Basic information about the Pope, the Catholic Church and the teachings of Christ
The Pope is a follower of Jesus Christ and although he is coming to the UK as a Head of State (The Holy See – the Vatican), the primary purpose of his visit is to share the Good News that God loves us unconditionally and is merciful. It’s this reality – of God’s love and mercy – that is his primary message and is one that lies at the heart of the Catholic Faith. Visit our section on Pope Benedict XVI.
Catholics are Christians, this means that they are followers of Jesus Christ. They believe Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, the Son of God, their friend, liberator, Lord and Saviour. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ set up the Church (Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 16, verse 18) to pass on the fullness of his teaching, his life, and to carry on his work.
Catholic means universal. There are over one billion people worldwide who are members of the Catholic Church which was founded by Jesus Christ in the first century AD. It is made up of a large family of people from every race, colour and social background, who share a common vision and beliefs. Whatever part of the world they live in, they are in communion (united) with one another in a special way through their leaders who they believe to be chosen and appointed by God.
‘Church’ means the gathering of the people of God. The church building is the focal point for Catholic community gatherings, and is a place where friendships are made and lives shared. People gather there to pray, and to learn about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The ‘sacraments’ are a very important part of Church life. These are God-given spiritual channels through which life flows. The ‘Eucharist’ is a very special sacrament. When Catholics come together to celebrate ‘Mass’ they share a holy meal and believe that through it they are fed, under the appearance of bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ. During the Mass a miracle takes place. When the priest says a special prayer over the bread, it is changed by God’s power, so that Jesus is present in it in a unique way. Though it still looks like bread, Jesus’ living presence is there, and this is what Catholics call ‘Holy Communion’ because they are united with God when they receive it. The seven sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders.
The Catholic Church takes care of its community through a network of leaders, teachers and helpers. The head of the Catholic Church worldwide is Pope Benedict XVI. Locally, the Church is led by bishops and priests.
Jesus taught that we should love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark’s Gospel, chapter 12, verse 31). Catholics try to put this into practice and find it to be a life-giving and fulfilling way to live. They are involved in a wide variety of charitable works such as running hostels for the homeless and caring for the elderly.
Some of the core parts of Jesus’ teaching are:
• God loves us
• Believing in him is the way to true freedom, peace and happiness
• We should love God and one another, especially the poor and needy
• Our messes, mistakes and wrongs can be put right – we can be forgiven and know peace
• We can be healed from deep wounds and hurts by calling on the name of Jesus
• If we believe in Jesus we will inherit eternal life and live with him in heaven
Jesus has many amazing things to offer you and those you love. His life and message is about wholeness, love and freedom. Jesus will not force you to get to know him and receive all the good things on offer. You are free to choose. It is up to you… What is your choice going to be?