A Brief History

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Jerusalem

All Catholic Churches trace their origins to the Church of Jerusalem where the Apostles set out on the mission given to them by Jesus, that is, to "go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." (Mk 16:15) From here Peter and Paul went to Antioch, Mark to North Africa, Thomas to India, and so on. Eventually several major Sees were developed. These were the places where bishops influenced more than their own diocese. The five major Sees of the Ancient world were Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople.

Antioch

It was in Antioch that the followers of Christ were first called "Christians." Both Peter and Paul taught here, and tradition holds that St. Peter was the first bishop of Antioch. It was from here that he went to Rome.

As a major cross-road for the Middle East, Antioch was heavily Hellenized, that is, the Greek influence was dominant and Greek was the primary language. There were, however, numerous other peoples, most notably the Semites. St. Ignatius of Antioch is credited with the first use of the term "catholic" in reference to the Church. This is found in his Letter to the Smyrneans written around the year 110 A.D.

Alexandria

According to tradition, St. Mark the Evangelist, a disciple of St. Peter, came to North Africa and settled in Alexandria. This area, along with Hippo, also in North Africa, played a major role in determining the canon of books in the Bible.

Constantinople

Originally known as Byzantium, this city became a major See when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital from Rome. He renamed the city in his honor and it became known as the "New Rome." Because of the presence of the Emperor the See, already a minor one, became much more important. Its rank in the early Church was second only to that of Rome.

Rome

When Peter went to Rome and established his bishopric there Rome was elevated to the rank of Apostolic See. It is because Rome was the see of the First of the Apostles that it acquired such great prominence.

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