The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic
161. Why is the Church one?
The Church is one because she has as her source and exemplar the unity of the Trinity of Persons in one God. As her Founder and Head, Jesus Christ re-established the unity of all people in one body. As her soul, the Holy Spirit unites all the faithful in communion with Christ. The Church has but one faith, one sacramental life, one apostolic succession, one common hope, and one and the same charity.
162. Where does the one Church of Christ subsist?
The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter.
163. How are non-Catholic Christians to be considered?
In the churches and ecclesial communities which are separated from full communion with the Catholic Church, many elements of sanctification and truth can be found. All of these blessings come from Christ and lead to Catholic unity. Members of these churches and communities are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and we so we recognize them as brothers.
164. How does one commit oneself to work for the unity of Christians?
The desire to restore the unity of all Christians is a gift from Christ and a call of the Spirit. This desire involves the entire Church and it is pursued by conversion of heart, prayer, fraternal knowledge of each other and theological dialogue.
165. In what way is the Church holy?
The Church is holy insofar as the Most Holy God is her author. Christ has given himself for her to sanctify her and make her a source of sanctification. The Holy Spirit gives her life with charity. In the Church one finds the fullness of the means of salvation. Holiness is the vocation of each of her members and the purpose of all her activities. The Church counts among her members the Virgin Mary and numerous Saints who are her models and intercessors. The holiness of the Church is the fountain of sanctification for her children who here on earth recognize themselves as sinners ever in need of conversion and purification.
166. Why is the Church called “Catholic”?
The Church is catholic, that is universal, insofar as Christ is present in her: “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch). The Church proclaims the fullness and the totality of the faith; she bears and administers the fullness of the means of salvation; she is sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race.
167. Is the particular Church catholic?
Every particular Church (that is, a diocese or eparchy) is catholic. It is formed by a community of Christians who are in communion of faith and of the sacraments both with their Bishop, who is ordained in apostolic succession, and with the Church of Rome which “presides in charity” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch).
168. Who belongs to the Catholic Church?
All human beings in various ways belong to or are ordered to the Catholic unity of the people of God. Fully incorporated into the Catholic Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, are joined to the Church by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government and communion. The baptized who do not enjoy full Catholic unity are in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.
169. What is the relationship of the Catholic Church with the Jewish people?
The Catholic Church recognizes a particular link with the Jewish people in the fact that God chose them before all others to receive his Word. To the Jewish people belong “the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, the promises, and the patriarchs; and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ” (Romans 9:4, 5). The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to the revelation of God in the Old Covenant.
170. What is the bond that exists between the Catholic Church and non-Christian religions?
There is a bond between all peoples which comes especially from the common origin and end of the entire human race. The Catholic Church recognizes that whatever is good or true in other religions comes from God and is a reflection of his truth. As such it can prepare for the acceptance of the Gospel and act as a stimulus toward the unity of humanity in the Church of Christ.
171. What is the meaning of the affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”?
This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.
172. Why must the Church proclaim the Gospel to the whole world?
The Church must do so because Christ has given the command: “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” (Matthew 28:19). This missionary mandate of the Lord has its origin in the eternal love of God who has sent his Son and the Holy Spirit because “he desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
173. In what sense is the Church missionary?
The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, continues the mission of Christ himself in the course of history. Christians must, therefore, proclaim to everyone the Good News borne by Christ; and, following his path, they must be ready for self-sacrifice, even unto martyrdom.
174. Why is the Church apostolic?
The Church is apostolic in her origin because she has been built on “the foundation of the Apostles” (Ephesians 2:20). She is apostolic in her teaching which is the same as that of the Apostles. She is apostolic by reason of her structure insofar as she is taught, sanctified, and guided until Christ returns by the Apostles through their successors who are the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter.
175. In what does the mission of the Apostles consist?
The Word “Apostle” means “one who is sent”. Jesus, the One sent by the Father, called to himself twelve of his disciples and appointed them as his Apostles, making them the chosen witnesses of his Resurrection and the foundation of his Church. He gave them the command to continue his own mission saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you” (John 20:21); and he promised to remain with them until the end of the world.
176. What is apostolic succession?
Apostolic succession is the transmission by means of the sacrament of Holy Orders of the mission and power of the Apostles to their successors, the bishops. Thanks to this transmission the Church remains in communion of faith and life with her origin, while through the centuries she carries on her apostolate for the spread of the Kingdom of Christ on earth.