How old is the Catholic Church? : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread

A Protestant co-worker recently informed me that the Roman Catholic Church was neither the first Christian Church, nor is it anywhere near the 2,000 years old I had somehow been led to believe. Could you possibly enlighten me?

-- Diane Davis (, April 23, 2000


Dear Diane,
Happy Easter! --You could tell this person that her opinion is absolutely and 100% self-serving. No reasonable discussion can be held with persons that adamantly cling to a false premise.

The Catholic Church is exactly as old as the Papacy. The Holy Apostle Peter was our first Pope; this is supported by every pertinent application of Gospel proof. Only Protestants dispute this, and all of their sects and assemblies can be traced back in recent history. They can't point to a single bible verse that makes them original Christians; and believe me-- IF they could find them, they'd throw them at your face.

The major universities and cathedrals of the western world are ALL evidence of the Catholic Church's predating of all Protestant persuasions. These institutions all accepted the Pope's authority. It was only after the so-called Reformation that some of them switched to Protestantism.

The unbroken line of descent from Saint Peter, first Pope-- thru John Paul II, is documented in detail now, for 2000 years. No other church has such proof of authenticity. Since Peter was appointed (Clearly, in the Gospels) by Jesus Christ Himself-- the Catholic Church is the same one founded by Christ Our Saviour.

-- Eugene Chavez (, April 23, 2000.

I'm sorry-- I said ''her''. Maybe this person is a man. He/she is still wrong.

-- Eugene Chavez (, April 23, 2000.

Dear Diane,
So glad you asked, rather than keep this to yourself.
Eugene has done a splendid job of answering you.
I can only think to add this (which is not original to me). When such a baseless objection is made, do not get defensive. Instead tell the objector that he/she has the duty to prove the claim to you -- AFTER first proving it to the editors of all the major encyclopedias of the world, who have no trouble acknowledging the 1,970-years' age of the Catholic Church.
God bless you.

-- J. F. Gecik (, April 27, 2000.

Dear John, Diane, et al--
The Bible Christian I mentioned (a warmed-over Plymouth Brethren) loved to say ''Rome.'' He wouldn't even have the basic respect to say ''You Catholics''-- his idea of Rome was the persecutor of early Christians, and the Harlot of Revelation, etc.,

If they try that on you-- just ask them if they've read the 1st Chapter of Saint Paul's epistle to the Romans, in which, thanking God he says, ''. . . Because your faith is proclaimed all over the world.'' This is verse 8--

Incidentally, I like to think this verse was an unconscious prophesy of our holy mother Church as it is now. ''All over the world'' is: Universal ie., Catholic /

-- Eugene Chavez (, April 27, 2000.

Hello, Brother Lutherans, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Calvinist, etc. (I'm sure many of them visit this forum): do you accept that Peter was the first Pope?


-- Enrique Ortiz (, April 28, 2000.

hi! i'm knew to this website and i find it very interesting since i'm Catholic myself.I believe that the church is the oldest but it bothers me to hear that my lecturer always says that the coptic church and not the catholic church are the oldest.i do not believe him because i feel that there's a anti-catholic thing that's going on.according to him and his resources the coptic church started with saint mark in africa(north).i also feel that those who are'nt catholic would do anything to plays the church in a negative light.

-- christene (, September 13, 2000.


Hi, Christene. Welcome to our discussions! I see the "za" at the end of your e-mail address. Is that for Zaire or Zambia?
I have always been curious about Egypt's Christians, but I kept putting off reading about them until you posted your message here. By doing some digging, I found out quite a few interesting things.
What your lecturer told you is somewhat fuzzy. I think that he is unclear on the concepts involved here. He said "that the Coptic Church and not the Catholic Church is the oldest ... [and that] according to ... his resources, the Coptic Church started with Saint Mark in Africa (North)."

