Eastern Catholic churches are united with Rome but their organizational structures parallel those of the various Eastern Orthodox churches. This is to be expected, since these Eastern Catholic churches have their origins in the same parts of the world as the Orthodox churches and have the same liturgy and traditions as their Orthodox counterparts. The main organizational difference, however, is that they elected to resume communion with the pope in Rome. This means that they both share the most holy religious services and accept the authority of the pope. These churches each have their own head, or patriarch. The internal affairs of each Eastern Catholic church are usually decided by the patriarch of that church and its bishops. The largest Eastern Catholic churches in the United States are the Melkite Church and the Maronite Church, which originated in the Middle East, and the Ukrainian and Ruthenian churches, which are Slavic in origin.
Whether in the Roman Catholic or in the Eastern Catholic churches, church organization is not considered to be exclusively a matter of administration and government. It is viewed as an ordering that is directed by the Holy Spirit for the maintenance of the church in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Such a spiritual view of organization is based on the words of Christ at the end of Matthew's Gospel: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
Throughout its history Christianity has had an impact in many areas of human life in the lands where it has been practiced. The extent of its influence has been greater or less in different countries at various times, but its influence was strongly felt in Europe during the Middle Ages, or as the period is sometimes called, the Age of Faith.
Comparatively, the influence of Catholicism, as with many forms of religion, has diminished in recent years, causing some Catholics to believe that today's world is too secular, or nonre-ligious. Yet even today the influence of the Catholic Church is strong. There is hardly a town in the United States that does not have at least one Catholic church. Many of the architecturally striking buildings in American and European cities are Catholic cathedrals. Catholic schools are recognized for the educational contributions they have made to American society. Moreover politicians and pollsters, those who canvas public opinion, are very aware of the power of the so-called Catholic vote.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. A Christian basilica was first built here in the sixth century. Work on the current building began in 1163 and was completed in 1345.
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