Catholics/The Term "Catholic"


When was the Catholic church first called "Catholic"?

The earliest recorded figure who called use the term "Catholic" for the Church was St. Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 50-107), using the Greek word "katholicos" (universal) in order to point out the universality of the Church founded by Christ as opposed to the Judaism and the false sects of the heretics.  It is found for the first time in his letter written ca. 110 addressed to the people of Smyrna:  "Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be, even as where Jesus may be there is the Universal Church."

There is another interesting reference found in St. Irenaeus (ca. 130-202), Bishop of Lyons in France:  "The Catholic Church, having received the apostolic teaching and faith..." (Adversus Haereses I.x.2).  Furthermore, St. Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-ca. 340) in his Ecclesiastical History, written in the 4th century, writes: "But the brightness of the Catholic Church proceeded to increase in greatness" (Book 4).

Finally, discussing agreement in the use of the term "catholic" in De Vera Religione, St. Augustine (354-430) notes that "whether they wish to or not, heretics have to call the Catholic Church catholic."  The term was common by the fourth century, St. Augustine using it 240 times in his writings.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Fr. Michael


A traditional Catholic priest, who provides forthright answers to questions FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF TRADITIONAL CATHOLICISM (not the New Order) on topics pertaining to TRADITIONAL Roman Catholicism, including theology, the Bible, Church history, the Latin language, liturgy (especially the Traditional Latin Mass), and music (especially Gregorian chant), and current events in the Catholic Church.

©2016 All rights reserved.