Does "Roman Catholic" identify us clearly, as followers of Christ?

Isn’t the term Roman Catholic a contradiction?
That is, the word “Roman” is limited geographically and politically, while the word catholic, or universal, implies no limits. As followers of Christ, intent on teaching the Good News “to all nations”, shouldn’t we project a more broad-based nature by the term with which we identify ourselves, lest we be misunderstood by those people we wish to “evangelize”?


In the words of Blessed John Henry Newman, “To know history is to be Catholic.” The term “Catholic” was first applied to the Church in the early second century. When other groups began calling themselves Catholic, preceded by a determining name such as “Anglo,” the Church of Rome, added “Roman” to distinguish itself from them. The Catholic Church is the oldest and still the largest Christian Church in the world. I’d say the name “Catholic” hasn’t done us much harm. It so identifies us that the phrase, “Is the pope Catholic?” is widely used by people of all faiths. When the pope speaks, his words are news and the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants don’t have to be informed as to what body of Christians he represents.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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