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Difference Between Christianity and Catholicism

Difference Between Christianity and Catholicism

Christianity is one of the world’s largest religions. It dates back to the first century and, today, is divided into various denominations. Catholicism, in turn, is the largest denomination of Christianity. While both are based on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, there are few differences that led to the separation of various groups within the Christian world. In other words, while all Catholics are Christian, not all Christians are Catholics.

What is Christianity?

Christianity is the world’s largest monotheistic religion. It is based on the life and principles taught by Jesus Christ, and it is professed by over 2.5 people in over 160 countries. The main belief of Christianity is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the earth as a man to save humanity – as it was prophesied in the Old Testament. According to the Christian belief, Jesus came to earth, suffered, was crucified, died and resurrected in order to grant eternal life to humanity. One of the pillars of the Christian faith is the idea of “trinity.” Remaining a monotheistic religion, Christianity believes that the one and only God comprises three co-existing but distinct entities: the Father (God), the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit.

Due to different perspectives and beliefs, the Christian church split up in various denominations, which include, inter alia:

  • Catholicism;
  • Eastern Orthodoxy;
  • Oriental Orthodoxy;
  • Anglicanism;
  • Protestantism;
  • Methodism;
  • Evangelicalism;
  • Pentecostalism; and
  • Jewish Christianity.

Although all denominations are based on the teaching of Jesus Christ and remain monotheistic religions, there are key differences between them. Furthermore, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church consider themselves as independent, pre-denominational churches.

What is Catholicism?

Catholicism is the largest denomination of Christianity; it has over 1.2 billion followers, mainly located in Europe, Latin America and certain parts of Africa. The Catholic Church considers itself a pre-denominational independent church and it is organized in a hierarchic manner all over the world. The head of the Catholic Church is the Pope – the Bishop of Rome – who acts as highest authority in all matters concerning governance and morality. According to the Catholic belief, Jesus Christ appointed the first bishops who, in turn, appointed their successors following the principle of “Apostolic Succession.”

The Catholic Church was officially created in 1054 following the so-called “Great schism,” or “East-West schism.” However, even prior to the official distinction between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, the Christian Church already experienced internal political, theological and cultural divergences. The main difference between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy lies in the fact that Eastern churches do not recognize the authority of the Pope.

Difference Between Christianity and Catholicism-1

Similarities between Christianity and Catholicism

Although Christianity and Catholicism separated into two different churches – with the Catholic Church considering itself a pre-denomination, independent church – there are various similarities between the two.

  • Both are based on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ;
  • Both are monotheistic religions and believe in trinity;
  • Both believe that humanity has inherited the “original sin” by Adam and that needs to be saved;
  • Both believe that Jesus Christ came to the earth, suffered, died and resurrected to save the humanity;
  • Both believe in sacraments;
  • Both believe that the venue of Christ had been prophesied in the Old Testament;
  • The Holy Bible is the sacred book of both religions;
  • Both believe in the 10 commandments[1];
  • Both believe that the Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ;
  • Both are widespread in the Western world; and
  • Both believe in the existence of Hell, Heaven and Purgatory after death.

Since Catholicism is the largest denomination of the Christian church, the two are often associated and, sometimes, the two terms are interchanged. However, while being a Catholic means being a Christian, being a Christian does not entail being a Catholic.

What is the Difference between Christianity and Catholicism?

Comparing Catholicism and Christianity may be problematic as Christianity is composed of various denominations (although the main ones are Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism). As such, when we talk about Christianity, we are referring to a wide variety of beliefs and denominations that have different cultural, political and moral perspectives. The main differences between the two are:

  1. Hierarchy: the Catholic Church recognizes the Pope as the highest moral and religious authority. Conversely, other Christian religions do not accept the hierarchic nature of the Catholic world;
  2. Celibacy: the Catholic Church has the strictest rules regarding priests and bishops’ celibacy. In fact, all priests, deacons, bishops and archbishops cannot get married and cannot have sexual intercourses. Furthermore, only men can become priests, while women can be a part of the religious apparatus only if they become nuns. Protestants and Orthodox Churches are more liberal in this regard, and some churches even allow women to become pastors;
  3. Beliefs: Catholics believe that the church is the only path towards Jesus and eternal salvation whereas Christians may have various interpretations of the Bible and may or may not go to church;
  4. Origins: early Christianity dates back to the first century AD; it emerged as Jewish sect but quickly expanded throughout the Roman Empire. The history of Christianity is mentioned in the Acts of the New Testament. Conversely, the history of Catholicism is linked to the Apostle Peter – who is considered the father of the Catholic Church and the spiritual antecessor of all Popes. Yet, the Catholic Church officially came into existence following the 1054 Great schism; and
  5. Use of sacred imagery: in the Catholic word, statues and pictures are widely used to represent Jesus Christ, Mary, the Holy Spirit and the Saints. Sacred Imagery are less prominent in the Orthodox and Protestant denominations.

Christianity vs Catholicism

Catholicism and Christianity are very similar. Yet, some key differences prevent us from interchanging the two terms. Building on the differences explored in the previous section, other distinctive features are analyzed in the table below.

