(1609–35) Military alliance of the Catholic powers of Germany, led by Maximilian I, duke of Bavaria, and designed to stem the growth of Protestantism in Germany. Plans for a league had long been discussed, but the formation of the Protestant Union in 1608 finally caused the Catholics to unite. In alliance with the Habsburg emperors, the League's forces, led by Graf von Tilly, played a key role in the Thirty Years' War. The league was abolished by the Peace of Prague (1635).
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Freedom from discrimination and civil disabilities granted to the Roman Catholics of Britain and Ireland in the late 18th and early 19th century. After the Reformation, Roman Catholics in Britain could not purchase land, hold offices or seats in Parliament, inherit property, or practice their religion without incurring civil penalties. Irish Catholics faced similar limitations. By the late 18th century, Catholicism no longer seemed so great a social and political danger, and a series of laws, culminating in the Emancipation Act of 1829, eased the restrictions. A major figure in the struggle for full emancipation was Daniel O'Connell.
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The Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church and the twenty-two Eastern Catholic Churches fully accept this tradition and feel charged with preserving it. Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous (in Latin, sui iuris) particular Churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. They preserve the liturgical, theological and devotional traditions of the various Eastern Christian Churches with which they are associated. They include the Ukrainian, Greek, Greek Melkite, Maronite, Ruthenian Byzantine, Coptic Catholic, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Chaldean and Ethiopic Rites. Under Pope John Paul II the Catholic Church issued a book of beliefs, common to all these churches under the title Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: "To believe that the Church is "holy" and "catholic", and that she is "one" and "apostolic" (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The term Catholic Church is associated with the whole of the church that is led by the Roman Pontiff, currently Pope Benedict XVI, and whose over one billion adherents are about half of the estimated 2.1 billion Christians. Other Christian denominations also lay claim to the description Catholic, including the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Churches possessing the historic episcopate (bishops).
In some countries, "Catholic" is included in the official name of a particular parish church, school, hospice or other institution belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, to distinguish it from those of other denominations. For example, the name "St. Mark's Catholic Church" seeks to make clear that it is not an Anglican or Lutheran church. In other countries, such as England, it would be more usual to use "Roman Catholic Church" in this context.
Many of those, who apply the term "Catholic Church" to all Christians indiscriminately, object to this use of the term to designate what they view as only one denomination within what they see as the "whole" Catholic Church. However, the Roman Catholic Church, both in its Western form and in that of the Eastern Catholic Churches, always considered itself to be the Catholic Church, with all others as "non-Catholics", and regularly refers to itself as "the Catholic Church". This practice is in application of the belief that not all who claim to be Christians are part of the Catholic Church - a belief that goes back to Ignatius of Antioch, the earliest known writer to use the term "Catholic Church".
Though normally distinguishing itself from other churches by calling itself the "Catholic Church", it accepts the description "Roman Catholic Church". Even apart from documents drawn up jointly with other churches, it has sometimes, in view of the central position it attributes to the See of Rome, adopted the adjective "Roman" for the whole Church, Eastern as well as Western, as in the papal encyclicals Divini illius Magistri and Humani generis. Another example is its self-description as the "Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church in the 24 April 1870 Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith of the First Vatican Council. In all of these documents it also refers to itself simply as the Catholic Church. The Eastern Catholic Churches, while united with Rome in the faith, have their own traditions and laws, differing from those of the Latin Rite and those of other Eastern Catholic Churches.
Anglicans and Old Catholics see themselves as a communion within that one church, and Lutherans see themselves as "a reform movement within the greater Church catholic".
Roman Catholics view the Bishop of Rome as the "Successor of Peter" to serve as universal pastor to the entire Church. Eastern Orthodox Christians do recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope) but only in the sense of a primacy of honour, not one of jurisdiction, among the Patriarchates of Constantintinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. Anglicans and Old Catholics accept that the Bishop of Rome is primus inter pares among all primates, but they embrace Conciliarism as a necessary check on what they consider to be the "excesses" of Ultramontanism.
Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians (in general), and the Assyrian Church of the East each recognize the "validity" of each other's Eucharist (Mass or Divine Liturgy), and of the holy orders of their respective priesthoods and episcopate. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, considers Anglican Holy Orders to be "null and void," as declared by Pope Leo XIII in his Bull Apostolicae curae. Beginning with the Encyclical Letter Saepius officio of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in response to Apostolicae curae, Anglicans have steadfastly rejected this claim. At present, Old Catholics are in full communion with the worldwide Anglican Communion, including full exchange of clergy and participation in each other's ordinations (including episcopal consecrations), and many Lutheran Churches are in communion with some Anglican provinces. Although there were several statements made by a couple of Orthodox leaders in the early 20th century giving hope to Anglican clergy that their priestly orders would eventually be recognized as valid by the Orthodox, today there is little variance among Orthodox patriarchs and metropolitans on the validity of Anglican Orders. As with the Roman Catholic Church, today the Orthodox churches universally require ordination to the priesthood for Anglican clergy that convert to Orthodoxy, evidencing the prevailing Orthodox view that the Anglican liturgy is non-sacramental in nature.
Thus, for example, in an emergency, when no Roman Catholic priest is available, a Roman Catholic may, under canon law, receive the Holy Eucharist and receive absolution from an Orthodox priest, but not from an Anglican priest. This also means that if an Episcopal or an Anglican male priest converts to the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church confers ordination on him (in its view, for the first time) and excludes women from Holy Orders. This divergence of belief is a considerable block to greater unity, in spite of substantial progress in ecumenical dialogues between Anglicans and Roman Catholics since the Second Vatican Council.
Recent historic ecumenical efforts on the part of Roman Catholic Church have focused on healing the rupture between the Western ("Latin" or "Catholic") Christian Church and the Eastern ("Greek" or "Orthodox") Christian Church. Pope John Paul II often spoke of his great desire that the Catholic Church "once again breathe with both lungs", thus emphasizing that the Catholic Church seeks to restore full communion with the separated "Eastern" and "Oriental" Christian Churches.
After the East-West Schism, conventionally dated to 1054, a brief reunification took place in the mid-15th century at the Council of Florence. The present Pope (Benedict XVI) has stated his wish to restore full unity with the Orthodox. From the Roman Catholic standpoint, almost all of the ancient theological differences have been satisfactorily addressed (the Filioque clause, the nature of purgatory, etc.), and the experience of the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome has shown that the eventual reunion will not mean a "Latinization" of the Eastern Churches.
Methodists and Presbyterians believe their denominations owe their origins to the Apostles and the early Church, but do not claim descent from ancient Church structures such as the episcopate. Neither of these Churches, however, denies that they are a part of the catholic (universal) Church.