What is the Catholic Church and What Do We Believe?

-Adapted from "Welcome to our Church" by FaithCatholic.

We are a community of believers who span the globe - our very name, "catholic", means universal. We are members of smaller faith communities called parishes.

Our core beliefs are summed up in our Creed - found here

We are the original Christian Church, which began when Jesus himself said to the Apostle Peter, "You are the rock on which I will build my church. The gates of hell will not prevail against it." Every pope since then has been part of an unbroken line of succession since Peter, the first pope.

Early in the history of the Church, there was the belief that when Jesus sad at the Last Supper, "Take this and eat - this is my body; take this and drink - this is my blood," He was giving us the gift of His real presence in the form of bread and wine. We call this the Eucharist - a name that comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. The Catholic Mass is a Eucharistic celebration and a celebration of God's word in Scriptures.

We believe that holy men and women who have come before us still pray for us and aid us. We call them saints, and many of our churches are named for them. First among the saints is Mary, a virgin who gave birth to the child Jesus, and who is honored as the mother of God and the mother of the Church.

From the beginning of Christianity, the Catholic Church defined the canon of Scripture - the books you find in every Christian Bible - and defined what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Through the centuries, it is the Catholic Church that preserved the Bible, as well as many other written works, through its monasteries and libraries. It instituted the university system in order to educate.

We also believe that God is present in beauty - and so we have commissioned and preserved some of the world's greatest artworks. Without the sponsorship of the Catholic Church, Michelangelo would never have painted the famous Sistine Chapel, nor carved the Pieta.

Today, the Church is the world's largest charitable organization; we provide a significant portion of social service needs for Americans. There are nearly 250 Catholic universities and colleges in the United States alone, and we also operate this nation's largest non-public school system.

Mostly, we are a billion people on every continent who profess and express a faith in Christ that spans two millennia.