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Who founded the Catholic Church?

The question of the Catholic Church’s origin is not just academic.

Understanding the historical origin of the Catholic Church is not just an interesting question about history. It’s an essential issue for your faith!

After all…

…if it was the will of Christ to found a Church to teach, sanctify, and govern in his name, doesn’t that demand something from each of us?

Gospel evidence:
Jesus founds a Church

Pope Benedict XVI (when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger) teaches us that Jesus’s creation of the Twelve was first clear sign of the Catholic Church’s origin. St. Mark writes in his Gospel, “And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk 3:14-15). The Pope comments:

The symbolic value of the Twelve is… of decisive significance: …the number of Jacob’s sons, the …twelve tribes of Israel…. [In doing this,] Jesus presents himself as the patriarch of a new Israel and institutes these twelve men as its origin and foundation. There could be no clearer way of expressing the beginning of a new people, which is no longer formed by physical descent but by ‘being with Jesus’….
(Called to Communion, p.24-25)
After this, we see the first explicit testimony of the Catholic Church’s origin when Jesus chooses Peter to be the rock of the Church’s foundation. Here, Jesus plainly says that he is founding a new Church:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
(Mt 16:18-19)
This is important!

Based on this Scripture passage, our faith should account for three things:

The will of Christ was to found a Church, and promised that “the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”
He gave to Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”.
He also gave Peter the power to “bind” and “loose”, a power that is also binding in heaven. (This power is promised first to Peter, in this passage. Later in Mt 18:18, it’s also promised to the Apostles as a whole.)
Catholics take this passage seriously. We trace the Catholic Church’s origin to this point! We believe that Jesus clearly expresses his will here, and that will is to “build my church”, invest it with his own authority, and give Peter a special role as the head of that Church.

But why did Jesus want to do this?

Well, let’s look at Scripture some more…

Mission: the reason behind the Catholic Church’s origin

After the Resurrection, Jesus commissions his Apostles:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
(Mt 28:18-20)
In this passage, Jesus tells us the reason behind the Catholic Church’s origin: he’s creating his new Church to teach, sanctify, and govern.

Pope John Paul II put it more simply: “In order to make this ‘encounter’ with Christ possible, God willed his Church.” (Veritatis Splendor [“The Splendor of Truth”], 7) The Pope said the Church “wishes to serve this single end: that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life” (Redemptor Hominis [“The Redeemer of Man”], 13).

The Apostles carry out their mission

In the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles testifies to the fact that the Apostles clearly understood the mission Jesus gave them.

On Pentecost, we see the external “birth” of the Church through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the definitive creation of the Church in all its fullness, the historical date of the Catholic Church’s origin.

On Pentecost, Peter and the other Apostles boldly proclaim the Gospel of salvation:

Peter… lifted up his voice and addressed them: “…Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
(Acts, 2:14; 36-42)

This passage is a beautiful example of the Church carrying out her purpose: proclaiming Christ, and bringing others to Christ through Baptism, “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,” and “the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

This Church still exists!

It’s called the Catholic Church, and we still keep to that very same mission.

That means we each have a choice…

A challenge to each of us

From these passages, we’ve seen how the Catholic Church’s origin is firmly rooted in Scripture and history.

The existence of the Catholic Church presents each of us with an invitation: Do you want to come to Christ? Will you use the means Jesus himself gave us — his Church and his Sacraments — or will you try to go your own way?

I know; it’s a challenging question!

I struggled with it for years before realizing that, just like those who listened to Peter on Pentecost, I wanted to be one of “those who received his word”.

Since the Catholic Church’s origin, it’s been the place where people “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”



  1. Marvin Reply

    why did the church named Holy Catholic Apostolic Church?

    1. Gabe Reply

      well the word catholic means universal in latin and the church is considered apostolic because it is built on “the foundation of the Apostles,” those witnesses chosen by Christ.
      The Church hands on the teaching of the Apostles and
      The Church is guided by the successors of the apostles, the bishops in union with the Pope. Jesus is “the eternal shepherd who never leaves his flock untended” (Preface of Apostles).

      1. Giancarlo Reply

        Actually catholic comes from Greek not Latin

  2. Gabriel Joseph Reply

    the word catholic means universal in latin and the church is built on “the foundation of the Apostles,” those witnesses chosen by Christ. It hands on the teaching of the Apostles and is guided by the successors of the apostles, the bishops in union with the Pope.

  3. Adam Owens Reply

    Thank you Gabe. I know only certain folks understand what Catholic means. What the Pentecost is. My faith is what I have had since I was a child. I won’t argue my faith anymore. You hit the point spot on.

  4. Joel Reply

    Some interesting things to consider.
    It was imperative that Judas be replaced (Acts 1). Yet, we never here another mention of an apostle being replaced upon their death. Wouldn’t one expect apostolic succession if Papal succession is also being purported?
    Paul? What is up with his apostleship? He refers to himself as apostle to the Gentiles and the other apostles seem to be in agreement with this calling. (Acts 15) How does one reconcile the apostleship of Paul, which was founded completely apart from that of the 12?

    Is it possible, based on these biblical facts that what Jesus established through the 12 and through Paul were two distinct moves of God?
    Is it then possible that if one is building on the work of the 12 that they are in fact building on the wrong foundation? And, if so, claiming papal lineage is a vacuous argument.

