The Catholic church has been around for over 2000 years, but when did the term “Catholic” begin to be used and why were early christians called “christians” and not “catholics” if it truly is the church that Jesus started?
The term “Catholic” was first applied to the Church in the early second century. “The combination "the Catholic Church" (he katholike ekklesia) is found for the first time in the letter of St. Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written about the year 110. The words run: "Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be, even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal [katholike] Church." ( from the Old Catholic Encyclopedia.)
The fact that it is not found in the Bible should be of no surprise. “Bible” and “Trinity” aren’t in the Bible either. We have such terms from the Church’s Sacred Tradition which is older than the Bible. It is the Catholic Church that produced the Bible, you know.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.