EDITED TITLE:Help on the origin of the name Catholic Church


I know that it was St. Ignatius of Antioch who is credited with first using the term katholike ecclesia in about 110 A.D. My question has to do with his ‘motive’, for want of a better way of putting it. I recall reading an account which basically stated that there was a heretical group, perhaps more than one, who still referred to themselves as the ‘Church’ and that St. Ignatius suggested if one were in a strange place and looking for the Church one should ask for the ‘Catholic’ (universal) Church. Can anyone confirm this version and cite the source?


I think you’re confusing a couple things here. St. Ignatius has the first written example of the Church being called Catholic, but the way he uses it implies it was already in common usage.

As for the rest of your story, it doesn’t sound familiar to me. :shrug:There is a famous quote by St. Augustine that says all heretics want to call themselves Catholic, but if you ask them where the Catholic Church meets, they will never point to their own chapel.

Sorry if that wasn’t helpful :o


As a mark of the Church, Catholicity denotes her conspicuous diffusion everywhere, In the second century St. Ignatius wrote that wherever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church (Ep. ad Smyrn. 8); and the Church of Smyrna addressed a letter to all the parishes of “the Holy Catholic Church in every place” (De Mart. S. Pol.). Already in the same century St. Justin and Tertullian had described the universal diffusion of the Church (n. 32).

**St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, wrote in the fourth century: “If ever thou art sojourning in any city, inquire not simply where the Lord’s house is (for the sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where is the Church, but where is the Catholic Church; for this is the peculiar name of this holy Church and mother of us all” **(Cat. 18, n. 26).

And St. Augustine: “Many things detain me in the bosom of the Catholic Church. . . The name itself of “the Catholic Church” keeps me, a name which, in the midst of so many heresies, this Church alone has, not without cause, so held possession of that, while all heretics would fain have themselves called Catholics, yet to the inquiry of any stranger, ‘where is the meeting of the Catholic Church held,’ no heretic would dare to point out his own basilica or house” (Con. Ep. Fund. C. 4).

The Marks of the Church
The Catholic Religion / by Charles Coppens, S.J.,
University of Notre Dame



The phrase “Catholic Church” first appears in St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, viii, 2 - “wheresoever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church.” The word “Catholic” is Greek and means “universal,” or literally, “according to the whole.” Whence it it follows that the Church can be called “Catholic” in a variety of senses:

  1. Place - inasmuch she is diffused throughout the world.
  2. Time - because she will always exist.
  3. Peoples - having members of every tribe, nation and tongue.
  4. Conditions - for neither masters nor slaves, neither wise nor foolish, are excluded from her fold.
  5. Doctrine - she possess the entire teaching of Christ in its unimpaired truth.
  6. Salvation - as the whole of Christ’s Passion operates within her, she posseses a remedy against the spiritual ills of all men.
  7. Obligation and Necessity of Embracing the Church - it bears upon all, as she is the divinely appointed means for their salvation.



Actually, St. Luke is the first. The Greek in Acts 9:31 is ekklesia kata holos. We can refute anyone who says “The word catholic or the Catholic Church isn’t even in the Bible.” :yup: Cool huh?



I need to mark it off.


There is no trademark protection in the world of religions. People want to claim to be the real Church, so various qualifications like “Catholic” (universal) or “Roman” are needed to distinguish it from other groups. Currently the British Church has dropped the “Roman” becasue it has become increasingly unnecessary and we are now just “Catholics”.


A big thanx to all of you for your input.


Very! :thumbsup:


welcome home pixie!!!


:smiley: Thank you!


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