Timeline of the Catholic Church

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As one of the oldest branches of Christianity, along with Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy,[1] the history of the Catholic Church plays an integral part of the history of Christianity as a whole. This article covers a period of just under 2,000 years.

Over time, schisms have disrupted the unity of Christianity. The major divisions occurred in c.144 with Marcionism,[2] 318 with Arianism, in 1054 the East–West Schism of the Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox churches and in 1517 with the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church has been the moving force in some of the major events of world history including the evangelization of Europe and Latin America, the spreading of literacy and the foundation of the universities, hospitals, Western monasticism, the development of art, music, literature, architecture, the scientific method, and trial by jury. Also playing a role in world affairs including, the Inquisition, the Crusades, an analytical philosophical method, and the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe in the late 20th century.

Ministry of Jesus and founding

Byzantine image depicting Jesus as Christ pantocrator
  • Although the calculations of Dionysius Exiguus put the birth of Jesus in the year that in consequence is called AD 1, history places his birth more likely some time between 6 and 4 BC.
  • c. 28: Jesus' baptism, start of ministry, and selection of the Apostles. The Gospel of Luke indicates that Christ was baptized during the 15th reign of Tiberius Caesar which is dated in 28 AD (found in Luke 3:1,21,22). Christian Gospels strongly suggest Peter as leader and spokesman of the Apostles of Jesus, being mentioned the most number of times in the Gospels. Peter, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John, constitute the inner circle of the Apostles of Jesus, being witnesses to specific important events of the life of Jesus; preachings of Jesus, such as the Sermon on the Mount; and performance of miracles, such as raising the dead back to life, feeding five-thousand, walking on water, etc.
  • c. 31: Peter declares and other followers believe Jesus of Nazareth to be the Jewish Messiah promised by Yahweh according to the Jewish Scriptures and the predictions of the Hebrew prophets. Entry into Jerusalem, start of Passion of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is crucified in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea during the reign of Tiberius and Herod Antipas, after the Sanhedrin, under the High Priest Caiaphas, accuse Jesus of blasphemy. He was then crucified under Pontius Pilate. According to his followers, three days later, "God raised him from the dead". Forty days after his resurrection (Ascension), the Christian Gospels narrate that Jesus instructed His disciples thus: "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of time." (Matthew 28:18–20). Ten days later (Pentecost) Peter makes the first sermon converting 3,000 to be baptized.

Early Christianity


Head of Constantine's colossal statue at Musei Capitolini


Justinian I depicted on a mosaic in the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy


Notre-Dame Cathedral – designed in the Gothic architectural style.


Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City


Social Teaching
Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg

Pope Leo XIII
Quod apostolici muneris
Rerum novarum

Pope Pius XI
Quadragesimo anno

Pope Pius XII
Social teachings

Pope John XXIII
Mater et magistra
Pacem in terris

Vatican II
Dignitatis humanae
Gaudium et spes

Pope Paul VI
Populorum progressio

Pope John Paul II
Laborem exercens
Sollicitudo rei socialis
Centesimus annus
Evangelium vitae

Pope Benedict XVI
Deus caritas est
Caritas in veritate

Pope Francis
Lumen fidei
Laudato si'

Social teachings of the Popes
Tranquillitas Ordinis

Notable figures
Gaspard Mermillod
René de La Tour du Pin
Heinrich Pesch
Dorothy Day
Óscar Romero
Joseph Bernardin
Hilaire Belloc
G. K. Chesterton
Thomas Woods

