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There are three levels of clergy, the episcopate, composed of bishops who hold jurisdiction over a geographic area called a diocese or eparchy; the presbyterate, composed of priests ordained by bishops and who work in local diocese or religious orders; and the diaconate, composed of deacons who assist bishops and priests in a variety of ministerial roles.Ultimately leading the entire Catholic Church is the Bishop of Rome, commonly called the pope, whose jurisdiction is called the Holy See.The position of cardinal is a rank of honour bestowed by popes on certain clergy, such as leaders within the Roman Curia, bishops serving in major cities and distinguished theologians.For advice and assistance in governing, the pope may turn to the College of Cardinals.The church teaches that through consecration by a priest the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.The Virgin Mary is venerated in the Catholic Church as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, honoured in dogmas and devotions.The "Catholic" notion was further stressed in the edict De fide Catolica issued 380 by Theodosius I, the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire, when establishing the state church of the Roman Empire.) and the Western Church in communion with the Holy See has similarly taken "Catholic", keeping that description also after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, when those who ceased to be in communion became known as "Protestants".
From the late 20th century, the Catholic Church has received criticism from some for its teaching on sexuality, its refusal to ordain women, as well as the handling of sexual abuse cases involving clergy.
Since the 20th century the majority reside in the southern hemisphere due to secularisation in Europe, and increased persecution in the Middle East.
The Catholic Church shared communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church until the East–West Schism in 1054, disputing particularly the authority of the Pope.
is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the church.
while the distinctive traditions of Oriental canon law govern the 23 Eastern Catholic particular churches sui iuris.
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The Christian beliefs of Catholicism are based on the Nicene Creed.