As we know from Divine Revelation (Scripture and Tradition), Jesus made St. Peter his first "vicar," the Rock on which he built his Church. That Church -- spread throughout the world -- is known as the "Catholic" Church, from the Greek world for "universal." But the Catholic Church has always considered herself to be "manifest" in all the world's diverse communities in the form of "local churches," which we now usually call dioceses/archdioceses (in the West) or eparchies/exarchies (in the East).

The very first "local churches" of the Catholic Church were founded by the Apostles of Jesus, who either became those churches' bishops (literally "overseers") or who ordained and installed disciples as their bishops. Some of these earliest local churches were in Jerusalem, Antioch (Syria), and Alexandria (Egypt). Also established during the lifetimes of the Apostles were local churches in Rome, Smyrna, Ephesus, Corinth, and other cities. St. Peter was the first bishop of Rome. St. Mark was not one of the Apostles, but was a very early disciple who probably knew Jesus. It is believed that he was appointed as the first bishop of Alexandria in Egypt, and this local church later came to be known as the CoPTic church (from the Greek word for eGyPT [notice the similarity?]). Since the worldwide Catholic Church considers the feast of Pentecost (fifty days after the Resurrection) to be its "birthday," it is obvious that the Catholic Church existed before the Coptic local church. And so ... your lecturer can say with accuracy that the Coptic/Alexandrian local church probably came into existence before the local church of Rome. But you can say in return that the Catholic Church was directly founded by Jesus and that the Lord said that St. Peter would later be his first vicar (and universal shepherd of the Church) probably even before St. Mark became a Christian disciple.

Though the vast majority of Egypt's 66 million inhabitants are Moslems, there are a variety of Christian bodies in the country -- both "churches" and "ecclesial communities."
The Catholic Church (less than 1% of the population) has members of seven different Rites (six Eastern, one Western): Maronites, Chaldeans, Greek Byzantines, Coptic Catholics [led by Patriarch Stiphanos II Ghattas], Armenians, Syrians, and Latins [i.e., the western rite to which Pope John Paul II belongs].
The schismatic churches (about 5% of the population) include the Coptic Orthodox [led by Patriarch Shenouda III], Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic Churches.
Finally, there is a group of Protestant ecclesial communities, among which the most numerous are Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Evangelicals.

Christene, you probably noticed that I mentioned the existence of both Coptic Catholics and Coptic Orthodox. To help us understand why there are two separated groups of Copts, I want to quote sections of some articles written by a usually reliable news service called Zenit. They recently wrote a lot about this subject, because of the trip of Pope John Paul II to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. I hope that you will find the following as interesting as I did ...


Despite its claims, France is not the "first-born daughter of the Church." Historically, this claim actually belongs to Egypt, the first Christian country in history. The expression "first-born daughter of the Church," was used of France because the Gauls were the first European nation to convert to Christianity in 495, when King Clovis and 30,000 of his warriors embraced the faith. However, a century earlier, Christianity was already the religion of Egypt -- 99.9% of Egyptians converted easily, in spite of the terrible mass martyrdoms that Christians suffered during emperor Diocletian's reign.

... Egyptian Christians are the authentic descendants of the pharaohs. Indeed, the name "Copts," as Christians are known in this land, designates the way in which Arabs refer to Egyptians: "Qubt," a contraction of the Greek "Aigyptos."

The Church in Alexandria was founded by the evangelist St. Mark around the year 40. At the end of the 1st century, 20% of the Egyptian population was Christian. By the 2nd century, they constituted 45% of the population ... [The Coptic calendar's "year 1" is actually 284 A.D.. That was the year that Roman emperor Diocletian came to power, so the Copts chose the year to honor the many martyrs of the persecution under Diocletian.]

As usually happens, the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians. During the 4th century, Egypt became the land that witnessed the birth of the first Christian monks in history. ... After Christians suffered great upheavals, especially in 389, [the emperor] Theodosius promulgated an edict in 392, which made Christianity the state religion and closed pagan temples.

