The Church of St. Peter
When we recite the Nicene Creed each week, why do we say that we believe in “one holy catholic and apostolic church”? I thought we were Anglicans, not Catholics.
We are Anglicans, and we are also catholics (with a small “c”). We are not, however, Roman Catholics (with a capital “C”). The word “catholic” comes to us from the Latin word “catholicus”, which means “universal”. When we say that we believe in the “catholic church”, we are expressing our faith in the universal church that spans all time and space; we are saying that we are one with the church throughout the ages.
But not all Christians would describe themselves as “catholic”. Since the Reformation, Anglicans have used the word to describe themselves, and they’ve also described Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the same way. We believe that these three Communions (Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox) continue to represent the undivided Church of the early ages. One of the things that makes us all “catholic” is that all three churches have retained a historical and continuous tradition of faith and practice all the way through the centuries from the days of the Early Church. This continuity includes the presence of bishops in “apostolic succession” from the days of St. Peter the Apostle. Protestant churches, on the other hand, tend to identify themselves, not with the historic faith and practice of the Early Church, but rather with the Bible as interpreted on the principles of the Reformation in the 16 th century.
Next time someone asks you if you’re a “catholic”, you may think twice before you answer!