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The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide . As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within Rome, Italy.

Catholic theology is based on the Nicene Creed. The Catholic Church teaches that it is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ, that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles, and that the Pope is the successor to Saint Peter to whom primacy was conferred by Jesus Christ. It maintains that it practises the original Christian faith, reserving infallibility, passed down by sacred tradition. The Latin Church, the twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches, and institutes such as mendicant orders and enclosed monastic orders reflect a variety of theological and spiritual emphases in the church.

Of its seven sacraments the Eucharist is the principal one, celebrated liturgically in the Mass. The church teaches that through consecration by a priest the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. The Virgin Mary is venerated in the Catholic Church as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, honoured in dogmas and devotions. Its teaching includes sanctification through faith and evangelisation of the Gospel as well as Catholic social teaching, which emphasises voluntary support for the sick, the poor, and the afflicted through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and health care in the world.

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The capture of Jerusalem marked the First Crusade's success

The First Crusade was launched in 1095 by Pope Urban II with the dual goals of liberating the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslims and freeing the Eastern Christians from Muslim rule. What started as an appeal by Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos for western mercenaries to fight the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia quickly turned into a wholesale Western migration and conquest of territory outside of Europe.Both knights and peasants from many nations of Western Europe travelled over land and by sea towards Jerusalem and captured the city in July 1099, establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem and other Crusader states. Although these gains lasted for less than two hundred years, the First Crusade was a major turning point in the expansion of Western power, as well as the first major step towards reopening international trade in the West since the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
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Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (also Saint Thomas Aquinas, Thomas of Aquin, or Aquino; c. 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Catholic priest in the Order of Preachers (more commonly known as the Dominican Order), a philosopher and theologian in the scholastic tradition, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Universalis and Doctor Communis. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of the Thomistic school of philosophy and theology. Aquinas is held in the Catholic Church to be the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood (Code of Canon Law, Can. 252, §3). The works for which he is best-known are the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles.
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The church of the sanctuary of Chalma with hills in the background in Chalma, Malinalco, Mexico State

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Feast Day of December 9

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Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474 – May 30, 1548) was an indigenous Mexican who reported an apparition of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531. He had a significant impact on the spread of the Catholic faith within Mexico. The Roman Catholic Church canonized him in 2002, as its first indigenous American saint.

Juan Diego was born in 1474 in the calpulli of Tlayacac in Cuauhtitlán, a small Indian village some 20 km (12 mi) to the north of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). His original or birth name was Cuauhtlatoatzin (alternately rendered as Quauhtatoatzin, Guauhtlatoatzin, or Cuatliztactzin), which has been translated as "Talking Eagle" in the Nahuatl language. Not much is known about Juan Diego’s family life; but he did not have any children with his wife.

A farmer, landowner and weaver of mats, he witnessed the Spanish conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés in 1521, when he was 47 years old. Following the invasion, in 1524, the first 12 Franciscan missionaries arrived in what is now Mexico City. Cuauhtlatoatzin and his wife welcomed the Franciscans in 1524 or 1525 and were among the first to be baptized — he taking the Christian name of Juan Diego; she, Maria Lucia. Later, they moved to Tolpetlac to be closer to Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) and the Catholic mission that had been set up by the Franciscan friars.

According to his legend, after hearing a sermon on the virtue of chastity, they reportedly decided to live chaste lives. This decision was later cited as a possible reason for which the Virgin Mary chose to appear to Juan Diego. In 1529, a few years after her baptism, Maria Lucia became sick and died.

As a widower, Juan Diego was prone to long periods of silence. He walked every Saturday and Sunday to church, and on cold mornings, like other members of his Indian tribe, wore a woven cloth called a tilma, or ayate made with coarse fibers from the maguey cactus for cotton was only used by the upper class Aztec.

On Saturday morning, December 9, 1531, he reported the following: As he was walking to church, he heard the sound of birds singing on Tepeyac hill and someone calling his name. He ran up the hill, and saw a Lady, dressed like an Aztec princess. The Lady spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native tongue. She called him “Xocoyte,” her little son.

Recognizing the Lady as the Virgin Mary, Juan Diego went to the bishop as instructed, but the Spanish bishop, Fray Juan de Zumárraga was doubtful and told Juan Diego he needed a sign. The Lady promised Juan Diego she would give him a sign the following day. According to Juan Diego, he returned home that night to his uncle Juan Bernardino’s house, and discovered him seriously ill. The next morning December 12, Juan Diego decided not to meet with the Lady, but to find a priest who could administer the last rites to his dying uncle. When he tried to skirt around Tepeyac hill, the Lady stopped him, assured him his uncle would not die, and asked him to climb the hill and gather flowers. It was December, when normally nothing blooms in the cold. There he found roses from the region of Castille in Spain, former home of bishop Zumárraga. The Lady placed the roses carefully inside the folded tilma that Juan Diego wore and told him not to open it before anyone but the bishop. When Juan Diego unfolded his tilma before the Bishop roses cascaded from his tilma, and icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously impressed on the cloth, bringing the bishop to his knees.


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Father Damien of Molokai


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Divine Mercy

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