The Catholic Church is the Christian Church in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. It traces its origins to, and sees itself as, the same Church founded by Jesus and maintained through Apostolic Succession from the Twelve Apostles.
The Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church and the largest organized body of any world religion. It is a worldwide organization made up of one Western (or Latin) Church and 22 Eastern particular Churches, all of which have the Holy See of Rome as their highest authority. It is divided into jurisdictional areas, usually on a territorial basis. The standard territorial unit is called a diocese in the Latin Church and an eparchy in the Eastern Churches, each of which is headed by a bishop.
Catholicism was a widely practiced religion in Europe in the 17th century. During the Thirty Years' War, Catholicism was one of the main rival religions, as the German Catholic League, Austria, and Spain were arrayed against the Protestant Union, and later against Lutheran Denmark and Sweden. Following the appearance of Grantville in 1631, Catholicism was freely practiced in the tolerant town, which gained notice from the Catholic Church. As a matter of fact, Catholics constituted the largest religious group in the Confederated Principalities of Europe and United States of Europe.
As of late 1633/early 1634, the Church, at least at its upper levels, was generally aware of the path it had taken in the OTL. In September of 1632, Father Lawrence Mazzare had sent, via Giulio Mazarini, the 1992 edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the papers of the Second Vatican Council, and a Church-approved English translation of the Bible. This led to a request for information on the history of the Church, to the extent that Grantville had that information. A lengthy report on that history, as well as a report on the second half of the Thirty Years' War as it had happened in the OTL, was ready in September of 1633.
As of August 1635, there was a possibility that the Church could eventually schism, at least temporarily, between supporters of Pope Urban VIII and Cardinal Gaspar Borja y Velasco. In most of Europe, official Catholic reaction to the news that Urban was alive ranged from expressions of relief with references to "the pope" or "our pope" to strong expressions of support. In France, Urban had support among the cardinals, but Monsieur Gaston had declared for Borja, and had the backing of many hard-line French bishops. Officially, Spain and its satrapies and client states were firmly behind Borja, though King Philip IV was privately furious at him and refused to call him "pope". In addition, popular sentiment in Milan and Naples was for Urban. Bavaria and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were also strongly behind Borja.
- ↑ In this context, "particular" implies autonomy and internal self-governance. See:Eastern Catholic Churches on Wikipedia.