A Glossary of  Catholic terminology:


A senior bishop, heading an archdiocese, appointed by the Presiding Bishop of a National Church in consultation with the college of bishops of a particular contry.

An archbishop is the chief shepherd over his jurisdiction, responsible for teaching orthodoxy and maintaining orthopraxy as defined by the ICC constitution. The Archbishop has oversight of a number of dioceses as determined by each National Church.


One of the 12 original followers of Jesus Christ as named in the New Testament. The term disciple is sometimes mistakenly used for the original 12 apostles. Disciples are followers in a more general sense. 

Apostolic succession

The handing on of authority from the apostles to their successors (bishops). It has significance as one of the most jealously guarded traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England also claims to be “apostolic” with the same handing down of authority via a 2,000 year-old chain of bishops.


The third of four steps in the process by which a dead person officially becomes a saint. Requires at least one miracle to have been attributed to the intercession of a candidate for sainthood who, once beatified, is given the title Blessed.


A short service in which the consecrated, or blessed, wafers of altar bread, known as hosts, are placed in a monstrance (receptacle in which the host is displayed) for the congregation to venerate. Catholics believe the bread becomes the body of Jesus in the process of its blessing by a priest, and that sharing it at services commemorates the last supper shared by Jesus and his apostles, and Jesus’ sacrificial death by crucifixion.


A bishop is the third tier of ministerial ordination (after deacon and priest), appointed by the Presiding Bishop of a National Church after consultation with local officials, to head the Church in a diocese, a specific geographical area.  In the larger diocese, a bishop may be aided by auxiliary bishops. (From the Greek word episcopos, meaning overseer. 

Bishops’ Conference

Assembly of diocesan bishops from a certain area. Each National Church is encouraged to function with collegiality, meeting in conference at least once per year.

Blessed Sacrament

The host (bread) consecrated during a Mass and distributed during communion. The Blessed Sacrament is also kept in a locked container (tabernacle) behind or beside the altar from where it is taken for distribution to the sick and veneration during services of Exposition or Benediction.

Canon, or Rector

A priest who is selected by a bishop to run a cathedral. Canons come together as a chapter or group and are responsible for the work of the cathedral.


This is the final step in process that declares a deceased person to be a saint and acknowledges they can be venerated by the universal Church as “an example of holiness that can be followed with confidence”. Requires attribution of one further miracle after the candidate has been declared “blessed” through beatification.


In the ICC, the College of Cardinals are the Presiding Bishops of each National Church. The responsibility of appointing the Presiding Bishop of each National Church is up to the rules defined in each National Church. It is the job of the college of Cardinals to appoint the Coadjutor Bishop and successor to the Presiding Bishop of the ICC. It is also the responsibility of te college of cardinals to meet in council a minimum of once every five (5) years (more often if necessary) to address issues and concerns regarding the overall operation and concerns of the Church.


The mother church of a diocese – so called because it contains the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, the symbol of a bishop’s authority in the area


The word in English can mean either “of the Catholic faith” or “relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Orthodox Church. Who, or what are Catholics? Since very early Christians have used this word to refer broadly to the whole Christian Church or to all believers in Jesus Christ; it can also more narrowly refer to Catholicity, which encompasses several historic churches sharing orthodox beliefs. Contrary to popular opinion, the term Catholic has never been the singular possession of the Roman Patriarchy.
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The body of people ordained for religious service, (deacons, priests, bishops) as opposed to laity. Religious (monks, nuns, friars) are not necessarily clergy, unless (in the case of male religious) they may also ordained.


1) An assembly of people gathered for religious worship;
2) a type of dicastery (or department) of the Curia, the ICC’s government. Each congregation is led by a prefect, who is a bishop from any member jurisdiction.


An assembly of cardinals presided over by the ICC Presiding Bishop.


An enclosed religious house where nuns (female religious) live under a rule and dedicate themselves to prayer.


A meeting of bishops/Church elders to discuss doctrinal and pastoral needs of Church. Within the ICC we recognize the 1st seven councils of the Church as authoritative in defining much or orthodoxy. Canons of future councils of the ICC will be binding upon all member jurisdiction


Administrative structure of the ICC; a collection of “government” departments.


The elements of bread and wine, which Catholics believe are converted into the body and blood of Christ (through transubstantiation) during the Eucharistic prayer of the Mass. We believe in what is called the “real presence” of Jesus in consecrated bread and wine. Communion can also refer generally to a fellowship of Christians.

Deacon (part of the diaconate)

The first tier of three ordained ministries (deacon, priest, and bishop). Deacons assist priests and are able to baptise, marry and bury the faithful but cannot preside over Mass to consecrate bread and wine, nor hear confessions.


An ICC department with a jurisdiction.


The territory, or churches, under the authority and leadership of a bishop.


Those who accepted Jesus’ message to follow him, as opposed to the apostles.


A dogma is something of which must be believed to be “saved.” Such teachings are revealed in the teachings of Christ as defined by the Church’s magisterium, or teaching authority. Doctrine is what the Church believes.


The final element of many Christian prayers, which gives praise and glory to the three persons of the Trinity – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


The most important festival in the Church’s calendar, marking the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ


Pertaining to, or of the Church, from the Greek word ecclesia (church).


Promotion of unity among all Christians. From the perspective of the ICC, this refers to our core value of encouraging others of the Christian faith to return to Catholic orthodoxy.


A pastoral letter written by the Presiding Bishop of the ICC (often with the consultation of his college of cardinals or members ov various dicastries and published to outline Church teaching on an issue. 