19th century

20th century

  • 1903–1914:Saint Pope Pius X numerous reforms, staunch defender of the faith, introducing frequent communion, promoting Gregorian chant. Problems with France. He is the most recent Pope to be canonized a saint. Prior to him was Pope St. Pius V.
  • 1914–1918 Pope Benedict XV declares neutrality during World War I. His peace initiatives are rejected by both sides as favoring the other. Massive papal charity in Europe.
  • 1916: Charles I of Austria is crowned Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He is one of the last Catholic monarchs. Charles attempted to negotiate peace between the warring nations during World War I. His attempts at peace are largely ignored.
  • 1917: Canon law for the Roman Catholic Church published by Pope Benedict XV. The apparition of Our Lady of Fátima occurs in Fátima, Portugal over the course of six months ending in the Miracle of the Sun. This apparition is considered to be among the most important in the Catholic Church.
  • 1918: Persecution of the Roman Catholic Church and especially the Eastern Catholic Churches in the Soviet Union (until 1985)
  • 1922: Emperor Charles I of Austria dies in exile and poverty in Portugal. Later to become beatified as Blessed Charles.
  • 1925: Holy Year proclaimed by Pope Pius XI
  • 1926: Beginning of Church persecutions in Mexico until 1940 also known as the Cristero War or La Cristiada.
  • March 19, 1927 Foundation of the Sisters of the Destitute (SD) at Chunungumvely, Kerala by Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly.
  • October 2, 1928: Saint Josemaría Escrivá founded Opus Dei, a worldwide organization of lay members of the Catholic Church.
  • February 11, 1929: The Lateran Treaty is signed by Benito Mussolini and Cardinal Gasparri establishing the independent State of the Vatican City and resolving the Roman Question between Italy and the Holy See since the seizure of the Papal States in 1870.
  • October 5, 1929 Death of Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly
  • February 12, 1931: Vatican Radio is set up by Guglielmo Marconi and inaugurated by Pope Pius XI. First signal broadcast is in Morse code: In nomine Domini, amen.
  • 1931–1936: Persecution of the Church in Spain It is estimated that in the course of the Red Terror (Spain), 6,832 members of the Catholic clergy were killed.[11]
  • July 20, 1933: Concordat Between the Holy See and the German Reich signed by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli and Franz von Papen on behalf of Pope Pius XI and President Paul von Hindenburg, respectively.
  • 1937: Mit brennender Sorge encyclical against National Socialism by Pope Pius XI, written by Cardinals Eugenio Pacelli and Michael von Faulhaber
  • September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland. Start of the Second World War. The Vatican, after trying to avoid the war, declares neutrality to avoid being drawn into the conflict. Massive Vatican relief intervention for displaced persons, prisoners of war and needy civilians in Europe. In 1939 St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia was finished being built.
  • During World War II: Convents, monasteries, and the Vatican are used to hide Jews and others targeted by the Nazis for extermination. (see The Myth of Hitler's Pope) St. Maximilian Kolbe is martyred in Auschwitz concentration camp after volunteering to die in place of a stranger. The Nazis imprison and at times execute Catholic clergy, monks and nuns not compliant to Nazi ideology.
  • 1943: Encyclical of Pope Pius XII Mystici corporis defining the Catholic Church as the Body of Christ;
  • 1943: Encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu, opening biblical research to Catholic scholars
  • 1944: The German Army occupies Rome. Adolf Hitler proclaims he will respect Vatican neutrality; however several incidents, such as giving aid to downed Allied airmen, nearly cause Nazi Germany to invade the Vatican. Rome is liberated by the Allies after only a few weeks of occupation.
  • 1950:Holy Year declared by Pope Pius XII, who announced on December 25, 1950 that the Tomb of Saint Peter had been identified by archeologists underneath Saint Peter Basilica; canonization of Pope Pius X, Maria Goretti; encyclical Humani generis
  • 1950: The Assumption of Mary is defined as dogma by Pius XII
  • 1954: First Marian year in Church history proclaimed by Pius XII, who introduced Marian Feast Queenship of Mary
  • 1960: Senator John F. Kennedy is elected president, making him the only Roman Catholic president in United States history
  • October 11, 1962: Pope John XXIII opens the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council. The 21st ecumenical council of the Catholic Church emphasized the universal call to holiness and brought many changes in practices, including an increased emphasis on ecumenism; fewer rules on penances, fasting and other devotional practices; and initiating a revision of the services, which were to be slightly simplified and made supposedly more accessible by allowing the use of native languages instead of Latin. Opposition to changes inspired by the Council gave rise to the movement of Traditionalist Catholics who disagree with changing the old forms of worship and disagree with the rise of previously condemned philosophies now being adopted by clergy and laity.
  • December 7, 1965: Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration of Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I. Mutual excommunication of the Great Schism of 1054 against Catholic and Orthodox is lifted by both parties.
  • December 8, 1965: Pope Paul VI solemnly closes the Second Vatican Council.
  • 1970: Revision of the Roman Missal, following on gradual introduction of vernacular languages in celebration of Mass.
  • 1973: Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa in the remote area of Yuzawadai, near the city of Akita in Japan reports seeing a number of apparitions now known as Our Lady of Akita.
  • August 26, 1978: Pope John Paul I becomes the first pope to use a double regnal name. He reigns for only 33 days.
  • October 16, 1978: Pope John Paul II becomes the first Polish pope and first non-Italian pope elected in 450 years; influential in overthrowing communism in Europe.
  • 1984: First World Youth Day instituted by Pope John Paul II celebrated in Rome. Celebrated between Rome and a different city in alternating sequence every year.
  • 1987 Marian year announced by John Paul II in the encyclical Redemptoris Mater
  • June 30, 1988: Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), consecrates four men as bishops at Écône, Switzerland without the express permission of the Pope. Lefebvre et al. automatically incurs excommunication according to canon law. Traditionalist bishops of the SSPX continue to be suspended "a divinis" to this day.[12]
  • December 31, 1991: The Soviet Union is officially dissolved. Persecuted Catholic Church re-emerges from hiding, especially in the Ukraine and Baltic states.
  • 1992: The new Catechism of the Catholic Church is first published, in Latin and French.
  • 1994: Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, an Apostolic Letter upholding a prohibition against ordination of women to the priesthood, is promulgated by Pope John Paul II.

