Difference between Catholics and Christians

March 22, 2017 by Editorial Team

Some say Catholics and Christians are one and the same because they both have the same God. Others say that the two religions are completely different from each other. Which idea is correct? Well, both ideas are somewhat correct. In a way, both religions are similar but they are also different in so many ways. This article will discuss the difference between Catholics and Christians.

Descriptions

Catholics vs Christians
A priest in a Catholic church

Catholics are people who follow the Roman Catholic Church, the Church founded by the divine being Jesus Christ. They are led by a Pope, a living vicar for Jesus Christ who is considered faultless. Minor churches are led by celibate men called priests. Other members of the church are nuns. Nuns are celibate women who vow to live in poverty, simplicity, and obedience to God.

Catholics hear mass in churches, cathedrals, or chapels where images of the cross and statues of Jesus Christ, Mary, and the saints are displayed. Other symbols like the Bible, candles, incense, holy water, and music are also used in prayers and masses. A Catholic mass is led by a priest, follows an order, and involves specific prayers and responses. The Catholics’ belief in Jesus Christ is manifested in the Eucharist, a sacrament that commemorates the Last Supper. The churchgoers take bread and wine which symbolically become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This communion represents the presence of Jesus on the altar.

Catholics believe in the Sign of the Cross, which is a reminder that Jesus was nailed to a cross to save the sinners. In fact, prayers and religious rituals are started and ended with the Sign of the Cross.

Aside from being required to hear Mass every Sunday, Catholics must hear Mass and participate in the sacraments (especially the Holy Eucharist) during the Holy Days of Obligation. They observe the Christian liturgical year which includes 10 Holy Days of Obligation: Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul the Apostles, and All Saints. They also believe in the importance and power of the seven Holy Sacraments which are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.

Catholics believe in the veneration of Mary, who is also called “Mother of God” or “Mother of the Church.” She conceived and gave birth to Jesus Christ through immaculate conception. To Catholics, Mary is an example of purity, holiness, and faith. Although she is not worshiped by Catholics, she is prayed to for intercession. Moreover, Catholics also pray to the saints for intercession and mediation. Like Mary, saints are not adored or worshiped but are intermediaries to God or Jesus.

Catholics kiss, offer flowers, and bow down to statues of Jesus Christ, Mary, and the saints. These images and the replicas of the cross are considered sacred especially when they have been blessed by a priest. The “blessing” is a ritual that involves prayers and the use of Holy Water. Catholics also believe that houses, facilities, buildings, and cars should be blessed before they are used.

Catholics are baptized during infancy. The ceremony takes place in the church where the priest pours Holy Water onto the head of the baby. The godparents of the baby will light a candle and say a prayer as part of the ritual as well. When Catholic children are of school age, they get catechism where they learn about the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Catholics believe that priests have the authority to forgive sins, which is why they confess their sins to them. They also believe in the existence of purgatory, a place where souls wander so they can be cleansed by punishments before they enter heaven.

Christian
A Christian worship service

The word Christian means “a follower of Christ” or a person who follows Christianity, a religion that is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is also an adjective that describes anything that is associated with Christianity. There are many groups or denominations of Christians: Orthodox, Protestants, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran. Regardless of the denomination, however, they all believe that there is only One God, a divine being who exists as The Holy Trinity (The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit). Since Catholicism was described previously, the following description is a broad definition of Christianity excluding the practices of Catholicism for the purpose of this article (even though Catholics are technically Christians).

Christians are not led by a priest, but prayers are led by a pastor who can be a man or a woman. The pastor does not need to live a life of celibacy and can have a family. This is because Christians believe that humans err and that only Jesus can lead the Church.

Christians have churches where they meet to attend “worship services” where they sing, pray with each other, and hear the Word of God shared by the pastor. They also do not have religious holidays and the Sabbath does not necessarily fall on a Sunday. Christians do not have sacraments, although they do practice baptism and the Lord’s Supper (eating bread and wine to symbolize acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of his life on the cross). Some confess their sins to their pastors. To them, only Jesus has the absolute authority to forgive sins.

