The Origin and Evolution of the Parish Church

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The origin and evolution of the parish church is inextricably linked to Roman Catholicism which is the dominant religious or spiritual sect of Christianity, the other two branches being Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The history or parish church’s origin is in fact synonymous with the history of Roman Catholic Church (R C Ch) or Christian Church. The parish church came to be established in the wake of the gospels of Jesus Christ-founder of Christianity, who lived and preached in Judea, a province of the Holy Roman Empire. Jesus anointed one of the 12 apostles, Saint Peter to head the first or original church in Rome and is regarded as the first bishop.

The bishop or the head of the Roman church came to be known as the pope and so all subsequent popes of the church in Rome are considered to be successors of Saint Peter. With passage of time, churches began to be formed throughout the Roman Empire with the bishop heading the structural unit. Towards the turn of the 3rd cent, the church in Rome or the Roman Church started functioning as the supreme appeals court to which the bishops of different churches turned for resolving religious issues which regional synods could not mitigate or solve.

If historians are to be believed, Christianity as a religion went through epochal ups and downs for the first three centuries after its founding. Early followers and proponents of the religion were immensely persecuted as the Roman Empire had put heavy restrictions on its propagation. However winds of change started blowing in favor of Christianity with the advent of Constantine who advocated religious toleration. He strongly felt that by allowing the religion to take roots, the vast empire that was getting difficult to govern and was on the verge of collapsing could be prevented from disintegrating. Slowly and gradually over the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has played a key role in making Roman Catholicism the major religious sect after Islam with approximately 1.1 million followers or Roman Catholics throughout the world.

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