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Roman Catholics

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					                              Roman Catholics




Roman Catholics are Christians. That means they are followers of Jesus
Christ. The Christian Church has three main parts – Roman Catholic, Protestant
and Orthodox. All Christians believe in one God. They believe that God sent
his son to live as man. He was called Jesus. He spent three years teaching and
living with his followers. He was put to death on a cross but Christians believe
that he came back from the dead. (For more information on Christians – see
separate section on this).

The Pope

The Pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He is helped by Bishops,
who each look after an area called a Diocese. This is split into smaller areas
called parishes and they are looked after by a parish priest.

Church

The Parish Church is the heart of the Catholic community. There is holy water
near the entrance. As people go in they dip the fingers of their right hands into
the water and mark a cross upon themselves with it. The cross is the sign of
Christianity.

Altar: Most of the activities in the church take place around the altar. Next to the
altar or behind it is the Tabernacle. The altar is really a big table. The people
gather around it for the mass. Catholics believe that God is everywhere but this
special place is kept in every church. A light burns there to remind people of
God’s presence.

Mass: All Catholics are expected to go to mass on Sundays and some go
during the week as well. The priest wears special clothes called vestments. The
mass is a celebration for Catholics of the last meal that Jesus shared with
his friends – called the Last Supper. The priest’s Vestments or robes vary
according to the time of the year or festival. The Mass has several parts. First
the congregation asks forgiveness for its sins. There is often a prayer of praise,
readings from the Bible and a talk by the priest. There is also Holy Communion
and mass ends with a blessing from the priest. After Mass people sometimes
stop to chat with the priest and their friends.
Communion: When children are about seven they make First Communion.
There is a special celebration of Mass – often on a Saturday and children
generally dress up in new clothes for this.




Confession: Catholics believe that God is like a kind father, always ready to
forgive. They talk to a priest when they are sorry for doing wrong. The
priest sits in a very small room called a Confessional. Catholics then ‘make up’
with God. This is called a Reconciliation.

Baptism: Catholics welcome new-born babies into the church through baptism.
At baptism, babies have Holy Water poured on their heads. They are annointed
with oil and their parents hold a lighted candle and a white cloth for them. These
are signs for them of starting a new life with God.

Confirmation: When young Catholics are about 12 or 13 they are invited to
‘confirm’ the promise that was made at their Baptism and join the church as a
young adult.

Mary: Catholics sometimes use rosary beads when they say the Hail Mary
which is a special prayer to Mary. Catholics believe that Mary was the mother
of Jesus and for this reason they give her special devotion. Most churches
have pictures or statues of her.

Saints: There are many saints recognised by the Roman Catholic church. They
are all people who are considered to have lived very special lives. Many
people are devoted to particular saints and ask them for help in coming closer to
God.



Advent: During Advent Catholics prepare for the birthday of Jesus – which is
Christmas. The season of advent is the beginning of the church year. An advent
wreath reminds everyone that Christmas is appoaching. Each Sunday, one more
candle is lit and on Christmas day the central one is lit.

All Christians believe that Jesus was born in a stable even though they also
believe that he was the Son of God. The story of Jesus was not written down
until many years after his death so very little is known about his childhood.
Catholics make cribs at Christmas to remind themselves of the birth of
Jesus.


Palm Sunday: Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week – the most important
part of the Christian Year for Catholics. Palms were waved when Jesus rode into
Jerusalem. The next week he rose from the dead, according to their belief.




Worldwide

The Catholic Church has about 1,000 million members in almost every part of the
world. Of these 700 million are Roman Catholics. In Ireland there are many
Catholics – more than 3 million.

				
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