The term Holy Roman Church refers strictly to the Church of Rome, the Diocese of Rome, the Holy See or the Apostolic See — they are all one and the same in this context. The incumbent is the Bishop of Rome — the Pope. The Holy Roman Church should not be confused with the Roman Catholic Church even though both are ruled by the Roman Pontiff as the visible head of the church.

While the term "Roman Catholic Church", in its most literal sense, means the Church of Rome, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Rome, it is also used to refer to the whole Christian Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

It has been used in this sense even by Popes.

While the term "Roman Catholic Church" does appear with this meaning in official documents of the Church in question, the term "Catholic Church" is used much more frequently.

The term "Roman Catholic Church" appears repeatedly in the sense of the whole Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome (not just the Church in Rome alone) in official documents concerning dialogue with other Christians. Examples of such documents can be found at the links on the Vatican website under the heading Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.


  1. In the original language: "vi sono nell'ambito del cristianesimo la Chiesa cattolica (romano-cattolica) e la Chiesa o Chiese ortodosse, il cui centro storico si trova a Costantinopoli."

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