Hello there Rosary lovers! I love being Catholic, and so in this post we will be looking at some fun facts about Catholicism. Enjoy!
We’re the largest Church, by FAR
Yep, by MILES. The Catholic Church is constantly growing, and is currently about 1.3 billion.
The next largest Church is the Eastern Orthodox Church, at around 200-250 million.
Catholics are a SUPERPOWER provider of healthcare and education worldwide
The last 3 Popes haven’t been Italian
Given that the Papacy is situated in Vatican City (within Rome), you would think the Pope would always be Italian. Indeed, the vast majority have been Italian. But the last 3 haven’t.
St Pope John Paul II was Polish. Pope Benedict XVI was German. And the current Pontiff, Francis, is Argentinian. No doubt, he is thrilled with how Argentina performed at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar!
The Catholic Church is the oldest surviving Institution and Monarchy in the Western world
The Catholic Church is a Monarchy, headed by the Papacy.
That said, there are strong aristocratic and democratic features in the Church. For instance, every new Pope is not selected by the former Pope, but is voted in by the Cardinals. The Cardinals help run the Church, and are second in rank only to the Pope.
Still, the Pope really does lead the Church. He has far more power within the Church than constitutional monarchs do in the Western world, such as the UK.
Nevertheless, Bishops have supreme power within their own jurisdications or Dioceses, unless the Pope chooses to intervene, which he rarely does.
In fact, the politics within the Catholic Church and how it has evolved to run itself, and how it is still here and growing, ought to be researched by secular governments and countries. The politics of the Catholic Church – particularly how all three major forms of rule (Monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy) are nicely balanced within the Church – has a massive amount to teach secular governmental systems.
As primarily a monarchical Institution, the Catholic Church reaches back to the 1st century AD, and is therefore the oldest surviving monarchy in the world.
There are Catholics in every country in the world
I was surprised to learn this when researching for this post, but apparently it is true! That is an amazing fact and I’m not sure it is true of any other form of Christianity or any other religion.
Catholicism is by FAR the oldest form of Christianity in the Western world
When non-Catholic Christians chide Catholics for their Church, it is worthy pointing out that there was only ONE form of Christianity in the Western world before the 16th century Protestant Reformation, and that was Catholicism.
Catholicism was, for 15 centuries, the default form of Christianity for all Christians in the western world. Anyone who wanted to follow Christianity would become a Catholic.
That ought to make us pause for thought. Did God make a mistake for 15 centuries?
If you go back to early times, such as the times of St Patrick (5th century), Christians everywhere only knew of one form of Christianity – Catholicism. The same is true of St David of Wales. You can read the lives of these very famous people and their lives are filled with the Catholic faith.
The Vatican is a Country, the smallest in the world
When I went to Rome a few years ago, I was surprised to discover from the tour guide that the Vatican is a real Country. It is not just a City. It is a real State, a real Country. It even has border controls, which we had to pass through.
Pretty much the only thing Vatican City doesn’t have of its own is an army, but apart from this, almost everything else you would attribute to a Country the Vatican has.
Despite being a Country, however, it remains the smallest in the world, with only a population of less than 1000.
There are 24 Catholic Churches in the world headed by the Papacy
This fact is news for many people, even for many Catholics. We are all familiar with Roman Catholicism, with the celibate Roman Catholic priest, and the prayers and exorcist rites that you would typically find in a movie like ‘The Exorcist’.
We are familiar with the sign of the cross done from left to right, and many people cannot imagine that there are Catholics out there who think about and practice the Catholic faith in any way differently to Roman Catholics.
If you think this way, then you don’t yet properly understand the Catholic Church. There are 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in FULL communion with the Pope, the Roman Church and all Roman Catholics!
These Eastern Catholic Churches have their own unique way of looking at and practicing the faith. They believe all the things the Catholic Church teaches, but they often see things with a unique perspective. They also have their own unique Code of Canon Law.
Some of these Eastern Catholic Churches are quite large. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is very similar to the form of Christianity practiced by Eastern Orthodox Christians. It’s about 5 million strong.
The Eastern Catholic Churches are Churches which broke away from their mother Churches within Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodox Christianity and the Assyrian Church of the East in order to unite with the Church of Rome. As a result, some of these Eastern Catholic Churches are often disparagingly called ‘Uniates’ or ‘Uniate Churches’ by the Eastern Orthodox.
It remains to be said, however, that most of the Eastern Catholic Churches are absolutely tiny in comparison to the Latin/Roman Church. The Roman Church, or the Latin Church, remains BY FAR the largest Catholic Church within the universal body of Catholics, at around 1.2 billion.
Only about 1.5% of Catholics, including the present writer, in the world are Eastern Catholics. I was confirmed into the Catholic Church by a Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish. This is my native Catholic tradition, because of my great love for Eastern Orthodox Christianity. However, my spirituality now is largely Roman Catholic (such as my obvious attachment to the Rosary).