  Christianity Catholicism
Clergy and Pope Protestants completely reject the authority of the Pope while Orthodox see him as first among equals. They both reject his supremacy and infallibility. The Pope is the moral and spiritual authority of the Catholic Church. He is the heir of Saint Peter and he is infallible.
Place of Origin Christianity originated in the Roman province of Judea – which today includes Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. References to Christianity date back to the first century AD. Catholicism originated in the Roman province of Judea and its roots are linked to the Apostles – in particular St. Peter.
Legislation The legislation of the Christian world varies according to the different denominations. The Catholic world is regulated by the Papal authority, Canon law and diocesan law.
Confession Protestants prefer to confess their sins directly to God whereas other denominations (i.e. Anglicans) believe that priests serve as intercessors between men and God. Catholics confess their sins to a priest – who, in turn, requires them to pray or to perform charitable actions to expiate their sins.
Language The original languages of Christianity were Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. The original languages of Catholicism were Greek and Latin. To date, parts of the Mass can be in Latin.
Worship of Mary and Saints Most Protestants pray directly to God while other denominations (Orthodoxy) allow and encourage the worship of Mary and the Saints. Catholics believe that the Saints and Mary can act as intercessors between men and God.


Christianity is the largest monotheistic religion in the world. It is based on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ and it believes that the humanity – which inherited the “original sin” by Adam – needs to be saved. The incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus (the Son of God) is the path to salvation and all Christians worship the trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) as well as Mary – Virgin mother of Jesus Christ – and the Saints. Despite having over 2 billion followers all over the world, Christianity is divided into several denominations – Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Catholicism are the main ones.

Various denominations have slightly different beliefs and are organized in different ways. For instance, the Catholic Church recognizes the Pope as the highest religious and moral authority and believes him to be the heir of St. Peter. Conversely, Protestants reject the hierarchic nature of the Catholic world and do not believe in Papal authority, whereas Orthodox see the Pope as first among equals. While internal debates on political, cultural and spiritual matters had been ongoing for years, the Catholic Church separated itself from the other Christian denominations during the Great Schism of 1054. Since then, the Catholic Church has become the largest Christian denomination (with more than 1 billion followers all over the world) and considers itself a separate, independent, pre-denominational church. The main difference between Catholicism and all other Christian denominations concerns the role and the authority of the Pope. Furthermore, Protestantism, Catholicism and Orthodoxy have different beliefs on priest celibacy, women priesthood, and use of sacred imagery.

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  1. There is ONE mediator between us and GOD. The Lord Jesus Christ. We are not required to ask priests to forgive us. Only God can do that

    • Jeana, an essential aspect of the priestly ministry Jesus taught to the apostles was to forgive sins in his name. “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20: 22)

      The sacramental role of the priest is that of mediator. Jesus Christ is Lord and the true High Priest. He delegates to the priests of his Church the authority to hear, forgive, and absolve confessions in his name.

  2. There is only one mediator but Our Lord himself gave his successors the power to bind and loose sin. The early church fathers speak of confession. Learn your history Jeana and don’t rely on Protestant ramblings. There are now over 40,000 denominations. Not what Jesus had in mind when he prayed his followers would be one!! You must ignore scripture to think confession is not needed. Come to the true Church founded by Christ to receive him Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. He said if you don’t that u have no life in you. His words not mine! God bless.

  3. There is another well documented point of view that both the Catholic and the mainstream Christian community will either deny or ignore. It is an unpopular view, but I believe it is true based on historical record and contemporary open practice.

    Most of labeled christian labeled churches have become just another version of the New Age movement, and the Catholic Church started with a Roman Emporor named Constantine I, more than 300 years after the death of the apostle Peter. It has been thought by many that Constantine became a Christian. If that were true, he would have abandoned the Roman religious system that held to a belief in more than 500 gods & goddesses. The fact that he continued to practice the occult ways are even openly revealed in the Vatican & all the Catholic doctrine to this very day.

    Furthermore, you can ever so clearly see the ancient Roman military and political action of violent force used by the Catholic Church through history, such as the crusades and the inquisition. It was not only Muslims that the Catholic Church murdered, it was Jews and Christians. It is clear that Roman Catholic is just “Ancient Rome” relabeled.

    I’m not trying to make enemies. I’m just putting the facts out there.

  4. Please edit: “Most of labeled Christian labeled churches” should be “Most Christian labeled churches”

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References :

[0]Bokenkotter, Thomas S. Essential Catholicism. Doubleday Books, 1985.

[1]Elias, John L. A history of Christian education: Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox perspectives. Krieger Publishing Company, 2002.

[2]Flusser, David. Judaism and the Origins of Christianity. Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1988.

[3]Nodet, Etienne, and Justin Taylor. The origins of Christianity: an exploration. Liturgical Pr, 1998.

[4]“The Big Religion Chart.” ReligionFacts.com. 21 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 16 Sep. 2017.

[5][1]Ten religious laws relating to morality, ethic and worship



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