    The fallacy of equivocation is one that is oft committed. As already pointed out, Catholic simply means universal. We already know from Jesus’ own lips that His Kingdom is not of this world. I’m amazed how so few are not even puzzled that Paul was called around three years after Jesus’ commission, out of the blue, without any warning to the 12, to then forge the doctrinal beliefs of the Church, the Body of Christ.

    1. Gabe Reply

      Some interesting things to consider.
      The reason it was imperative that Judas be replaced was not merely because he died but because he betrayed Jesus. Apostolic succession or Papal succession would not be an issue in this particular case. Paul was not one of the original 12 apostles, but still went around the country establishing churches. Because he got get his commission directly from Jesus Christ, while he was on his way to Damascus and didn’t just stand up on his own one day and decide to become a preacher. In acts 15 it was actually Peter who refers to himself as an apostle to the Gentiles and the other apostles were in agreement because Peter held a leadership like role with Judeo Christians at the time.
      And it is not possible that Jesus established “two distinct moves of God" as was put because for one Paul submitted himself to the teachings of the apostles an example of this can be seen in Galatians 1:18. He was also very keen on tradition and has even said to “hold fast to the traditions we taught you, either written or by WORD OF MOUTH. And Paul was also very outspoken on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-21, St. Paul says that the cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ (not “symbolic”), and the breaking of the bread is a participation in the body of Christ (not “symbolic”). And there are many others examples of how he practiced and preached orthodoxy and remained with the same teachings that was being preached and practiced by the twelve others. Thus with all considered it is not possible to say that Paul was building on the work of the 12 but simply carrying it out as one of them as did Barnabus and Matthias (before he was called to replace Judas Iscariot) did. Just as Jesus sent the apostles forth to proclaim the gospels the apostles sent others forth therefore the papal lineage is not vacuous.

    2. Scott Reply

      In Paul’s letters to Timothy we definitely see the succession discussed and expansion of the role of the successors to the apostles, the Bishops.

  5. catstclair12000 Reply

    If you believe in the Bible, the Bible makes it very clear that Christ founded His Church on Peter and He and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to guide it. The Church split along the lines of the Roman Empire, around AD 1046, into the Catholic and the Orthodox branches. Both have the apostolic succession: every bishop (and every priest he ordains) can trace his priesthood back to one of the apostles-that’s why the Church is apostolic.
    All Protestant churches were founded by men and they back their beliefs on the Bible though most deny the 6th chapter of St. John’s gospel as well as John 20:21-23. Christ never said He wanted a Bible or a church based on a Bible- or on any other book.

  6. Gretchen Gantzer Reply

    I have always been taught that Jesus came to “extend the Covenant”. Jesus came to show the more importance of love over the law. The founding of the Church was a result of this principle as is the apostolic tradition. Based on Judiasim -combined traditional truths and offered extended spiritual benefits to communities outside the Jewish faith. The Word “catholic” translates to universal -available to all.

  7. Bernardine Reply

    Catholic from birth !

  8. Dan Reply

    St. Peter is the first Pope of the Catholic Church and since then has passed on the original anointing Jesus gave him to the next pope and this is still being passed till today in ordination. That’s why the seat of the Pope is still being called St. Peter’s seat till today.

  9. Chioma Reply

    Faith is indeed a journey that one can not walk alone, we need grace to know the truth. If we have doubts, disbelief or misconceptions in our minds due to various teachings we’ve received by our different churches, I urge “us” in our most silent moments, to ask for the spirit of discernment.
    We can only do this on our own, during reflection don’t hesitate nor doubt, just allow him (the Holy Spirit) to direct you as that’s the only way to know the truth.
    Make out 5 or 10 minutes for some days, take it seriously, be quiet within your soul and environment and he will appear to you in ways that you will understand that he is working with you. He will reveal himself and the truth to you.
    Ask him to teach you what he wants you to know and to help you understand better.

  10. rose Reply

    Praise God. I hope and pray that all thosewho come out from our catholic faith will
    come back. because this is the will of God.

  11. frt. ced,ssf Reply

    thanks and agree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Edmund Mokhatu Reply

    Thanks for the information and advise…that is brilliant… I like and support that collection , of information about the catholic church…is true…

  13. John Morrison Reply

    up until the roman emperor Constantine the Christian Church was probably a bunch of people Carrying on the teachings of Christ. but it was the roman empire though emperor Constantine that gave this church a physical structure and made it into an institution. a Roman institution. hence the holy Roman empire that we have today. i was raised Catholic. and always thought of the Catholic church as the supreme church. for centuries it was the guardian of Christianity. until the protestant reformation.
    but now i have questions about it’s legitimacy because of it’s dark history that was perpetrated on so many over the years. why would god establish an institution that caused so much pain on the less fortunate or who had a different belief system. from it’s crusades to the inquisition plus the more modern day sex abuse cases. true it is the longest running form of Christianity. but it has a long history on both good and bad too. I’m still searching for the truth. i pray that the truth comes to me. it’s tough to believe that an institution of god would be responsible for as much evil that not only the Catholic church. but also many other Christian Churches have committed over there existiests.

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