Latin Church

Inside latin church
Inside latin church

The Latin Church must be defined in relation to the Greek Church. The fact that the former came to mean Roman Catholic (as opposed to Greek Orthodox for the latter) was a function of the politics of the later part of the first millennium c.e.

At first the Latin Church was simply an extension of the missionary efforts of Jews and Gentiles who believed that Jesus (Christ) of Nazareth was the messiah, the one promised in the Jewish scriptures who would fulfill the covenant of Israel. As the missionaries moved to the heart of the Mediterranean world, Rome, they conveyed their message using the Greek language and thought.

From the beginning the Christian communities in the Diaspora Jewish world wrestled with its message using logic and philosophy to explain its message, not just the appeal and initiation experiences typical of a mystery cult. In addition, early Christianity brought to Rome and points further west the Greek sense of visual art and self-discipline that later developed into fondness for icons and monastic life, more typical of the Greek Church.

At first, the term catholic was used to describe the common culture of the Christian Church, whether in the East or West. Ignatius of Antioch used the term c. 110 c.e. (kata meaning "according to", and holos meaning "the whole") as a prepositional phrase describing the local church resisting division, but within another 100 years, Clement of Alexandria used the term to speak of the "universal" church that did not commune with the heretical groups.

By the time of the Council of Constantinople (381 c.e.), the term was used in the creed as one of the four main characteristics of the true church: it was "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic".

The Latin Church increasingly used catholic to define its traditions and doctrines, while the Greek Church embraced another common term, orthodox ("right opinion"), to describe itself. The Council of Chalcedon (451) named Rome and Constantinople as the leading centers of the Christian Church, and in the following centuries these two cities represented the diverging Latin and Greek Churches.

When various ravaging tribes overran Rome in the fifth century, Constantinople became increasingly the center of classical civilization, a fact that caused many Latin Christians to complain bitterly when Greeks did not come to their aid. By the time of Justinian I Latin had faded as an official language of the Eastern empire, thus increasing the cultural distance between the two churches.

The pope and political patrons such as the Franks dominated the Latin Church, while the Greek Church gave prominence to the "ecumenical patriarch" (who was given less authority than the pope) and his more dominant political patron, the Byzantine emperor. Centralization of authority became far more pronounced in the Latin Church, and with this came standardization of doctrinal development.