Catholics teach that Roman Catholicism is the original expression of Christianity. They draw from Matthew 16:17–19 when Jesus appointed Peter as His representative (vicar) over the church. The word Jesus used to describe Peter was "rock" and Catholics proclaim him as the first pope.
Therefore, Roman Catholics claim their church was the first, the original, the oldest, and the "mother" or originator of all other churches. Sometimes the Roman Catholics use the Latin phrase "Sancta Mater Ecclesia" or "Holy Mother Church" to describe their church and identify other churches and denominations, including Protestant expressions, as having "strayed" and needing to return "home" to the Catholic Church.
In literature, the Roman Catholic Church is referred to as the Holy Mother Church in Cervantes' Don Quixote (Chapter XXVII), Scott's Ivanhoe (Chapter II), Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Chapter XXV), Shakespeare's King John (Act III, Scene 1), and others works.
Catholics also use the term as a one of endearment. The Church nurtures, guides, protects, and cares for the family of God. Catholics honor their spiritual "mother" as children are admonished to with their earthly mothers in Ephesians 6:2. In a similar way to the Catholic view of Mary as the Theotókos or "God-bearer," they see the "mother church" as a "God-bearer" or the way in which God reveals Himself today.
Historically, however, the Roman Catholic Church began in the fourth century during the reign of Emperor Constantine. The Pope didn't begin to identify himself with that title until Siricius, the bishop of Rome, did in the fourth century. Also, we don't know historically that Peter was ever in Rome and there is nothing to indicate he ever claimed authority over other apostles.
In Acts and in the New Testament epistles, the church and its establishment is described. There is no mention of priests (except in reference to all believers), cardinals, or popes. Mary is not deified or prayed to, and saints are not venerated. We have no biblical evidence of infant baptism. The theology of the Lord's Supper being literally transformed into the body and blood of Jesus is not rooted in the Bible. Therefore, the Catholic Church should not be considered the mother church.
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