist bishops of the SSPX continue to be suspended a divinis.
January 1991: Australian Catholic University opens.
January 20 – February 17, 1991: Second Plenary Council in the Philippines.
December 31, 1991: The Soviet Union is officially dissolved. Persecuted Catholic Church re-emerges from hiding, especially in the Ukraine and Baltic states.
Fourth Episcopal Conference of Latin America, at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, showed a discontinuity with other conferences, as it was heavily controlled by conservative elements and by Rome.
April 30, 2000: Pope John Paul II canonizes St. Faustina and designates the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday in the General Roman Calendar, with effect from the following year.
January 1, 2001: The 21st century and the new millennium begin. The Church solemnizes the start of the third Christian millennium by extending into part of the year 2001 the jubilee year that it observes at 25-year intervals and that, in the case of the year 2000, is called the Great Jubilee.
January 6, 2001: John Paul II issues Novo Millennio Ineunte, a program for the Church in the new millennium, wherein he placed sanctity through a training in prayer as the most important priority of the Catholic Church in consonance with its purpose.
October 28, 2007: Pope Benedict XVI authorizes the largest beatification ceremony in Church history involving 498 Spanish Martyrs who were killed during the Civil War in Spain.
2007: Fifth Episcopal Conference of Latin America at Aparecida, Brazil. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio – later Pope Francis – served as secretary and helped draft the final document which emphasized what would also be a theme of his pontificate: serving the poor in the peripheries of society.
May 2008: A solemn declaration agreed on between Pope Benedict XVI and Muslims, led by Mahdi Mostafavi, stressed that genuine religion is essentially non-violent and that violence can be justified neither by reason nor by faith.
December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016: In The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, Rome received 21.3 million pilgrims, shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe received 22 million pilgrims, and World Youth Day in Krakow received 3 million pilgrims. According to archbishop Fisichella, president of Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, between 56% and 62% of all Catholics participated in the events while pilgrims in Rome mostly came from Germany, US, Poland, Spanish speaking countries and many from China, Chad, Rwanda, Nepal and Cook Islands.
November 2, 2017: Pope Francis suggests recruiting "proven" married men to become priests for dioceses in the Roman/Latin/Western Church where there are few priests (as do the Eastern Catholic Churches).
March 19, 2018: In his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), Pope Francis picks up on a theme of Vatican II, explaining that all are called to the same perfection of virtue.
May 18, 2018: Bishops of Chile offer their resignations to Pope Francis owing to criminal negligence in dealing with child sexual abuse among some clerics. Francis accepts the resignations of bishops and cardinals in other countries for similar reasons. Francis faces a far worse crisis among clergy -- child abuse and lack of effective episcopal oversight.
August 2, 2018: Pope Francis declares the death penalty is unacceptable in all cases, as an attack on human dignity.
July 1, 2019: The canonization of John Henry Newman authorized and the date set for October 13, 2019.
July 2, 2019: it was announced that Pope Francis had transferred the nine bone fragments of St, Peter which were displayed during the 'Year of Faith' Mass, to Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Bartholomew, who serves as head of the Eastern Orthodox Christian church, described the gesture as “brave and bold.”
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The History of the Catholic Church, From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium James Hitchcock, Ph.D. Ignatius Press, 2012 ISBN 978-1-58617-664-8
Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church. Crocker, H.W.
Bokenkotter, Thomas. A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Revised and expanded ed. New York: Image Books Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0-385-51613-4