The Catholic Church has the largest membership of any Christian Church, with more than one billion members today. Commonly called the Roman Catholic Church, it purports to be the only true Church founded by Jesus Christ. The term catholic means universal and the name was adopted in the 2nd century A.D. The head of the Church is the Pope, with the bishops considered to be following in the profound traditions of Christ's disciples.
Defined purpose holds that the Catholic Church is on a mission to spread the Word of Jesus Christ. Church doctrine contends that the Church is completely infallible in its teachings and in the administration of the sacraments. The holy story of the Eucharist teaches that the bread and wine given in the sacraments is supernaturally transformed into the body and the life blood of Christ by the words of the presiding priest. The Eucharist is the primary focal point of all Catholic worship. The Immaculate Conception is a part of the Church's firm faith and true beliefs; the Virgin Mary holds a position of significant honor in Catholic Doctrine and represents the transcendence of original sin.
The mid 11th century saw a split between those who believed that the Pope was the head of the Church and those who did not believe in the Pope's primal authority, who formed the Eastern Orthodox religion. Those who embraced the Pope were called Catholics, while those who rejected him and his authority were termed Orthodox. The number of churches that are a part of the Catholic faith are many and vary in background, but not in doctrine. Even with the East-West split, there are more than 20 Eastern Catholic Churches that adhere to the Western Catholic Doctrine of the Papacy. This division within the Church was referred to as the East-West Schism of 1054 A.D.
Once the current Pope either resigns or dies, the College of Cardinals meets to elect another Pope. Cardinals are deemed such due to their position within the Church or because of a theological honor bestowed upon them. Since the year 1389, only fellow Cardinals have been elected to replace the previous Pope. It is important to note that any male who is Catholic is eligible to be elected to that particular position. The election itself is called the papal conclave.
Catholics are not permitted to take the Holy Sacrament in Protestant churches, because Protestant ministers lack the sacrament of the Holy Orders. In lay terms, this means that Church teaches the supernatural conversion of the bread and wine does not take place except within the Catholic Church. Likewise, Protestants are not permitted to take the sacrament in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, as they are not seen as true followers.
As membership continues to grow in the Catholic Church, it reinforces the legitimacy of Catholic belief, though many members are unaware of the controversial views of the power held by the Pope and the Church, and its dark history of collusion with the Power Elite throughout centuries of "directed history."