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Catholic vs. Christian: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 14, 2023
Catholicism is a specific denomination within Christianity, which encompasses various faiths that believe in Jesus Christ.

Key Differences

Christianity is a broad term for a faith based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. It includes numerous denominations and sects. Catholicism is one of the largest and oldest branches of Christianity, with specific doctrines, rituals, and hierarchical structures like the papacy.
While all Catholics are Christians, not all Christians are Catholics. Catholicism has unique practices such as the veneration of saints, the importance of the Virgin Mary, and the belief in the Pope's authority. In contrast, Christianity, in general, encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, including Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and other denominations, each with their distinct traditions.
In Catholicism, the Bible is interpreted through the lens of tradition and papal authority. Meanwhile, Christianity broadly embraces the Bible, but interpretations vary widely among different denominations. For instance, Protestant Christians often emphasize personal interpretation of scriptures, contrasting with the Catholic reliance on church authority.
Catholic worship is characterized by a liturgical format, with rituals like Mass and the Eucharist being central. Other Christian denominations might have different forms of worship, ranging from the liturgical practices of the Orthodox Church to the more informal services of many Protestant churches.
Catholicism, under the leadership of the Pope, has a centralized structure with a global presence. Christianity as a whole is more diverse, with no single authority figure and a wide range of beliefs and practices across cultures and countries.

Comparison Chart


A specific branch within Christianity.
An umbrella term for all followers of Christ.


Pope and church hierarchy.
Diverse authorities depending on the denomination.


Specific doctrines like purgatory, saints.
Core belief in Jesus Christ, varies beyond that.


Mass, Eucharist, confession.
Varies widely, including communion, baptism.

Scriptural Interpretation

Through church tradition and papal authority.
Varies; often personal or denominational interpretation.

Catholic and Christian Definitions


Wide-Ranging .
She has catholic tastes in music, enjoying genres from classical to rock.


Follower of Christ.
As a Christian, she believes in the teachings of Jesus.


Inclusive .
Their approach to charity is very catholic, embracing people from all walks of life.


Professing Belief in Jesus.
He leads a Christian lifestyle, focusing on kindness and forgiveness.


General; All-Encompassing.
His catholic knowledge of languages impressed everyone at the conference.


Characteristic of Christ's Teachings.
Their charity work is very Christian in its compassion and selflessness.


Related to the Catholic Church .
As a Catholic, she attends Mass every Sunday.


Pertaining to Christianity.
The Christian Bible includes both the Old and New Testaments.


The Catholic Church aims to be a universal body, inviting all to join its ranks.


General Kindness.
Her response was very Christian, showing understanding and empathy.


Of broad or liberal scope; comprehensive
"The 100-odd pages of formulas and constants are surely the most catholic to be found" (Scientific American).


Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.


Including or concerning all humankind; universal
"what was of catholic rather than national interest" (J.A. Froude).


Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus's teachings.


Can a Christian be non-Catholic?

Yes, Christians can belong to various denominations other than Catholicism.

What is a Christian?

A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ and follows His teachings.

Do all Christians follow the Pope?

No, only Catholics recognize the Pope as their spiritual leader.

What's the significance of the Eucharist in Catholicism?

The Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is a central sacrament in Catholic worship.

Do Catholics worship saints?

Catholics venerate saints but worship is reserved for God alone.

Do Catholics and other Christians share the same holidays?

Many major Christian holidays, like Easter and Christmas, are universally celebrated.

What are the core beliefs of Catholics?

Catholics believe in the authority of the Pope, the sacraments, and the teachings of the Church.

What defines a Catholic?

A Catholic is a member of the Catholic Church, following its teachings and practices.

Do all Christians believe in the Trinity?

Most do, but interpretations and emphasis can vary among denominations.

Are Catholic teachings uniform worldwide?

While core doctrines are consistent, cultural adaptations do occur.

Can one be Christian but not religious?

Yes, some identify with Christ's teachings culturally or philosophically without practicing religion.

Do Catholics read the Bible differently than other Christians?

Yes, Catholics often read the Bible with guidance from Church teachings.

Is baptism important in Catholicism and Christianity?

Yes, baptism is a significant rite in both, though the practice may vary.

What role does Mary play in Catholicism vs. Christianity?

Mary holds a more prominent role in Catholicism than in some other Christian denominations.

Can one convert between different Christian denominations?

Yes, conversion among different Christian denominations, including to or from Catholicism, is possible.

What is the Catholic Bible?

It's a version of the Bible that includes certain texts not found in Protestant versions.

Are Christian services the same worldwide?

No, Christian worship services vary widely among different denominations.

Is Christian a broader term than Catholic?

Yes, Christian encompasses all who follow Christ, including Catholics.

Are there different types of Catholic Churches?

Yes, including Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, etc., with some variations in rites.

What is Protestantism in relation to Christianity?

Protestantism is a major branch of Christianity that diverged from Catholicism.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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