In 451, following the Council of Chalcedon, the Church in Alexandria was divided. [The Council condemned the heresy of Monophysitism -- in which Christ was believed to have only a divine nature, not also a human nature.] This date, 451, marks the birth of the Coptic Monophysite Church [also known as "Jacobite"] -- to which the majority of Egyptian Christians [decided to adhere]. A minority, the "Chalcedonites" [or Melkites], remained [united to the pope]. Today's Coptic Orthodox, the heirs of [the Jacobites], explain that they never actually held the Monophysite heresy ... Instead, [they claim that] they held (and still hold) that the human and divine natures of Christ combined to form one "Christ nature."

The Arab-Muslim conquest of Egypt, which took place between 639 and 642, found Christians divided into 3 million Copts [separated from Rome] and 200,000 Chalcedonites. Since then, there has been a very complex coexistence between Muslims and Christians. ...

At present the Coptic Orthodox Church embraces 93% of Egyptian Christians. Their leader is Pope Shenouda III, [who is considered the] 117th successor of St. Mark ... He has made a great effort to encourage the rebirth of Egyptian monasticism and favor ecumenical dialogue. He met Pope Paul VI in 1973.

The Coptic Catholic Church is one of the smallest Catholic communities in the East. The patriarchy was [reborn] officially in 1895 [by permission of Pope Leo XIII], although since 1741 Apostolic Vicars have succeeded one another to lead the few thousand Copts who [chose to remain united with the pope]. [According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, both in 1442 and in 1713, the Coptic Orthodox patriarchs had re-united their church with the Catholic Church, recognizing the primacy of the pope, "but in neither case was the union of long duration."] Today the Coptic Catholic Church has some 200,000 faithful and, since 1986, is led by Patriarch Stephanos II Ghattas. ...


The Coptic Orthodox ... stress that they never held the [heresy of] Monophysitism ... Copts believe that the Lord is perfect in his divinity, and he is perfect in his humanity, but his divinity and his humanity were united in one nature called "the nature of the incarnate word," which was reiterated by Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Copts, thus, believe in two natures -- "human" and "divine" -- that are united in one nature "without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration." These two natures "did not separate for a moment or the twinkling of an eye." [According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the immediate successor of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Patriarch "Dioscurus (444-455), was deposed and excommunicated by the Council of Calcedon (451)" because of his Monophysitism.]

Coptic Pope Shenouda III, the "Successor of St. Mark," actively seeks Christian unity, and calls the separation largely semantic. "To the Coptic Church, faith is more important than anything, and others must know that semantics and terminology are of little importance to us."


The Copts are spread out between Egypt and Ethiopia. This is a community that has kept the faith in good times and in bad since the Arab invasion in 640. Precisely because of their fidelity to Christian worship, the members of the Coptic ethnic group can be considered today the most racially pure descendants of the primitive inhabitants of ancient Egypt. It was their language which made possible the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics. ...

Today the Coptic Church is characterized by its adherence and constant attention to Sacred Scripture, rather than theological disputations on heresies ... At present there are 24 Jacobite dioceses ...


[The Coptic Catholic community] is not very numerous, but it is vital. It has just over 200,000 faithful out of a total of 66 million Egyptians. It has one priest for every 500 inhabitants and is active in 400 day-care centers, primary schools, and secondary schools, 3 higher institutes and universities, 13 hospitals, 43 orphanages, and over 100 out-patient clinics ...


[Earlier this year,] John Paul II visited the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox patriarchy where he received a very warm welcome. In the presence of a large representation from this Christian community, Pope Shenouda, successor of St. Mark in the See of Alexandria, addressed St. Peter's successor spontaneously and affectionately ... Shenouda III recalled his meeting with Pope Paul VI in 1973 and the joint doctrinal declaration they signed on that occasion ... John Paul II also improvised his reply. With a smile he said that all those who came with him to Egypt feel at home, since Mark wrote his Gospel for the Romans. After travelling with St. Paul for a time, Mark came to serve Peter. Many say that his Gospel represents primarily the memoirs of the first Pope.