21st century

Benedict XVI, the first Pope elected in the 21st century
  • April 30, 2000 : Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and designated the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday in the General Roman Calendar, with effect from the following year.
  • January 1, 2001: The 21st century and the new millennium begin. The Church solemnizes the start of the third Christian millennium by extending into part of the year 2001 the jubilee year that it observes at 25-year intervals and that, in the case of the year 2000, it called the Great Jubilee.
  • January 6, 2001: John Paul II issues Novo Millennio Ineunte, a program for the Church in the new millennium, wherein he placed sanctity through a training in prayer as the most important priority of the Catholic Church in consonance with its purpose.
  • January 18, 2002: Former American priest John Geoghan is convicted of child molestation and sentenced to ten years in prison, as part of the ongoing sex abuse scandal. The Geoghan case was one of the worst scandals of the Catholic Church in the USA.
  • April 2, 2005: Pope John Paul II dies at the age of 84. His funeral is broadcast to every corner of the globe through the modern media. Millions of Catholic pilgrims journey to Rome to pay final respects.
  • April 19, 2005: German-born Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger is elected by the College of Cardinals as Pope Benedict XVI, thus becoming the first Pope elected during the 21st century and the 3rd millennium.
  • August 18, 2005: Pope Benedict XVI attends the World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, his first trip outside Italy.
  • September 12, 2006: Pope Benedict XVI delivers address on Faith, Reason in University of Regensburg. Benedict maintained that in the Western world, to a large degree, only positivistic reason and philosophy are valid. A concept of reason which excludes the divine, is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures, according to Benedict.[13] He quoted negative views of Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, regarding Islam, which several weeks after it was delivered, created violent reactions among Muslims in several parts of the world.[14][15][16][17][18]
  • June 11, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI reverted the decision of his predecessor regarding papal elections,and restored the traditional two-thirds majority required [19]
  • July 7, 2007: Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum is issued by Pope Benedict XVI explicitly liberating the Roman Missal of 1962 as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite. Hopes of healing the schism between the SSPX and the Catholic Church is implied in accompanying letter to the motu proprio.
  • October 28, 2007: Pope Benedict XVI authorizes the largest beatification ceremony in Church history involving 498 Spanish Martyrs who were killed during the Civil War in Spain.
  • May 2008: A solemn declaration agreed on between Pope Benedict XVI and Muslims, led by Mahdi Mostafavi, stressed that genuine religion is essentially non-violent and that violence can be justified neither by reason nor by faith.[20]
  • July 2008: Pope Benedict XVI participates in Sydney Australia in the World Youth Day and announces Spain as the country to host the next one.
  • January 2009: The Holy See remitted the excommunications of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, which has been criticized for its schimatic nature with the Magisterium
  • February 2013: Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI
  • March 2013: Jorge Bergoglio elected as Pope Francis and is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be elected Pope.

See also

Further reading

The History of the Catholic Church, From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium James Hitchcock, Ph.D. Ignatius Press, 2012 ISBN 978-I-58617-664-8


Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church. Crocker, H.W.

Bokenkotter, Thomas. A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Revised and expanded ed. New York: Image Books Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0-385-51613-4


  1. The Eastern Orthodox and some other churches are also apostolic in origin — i.e., they also date their origins back to the founding of the Church at the time of the Apostles
  2. Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FCatholic_Encyclopedia_%281913%29%2FMarcionites "Marcionites" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>: "...they were perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known."
  3. Chadwick, Henry, pp. 23–24.
  4. Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FCatholic_Encyclopedia_%281913%29%2FSt._John_the_Evangelist "St. John the Evangelist" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. St. John the Evangelist, ewtn.com, retrieved September 30, 2006
  6. McMullen, p. 44.
  7. De Imperatoribus Romanis – Constantine I, retrieved February 23, 2007
  8. Duffy, p. 29.
  9. Duffy, p. 30.
  10. "Suave Molecules of Mocha" Coffee, Chemistry, and Civilization, New Partisan – A Journal of Culture, Arts and Politics, March 7, 2005, retrieved October 23, 2006
  11. Hubert Jedin, Church history, 619
  12. Schism of SSPX Pete Vere, My Journey out of the Lefebvre Schism: All Tradition Leads to Rome, Catholic Education Resource Center, retrieved November 20, 2006
  13. Benedict XVI, Meeting with the representatives of science in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg (September 12, 2006)
  14. Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections from official Vatican website, retrieved October 18, 2006
  15. "Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization" by Pope Benedict XVI, Zenit News Agency, retrieved October 18, 2006
  16. Pope Is Regretful That His Speech Angered Muslims, Sep. 17, 2006, L.A. Times, retrieved October 18, 2006[dead link]
  17. Al Qaeda threat over pope speech, Sep. 18, 2006, CNN.com retrieved October 18, 2006[dead link]
  18. Qaeda-led group vows "jihad" over Pope's speech, Sep. 18, 2006, Reuters, retrieved October 18, 2006
  19. Moto Proprio, De Aliquibus Mutationibus, June 11, 2007
  20. Kleiber, Reinhard (2008). "Iran and the Pope Easing Relations". Quantara. Retrieved June 24, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links