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The Catholic Church , also known as the Roman Catholic Church , is the largest Christian church , with more than 1.29 billion members worldwide. [4] As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. [5] Headed by the Bishop of Rome , known as the Pope , the church's doctrines are summarised in the Nicene Creed. Its central administration, the Holy See , is in the Vatican City , enclaved within Rome , Italy.

The Catholic Church has influenced Western philosophy , culture , science , and art. The Catholic Church shared communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church until the East–West Schism in 1054, disputing particularly the authority of the Pope , as well as with the Oriental Orthodox churches prior to the Chalcedonian schism in 451 over differences in Christology.

Catholics live all over the world through missions , diaspora , and conversions. Since the 20th century the majority reside in the southern hemisphere due to secularisation in Europe , and increased persecution in the Middle East.