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Christianity / Orientations /
Greek: katholikos
Arabic: thūlīkiyy
Hebrew: katoli

Term used in Christianity, coming from the Greek word for "universal", katholikos.
Today the term is largely associated with the original church of Rome, and part of the name: Roman Catholic Church. Other churches have the term in the name, being associated with Rome. Still, many other churches also make a claim on the term, a reflection of centuries of disagreement and tension. For many churches it would be impossible to accept definitions putting them on the outside of what is "universal".
The first example of the term being used is from 106, in a letter by Ignatius to the Christians of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), but this was in no way used as a name, rather as the expression of the nature of Christianity. In 325, the Council of Nicaea defined the church by 4 characteristics: Catholic in addition to One, Holy and Apostolic. In 348 St. Cyril of Jerusalem defined in his Catecheses 'catholic' to denote a church that extends worldwide, that is complete, that fits the needs of anyone, and that is perfect in moral and spirituality.
The closest there is to a term that denotes the opposite of "universal", is "heresy". The other term often used for churches, "orthodox", is neither the same as "catholic" nor anything opposite.

By Tore Kjeilen