[A priest who was present when the pope met the patriarch said the following:] "To tell the truth, the meeting with Shenouda III and the Copts was above all of a personal nature, as it sought to break the ice of mistrust, and to offer expressions of cordiality and affection. From my perspective, the significant words of these meetings were what Shenouda said to the Pope: 'We love you.' And the Pope's reply, who added spontaneously, 'We also love Pope Shenouda.' I think this was the fundamental moment of the meeting."

[Most Christians are unaware that, since the meeting of Shenouda and Paul VI in the 1970s, there has been quiet dialog between Catholics and Coptic Orthodox. I found a page that tells of the interchurch activity ( l) and another that contains the text of an important 1988 agreement between Catholics and Coptic Orthodox. You and your lecturer may want to read this.

--------------------------------------------------- [In case you want to do a lot more reading on the Pope's trip to Egypt (including the texts of some of his addresses), you can find the series of articles from which I quoted (above), "bound" together at one Internet site: ]

Christene, as the pope said to the Coptic Orthodox people earlier this year, speaking in both Arabic and English: "As-salam 'alaikum -- Peace be with you!"


-- J. F. Gecik (, September 13, 2000.

Indeed Our Lord appoints Peter as his principal representative. All Christians followed his leadership in his days. Nero killed him because he was the main leader of the new religion. Once the LORD resurrected and ascended to the Heavens, not to long after the disciples were gathered in the upper room when a strong wind came about and the Holy Spirit felled upon them (read first chapters of the Book of ACTS. ) This is the key element for receiving our GRACE and SALVATION. The LAMB was offered in sacrifice, resurrected, ascended unto Heavens send his Holy Spirit...and from that moment on...Those that will accept that JESUSCHRIST as his SAVIOR, is Babtized for the remmission of sins. this is what PETER our First POPE ( POPE, PAPA, PATER=FATHER ) - Baptize in the name of JESUS....ACTS 2:38 Thee who have understanding, understand. Praise The Lord, Host of Hosts. MAy HIS ETERNAL BLESSINGS walk with all of us until his coming.

-- Jorges L Jujusek, (, July 29, 2001.

Great work John and Gino. I pulled this thread up in case anyone wanted to read your posts from last year. This question came up tonight on forum.


-- @ (@@@@.@), September 06, 2002.

Thanks @ for pulling up this old thread.

-- Kathy (, September 07, 2002.

bump for Rod Rodriguez.

Pax Christi. <><

-- Anna <>< (, February 24, 2003.

“Despite its claims, France is not the "first-born daughter of the Church." Historically, this claim actually belongs to Egypt, the first Christian country in history. The expression "first-born daughter of the Church," was used of France because the Gauls were the first European nation to convert to Christianity in 495, when King Clovis and 30,000 of his warriors embraced the faith. However, a century earlier, Christianity was already the religion of Egypt -- 99.9% of Egyptians converted easily, in spite of the terrible mass martyrdoms that Christians suffered during emperor Diocletian's reign.” (John)

Actually Armenia was the first Christian country in history. Armenia adopted Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, at a time when Christians were still being persecuted across the border in the Roman Empire. The church in Armenia was then in union with the entire Catholic church.

The Gauls (the ancient Celtic race which inhabited what is now France) converted to Christianity before the Western Empire collapsed in 476 AD. Clovis (Louis) and his followers were not Gauls, but Franks , the Germanic barbarians who invaded and took over Gaul. The Franks were not even the first European nation OUTSIDE THE ROMAN EMPIRE to convert to Christianity. (The Irish were, about 60 years earlier.) But the conversion of Clovis and the Franks was regarded as a very important, because it showed that the collapse of the Western Roman Empire did not mean the end of the Church, as many had predicted. (Nations and empires come and go, but the Catholic church remains to the end of time.) This is what was originally meant by calling France “the Church’s eldest daughter”. The idea was amplified in the following centuries by the fact that France probably produced more Catholic saints and scholars than any other country. (Italy was not a single country until 1870.)

-- Steve (, July 06, 2004.

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