What do Catholics believe?

Beliefs of the Catholic Church

The beliefs of the Catholic Church can be summarised in the Creed, which is a brief normative summary statement or profession of the Christian faith. The word “Creed” comes from the Latin Credo, meaning “I believe,” with which the Creed begins. 

We pray the Nicene Creed at every Catholic Mass. The Nicene Creed came from two ecumenical councils: Nicaea and Constantinople: 325 and 381 A.D. 

The Apostle’s Creed is a statement of Christian faith developed from the baptismal creed of the ancient Church of Rome. St. Peter was the first of the Apostles and The Apostle’s Creed is considered to be a faithful summary of the faith of the Apostles professing the articles, or statements, of our faith that we professed at baptism. While not everything taught by the Church is mentioned in the Creed, everything we believe can be derived from its statements.

The Apostle's Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of the
saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Amen.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”

“I believe in God”: this first affirmation of the Apostle’s Creed is also the most fundamental. The whole Creed speaks of God, and when it also speaks of man and of the world it does so in relation to God. The other articles of the Creed all depend on the first, just as the remaining Commandments make the first explicit. The other articles help us to know God better as he revealed himself progressively to men. 

“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.”

Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, is Lord over the universe; as the Gospel of John explains, he was present at the creation of the world: “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him” (John 1:2-3, RSV). Furthermore, the Second Person of the Trinity took on flesh and became man: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God became one of us so that he might redeem us from our sins. To confess or invoke Jesus as Lord is to believe in his divinity. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit’” (1 Cor 12:3). By the Holy Spirit, Christ took on flesh in Mary’s womb. Though Mary became a Mother, she remained a virgin; she is both virgin and Mother. In Mary, we find a supreme example of faith: when angel Gabriel announced the miraculous pregnancy, Mary says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary assents to the will of God, and in doing so, she becomes the Mother of all the living.

“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell.”


Having sinned against an infinite being, man incurred an infinite debt. Thus, God became man, and suffered and died for man, to redeem him from that infinite debt. The death of Christ was therefore necessary for man’s salvation. He chose to give everything on the cross because of his great love for mankind. Thus, Christ shed his blood in the most gruesome form of punishment–crucifixion. He descended into hell, meaning that his body went into hell to bring out those faithful who had died before his coming.

“On the third day he rose again.”


The re-telling of the resurrection in the Gospel of John is poignant: Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early on the third day along with Peter, and had discovered that the stone was rolled away. Mary stood grieving outside the tomb, only to be met by Christ himself. Yet she does not recognise him as Christ, but assumes him to be the gardener: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away”. When Jesus says her name, she immediately recognises him, realising that he has risen from the dead as he said he would. Christ’s Resurrection is an object of faith in that it is a transcendent intervention of God himself in creation and history. In it the three divine persons act together as one, and manifest their own proper characteristics.

“He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come to judge the living and the dead.”

The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. . . but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” There, Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near/to God through him”. As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the centre and the principal actor of the liturgy that honours the Father in heaven.

As Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, Christ’s ascent into Heaven allows the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which gives the disciples the strength to preach his Gospel to all nations. Because Christ has ascended into Heaven, he will come once again to judge those who are still living and those who have died; he will separate the sheep from the goats, those who have followed his will and those who have not.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

When Christ ascended into Heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who proceeds from the Father and the Son in the form of gift. The Holy Spirit is a gift to the Church and sustains the Church through various gifts. The Church, then, is the Body of Christ here on earth, with Christ as head in Heaven Through the Church, we experience the communion of saints, meaning that we are united with those who have gone before us who have perfectly fulfilled the will of God: as St. Paul says, after listing the holy fathers of the Old Covenant, “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. The Church allows us to experience the forgiveness of our sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross; it is through the Church that we receive the graces from Christ’s death. We also believe, because Christ rose again from the dead, we shall also rise like him, having received the sacrament of baptism and being united to him in the Church: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his”. Moreover, Christ told us that he is preparing a place for us in Heaven; he longs for us to be united with him in eternal life, for this mortal life will pass away. Thus, we also believe in eternal life: we believe that we will one day be united with Christ in Heaven. That is the whole purpose of this life, to be completely united with Christ in Heaven.

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