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Catholicism vs. Christianity: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 27, 2023
Catholicism is a branch of Christianity, focusing on the traditions and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Christianity encompasses all denominations and traditions that follow Jesus Christ.

Key Differences

Catholicism and Christianity are terms often used interchangeably, but they represent different aspects of religious belief. Christianity is the broader term, referring to the world's largest religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Within Christianity, there are various denominations and traditions, one of which is Catholicism. Catholicism specifically pertains to the traditions, teachings, and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, led by the Pope in Vatican City. While all Catholics are Christians, not all Christians are Catholics.
Christianity encompasses other denominations such as Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and many more. In essence, Catholicism is nested within the wider umbrella of Christianity, as a prominent and foundational branch.

Comparison Chart


A branch of Christianity linked to the Roman Catholic Church.
Religion based on Jesus Christ's teachings.


Headed by the Pope.
Has various leaders depending on denomination.


Bible and Church Tradition (including Magisterium).
Primarily the Bible.

Number of Followers

Approx. 1.3 billion (as of my last update).
Over 2.3 billion across all denominations.

Major Branches/Subsets

Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic.
Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, etc.

Catholicism and Christianity Definitions


A Christian tradition that emphasizes the sacraments and apostolic succession.
Through Catholicism, many rituals and holy days have been established.


A monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Christianity has played a pivotal role in shaping Western civilization.


A branch of Christianity that follows the teachings of the early church fathers and Church tradition.
Catholicism has a rich history of saints, theologians, and scholars.


A religion consisting of numerous denominations and traditions.
Christianity has various sects, but all recognize Jesus as the Messiah.


The faith, practices, and system of the Roman Catholic Church.
Mary adheres strictly to Catholicism and attends Mass every Sunday.


A belief system emphasizing love, redemption, and the resurrection of Jesus.
Christianity teaches about grace, salvation, and eternal life.


A Christian denomination led by the Pope, based in Vatican City.
Catholicism has been influential in shaping many cultures worldwide.


A global faith with diverse practices, beliefs, and customs.
Christianity has evolved and adapted across cultures and centuries.


The doctrines, rituals, and liturgies associated with the Roman Catholic Church.
The rites of Catholicism are deeply rooted in ancient traditions.


A faith based on the New Testament of the Bible.
Christianity spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire in the 1st century.


The faith, doctrine, system, and practice of a Catholic church, especially the Roman Catholic Church.


A religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus. Most forms of Christianity hold that Jesus is the son of God and is the second person of the Trinity, through whom humans may attain redemption from sin.


The state or quality of being catholic or universal; catholicity.


Christians as a group; Christendom.


Liberality of sentiment; breadth of view.


The state or fact of being a Christian.


The state or quality of being catholic or universal; catholicity.


Pl. Chris·ti·an·i·ties A particular form or sect of the Christian religion
The Christianities of antiquity.


Liberality of sentiment; breadth of view.


The religion of Christians; the system of doctrines and precepts taught by Christ.


The faith of the whole orthodox Christian church, or adherence thereto.


Practical conformity of one's inward and outward life to the spirit of the Christian religion


The doctrines or faith of the Roman Catholic church, or adherence thereto.


The body of Christian believers.
To Walys fled the christianiteeOf olde Britons.


The beliefs and practices of a Catholic Church


A monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as savior


The collective body of Christians throughout the world and history (found predominantly in Europe and the Americas and Australia);
For a thousand years the Roman Catholic Church was the principal church of Christendom


What's the main holy book in Christianity?

The Bible, which includes the Old and New Testaments.

Are all Christians Catholics?

No, all Catholics are Christians, but not all Christians are Catholics.

How is salvation viewed in Christianity?

Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is a central tenet in Christianity.

What role does the Pope play in Catholicism?

The Pope is the spiritual leader and highest authority in Catholicism.

Do both Catholicism and broader Christianity celebrate Easter?

Yes, Easter, marking Jesus' resurrection, is central to both.

Which is older, Catholicism or Protestantism?

Catholicism is older, with Protestantism arising in the 16th century.

Does Catholicism recognize other Christian denominations?

Catholicism acknowledges other denominations as Christian but holds unique doctrines.

Are the Ten Commandments central to both Catholicism and Christianity?

Yes, both traditions recognize and uphold the Ten Commandments.

How many main branches of Christianity exist?

There are three primary branches: Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy.

What is the Holy Trinity in Christianity?

It's the belief in God as three persons: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit.

Is the Virgin Mary given special reverence in Catholicism?

Yes, Mary holds a uniquely elevated status in Catholicism.

What is the Eucharist in Catholicism?

It's a sacrament commemorating the Last Supper, using bread and wine.

Are there differences in the Bible versions used in Catholicism and other Christian denominations?

Yes, the Catholic Bible includes some books not found in Protestant versions.

Do all Christians recognize saints?

While many do, the process and emphasis on sainthood vary among denominations.

Is the concept of the Holy Trinity unique to Christianity?

Yes, it's a distinctive Christian doctrine about God's nature.

How is baptism viewed in Christianity?

Baptism is generally seen as a sacrament or ordinance marking one's entry into the faith.

What language is the original Catholic Mass conducted in?

Latin, though many churches now use vernacular languages.
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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