Keeping images and statues of Jesus Christ is considered “idolatry” by Christians. Their places of worship do not typically have any other symbols except for the cross and the Bible. Christians acknowledge Mary and the saints, but they do not pray to them because they emphasize direct access to God. However, they do ask their fellow Christians (called brothers or sisters) to pray for them.

Catholics vs Christians

What, then, is the difference between Catholics and Christians?

Both Catholics and Christians are believers of Jesus Christ. This means Catholics are Christians, but not all Christians are Catholics because Christianity has other denominations aside from Roman Catholicism.

Catholics are led by a Pope, a living vicar for Jesus Christ who is considered faultless. Minor Catholic churches are led by celibate men called priests. Other members of the church are the nuns, who are celibate women who vow to live in poverty, simplicity, and obedience to God. Christians are not led by a Pope and they do not have priests or nuns because to them, only God has the authority to lead the church. However, their worship services are led by a pastor. The pastor can be a man or a woman and is not required to live a life of celibacy.

Catholics hear Sunday mass held in churches, cathedrals, or in chapels. The mass, which is led by a priest, follows an order and involves specific prayers and responses. The mass also includes symbols like the Bible, candles, incense, holy water, and music. On the other hand, Christians have “worship services” instead which are held in churches and can be held on Saturdays or Sundays. They do not have specific prayers and responses but they hear the Word of God shared by the pastor. Christians do not use holy water. Additionally, Christians do not follow the liturgical year and the seven sacraments, unlike Catholics.

For Catholic people, prayers and religious rituals are started and ended with the Sign of the Cross. Christians believe in the cross, but they do not make the sign of the cross.

Catholics believe in the veneration of Mary and the saints who are intermediaries to God or Jesus, whereas Christians acknowledge them but do not pray to them. Additionally, Catholics kiss, offer flowers to, and bow down to statues of Jesus Christ, Mary, and the saints, whereas Christians consider these acts “idolatry.”

Both religions believe in baptism. However, baptism is done in infancy for Catholics and is done later in life for Christians.

Moreover, Catholics confess to priests while Christians do not. Catholics believe in purgatory, which is non-existent to Christians.

Comparison Chart

CatholicsChristians
People who follow the Roman Catholic Church, founded by the divine being Jesus ChristMeans “a follower of Christ” or a person who follows Christianity, a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ
Led by a Pope, a living vicar for Jesus Christ who is considered faultless; minor churches are led by celibate men called priests; other members of the church are nuns, celibate women who vow to live in poverty, simplicity, and obedience to GodWorship services are led by a pastor who can be a man or a woman; the pastor does not need to live a life of celibacy
Hear mass in churches, cathedrals, or chapelsHave churches
Mass is led by a priest, follows an order, and involves specific prayers and responses; other symbols like the Bible, candles, incense, holy water, and music are also used; usually held on SundaysHave worship services led by a pastor on Saturdays or Sundays; prayers and responses are not specific; do not use symbols
Prayers and religious rituals are started and ended with the Sign of the CrossThey believe in the cross but do not make the Sign of the Cross
Must hear Mass and participate in the sacraments (especially the Holy Eucharist) during the Holy Days of Obligation: Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles, and All SaintsDo not follow the liturgical calendar
Believe in the importance and power of the seven Holy Sacraments such as baptism (done in infancy), confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.Do not believe in the holy sacraments; baptism is done when a person reaches adulthood
Believe in the veneration of Mary and the saints who are intermediaries to God or JesusAcknowledge Mary and the saints but do not pray to them
Kiss, offer flowers to, and bow down to statues of Jesus Christ, Mary, and the saintsConsider images and statues “idolatry”

Confess to priests

Believe in confessing directly to God
Believe in the existence of purgatory, a place where souls wander so they can be cleansed by punishments before they enter heavenDo not believe in purgatory