Some Catholic priests are married
That’s right, not every Catholic priest is celibate. Even some Roman priests are married, because they are converts from the Anglican tradition and were married Anglican priests.
Many Eastern Catholic priests are married with children, since this is the norm in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christianity.
Though you can find married priests and deacons within Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, you will NEVER find a married Catholic or Orthodox Bishop anywhere. All Bishops are celibate.
The country with most Catholics is Brazil
Brazil has an enormous Catholic population of 123 million!
The next largest Catholic country is Mexico, with 91 million Catholics.
Interestingly, the United States has a very large number of Catholics, about 70 million. The current President Joe Biden is a Catholic, only the second Catholic President in American history (America is a Protestant country).
So Catholicism is VERY popular worldwide. In fact, if you do the numbers, about 1 in every 6 people in the world is a Catholic.
In an emergency, anyone can baptise
In an emergency situation, where it looks like someone may die and they claim to have never been baptised, ANYONE can baptise that person. You don’t need a priest because the person may die unbaptised before a priest arrives.
For the baptism to be valid, the person baptising must use water and say: ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
The Church permits this under canon law because God so desires all people to be saved, and because at the same time God has so attached baptism to salvation.
The Catholic Church is very open to modern science
The Catholic Church is one of the most open-minded Churches in Christendom when it comes to modern Science. It is acceptable for Catholics to believe in an old earth, evolution, that the opening chapters of Genesis are largely symbolic, and even in aliens and life on other planets.
Quite a surprising number of Catholic priests have also helped Science make outstanding strides forward. The most famous of these is probably Fr George Mendel, the father of genetics.
The Catholic Church loves Truth and the truths of nature and reality. The Church will warmly receive truth wherever it is found.
Unfortunately, people still tend to remember the way Church authorities treated Galileo, who taught that the Earth orbits the Sun. But the Church has since apologised for Galileo’s treatment.
In any case, the view put forth by Galileo at the time created much more of a complex scenario than is usually appreciated. Galileo was trying to suggest that ONLY his view could be the true one, a view the Church didn’t wish to encourage.
The Church was happy to accept Galileo’s view as a theory or a possibility or one way of looking at reality, but not as the ONLY way. Indeed, the same idea had been put forward previously by Copernicus as a possibility, and the Church didn’t have an issue with it. Copernicus was even a member of the clergy.
Since Galileo, it is acceptable for Catholics to believe that the Earth orbits the Sun, but the Church still leaves the matter undecided and open for disagreement.
It is worth remembering, however, that the Catholic Church is not dogmatic on any of these issues, and leaves the door open with much that Science has to offer. This is partly because the Church doesn’t exist to dogmatise on scientific issues, unless they happen to touch upon ethical and moral issues, such as IVF or stem-cell research.
The Church, in her wisdom, also recognises that scientific viewpoints change, sometimes drastically, over time. And therefore for the Church to ‘nail her colours to the mast’ on any particular scientific view would be unwise.
The Catholic Bible is considerably larger than Protestant Bibles
Most Bibles circulating in the West are Protestant Bibles of 66 books. Huge chunks of Scripture are missing from these Bibles, which should be there.
The Catholic Bible follows the Bible of the early Christians, and it is 73 books in size. The Catholic Church includes in her Bible sections like the lovely Tobit (14 chapters), the precious and voluminous wisdom of Sirach (51 chapters), and the glorious depiction of Christ in Wisdom of Solomon 7, which mirrors Hebrews 1.
It is odd that Protestant Bibles do not include these books, or else devalue them to a separate section called ‘Apocrypha’ or ‘Deuterocanonical books’. These extra books in the Catholic Old Testament have almost always been accepted and honoured by Christians as Holy Scripture since the earliest times. Indeed, we find Christian authorities in the 1st and 2nd centuries quoting them as Scripture.
In any case, Protestant Bibles are missing out on a great amount of wonderful Scripture by not including these books.
Easter, not Christmas, is the most important day
For Catholics, however, although Christmas is a great Feast Day, and a Holy Day of Obligation (you MUST attend Mass on Christmas), yet Easter is the singular Festival of Catholics.
Easter is so important that it occupies a place unique to itself. Every Catholic MUST receive the Eucharist on this day, if possible, even if they don’t receive the Eucharist for the rest of the year.
Easter is so important that it is celebrated every Sunday, and really everytime Mass is said in a Catholic Church.
This is because the foundational belief of the Christian and Catholic faith is that Jesus Christ is alive. Without this, the entirety of Catholicism would be nonsense.
So there you are! I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to some interesting facts about Catholicism.
Should you have any questions, please ask them below in the comments section.
God bless you!