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Chapter 11. The Four Marks of the Church • 127

In the earliest professions of faith, the Catholic Church identified herself

as “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”We find these words in the Nicene

Creed professed at Sunday Mass. Traditionally, they refer to what are

known as the four marks of the Church, traits that identify the Church

before the world.

Inseparably linked with one another, these four marks indicate the

essential features of the Church and her mission on earth. Each mark is

so joined with the others that they form one coherent and interrelated

idea of what Christ’s Church must be. They strengthen the faith of the

believer and at the same time can attract non-Catholics to investigate the

Church more fully. Because of the sinfulness of the Church’s members,

these marks are not always lived out fully, so we need to view them as

both a reality and yet a challenge.


The mark of oneness reflects the unity of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, the

bond of love between the Father and the Son, unites all the members of

the Church as the one People of God. The Church professes one Lord,

one faith, and one Baptism and forms one body (cf. CCC, no. 866) under

the leadership of the Holy Father, successor to Peter the Apostle. Within

the Church there is a diversity of races, nations, cultures, languages, and

traditions, which are held together in one communion by the gift of love

from the Holy Spirit. The unity that Christ bestowed on his Church is

something she can never lose (cf. Second Vatican Council,

Decree on



Unitatis Redintegratio

; UR], no. 4; CCC, nos. 813, 815).

Tragically, members of the Church have offended against her unity,

and throughout the centuries, there have developed divisions among

Christians. Already in the fifth century, doctrinal disagreements led to

the separation of some Christians in the eastern region of the Roman

Empire from the main body of the Church. More damaging was the

rupture between Rome and Constantinople in AD 1054. And in the six-

teenth century Western Europe experienced the divisions that followed

the Protestant Reformation.

The Catholic Church has always been committed to the restoration

of unity among all Christians. This commitment was intensified by the