Eucharist (Holy Mass)

The ritual service of thanksgiving to God which centers on the consecration of the elements of bread and wine and their distribution at communion. One of the seven sacraments, it is the principal Christian liturgical celebration. Catholics believe that the bread becomes the body of Jesus, and the wine his blood, in the process of its blessing by a priest, and that sharing it at Eucharist or Holy Communion commemorates the Last Supper shared by Jesus and his apostles, and Jesus’ sacrificial death by crucifixion.


One of the four authors credited with writing the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). More generally, someone who works actively to spread and promote the Christian faith.


The proclamation of Christ and his Gospel, both in the local community, preaching during the Liturgy of the Word, but also refers to our mandate in the “Great Commission” to take the Gospel – the “good news” to every nation.
Evangelization is not to be confused with Evangelicals – a word used to describe some Christian groups (usually Protestant, often conservative in their attitudes to social questions, and literalist in their interpretation of the Bible).


The formal process of expulsion from the Church which excludes an individual from receiving the sacraments and from the exercise of any Church office, ministry, or function. Declared by Church authorities for defiance of the Church’s teaching authority, or magisterium.
Excommunication is not punishment for sin, the idea being that God’s grace and mercy are always available to the sinner. 


The denial (by someone who is baptised) of accepted Church teaching (dogma).

Holy Orders

The state of having received Christian ordination (bishop, priest, or deacon).


Collective term for lay people – ordinary members of the Church who have not received holy orders (ie are not clergy).

Lectern — Ambo

The stand from which readings/sermons are given in church.


It seems that the definition of liberalism changes depending upon the decade. At the time of the First Vatican Council, those who were set on defending the historic deposit of faith were accused of being liberal, by the ultramontanists, set on instituting new dogmatic innovations.

Today, liberalism is generally applied to those within the Church who are seeking changes, primarily to appease politically correct winds of change.

Liberation Theology

A Socialist/Marxist Theology attempting to articulate faith from the perspective of a group struggling to overcome oppression – in Latin America and after Second Vatican Council (Vatican II); the movement supports violence and social unrest and even anarchy. Much of Pope Francis’ polemic may be linked to liberation theology.


General term for a religious service or ceremony performed by a group of believers; also used to refer to style in which that service was performed, ie modern liturgy, solemn liturgy, traditional liturgy.


The teaching office of the universal Church, articulated by the ICC Presiding Bishop, in concert with his college of cardinals, giving witness to the historic deposit of faith. 


Celebration of the Eucharist – central sacrament of the Church which also includes a liturgy of the word and a rite of penance.


The work of preaching the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments by those in Holy Orders or, in many cases, members of the laity. Members of the laity can also have an extraordinary ministry which assists the principal ministers (deacons, priests, and bishops).


An event, commonly a physical healing, which appears to defy the laws of nature and of science. Miracles need to be “verified” before they are accepted as miracles; being inexplicable is not enough – they must also show evidence of divine power at work.


A book containing the order of services and prayers of the Mass.


In the classic Catholic understanding, Modernism consists of the re-embracing of ancient heresy.


A religious house where monks live in a community under a rule and dedicate themselves to prayer.

Monastic life

Consecrated life marked by the taking of religious vows (eg poverty, chastity, obedience), and living as part of a community in a monastery following the rule of a founding father – eg Saint Benedict for Benedictine monks and nuns.


Mode of address for members of clergy holding honorific titles granted by the Presiding Bishop of each National Church, usually at the request of a bishop. Being a monsignor does not imply one is a bishop, nor being a bishop imply that one is a monsignor.


The service by which individuals are made deacons, priests or bishops. They are sequential.

Original Sin

The sin Catholics believe originated from Adam and Eve disobeying God’s commandment, choosing to follow their own will and introducing sin into the world. Original sin describes the subsequent fallen state of human nature.


Not applicable to the ICC. The office and jurisdiction of a Bishop of Rome; or the tenure or period of office of a pope. See also: Pontificate.


The principal unit of Christian community headed by a parish priest selected by the bishop. A number of parishes make up a diocese.

Pastoral letter

A letter sent from a bishop to the parishes of his diocese, often read out to people at Mass.


An action which expresses contrition for a sin following forgiveness by a priest in confessional. A penance is usually a prayer or series of prayers, but may require a specific act of reparation (eg returning stolen goods, or submitting to local authorities for grevious breaches of the law).null

Presiding Bishop

The head bishop, or president of a National Church of International Jurisdiction such as the ICC. The Presiding Bishop is the “servant of servants” in his jurisdiction, responsible for supervising archbishops, bishops, and clergy within his jurisdiction. The Presiding bishop with the consent of his College of Bishops, sets the tone of polity and polemic, leading his flock towards proper catechesis and understanding of orthodoxy


Someone who is ordained to the second level of ministry within the Church. Main duties include preaching, celebrating Mass, administering the other sacraments and exercising the principal pastoral role in a parish/community (referred to as Father with either first name or surname: Father John or Father Smith)


Any part of the physical remains of a saint or items that have touched the body of a saint. Every Catholic altar will have a relic within it – originating from the days when the early Christians celebrated Mass in the Catacombs.


Someone who, by their life and actions, is an example of holiness. The process by which the Church declares someone to be saint can only happen after their death.

There is a four-stage judicial process each individual case has to go through before being canonised as a saint, which cannot begin until at least five years after their death.

It involves taking evidence about the individual’s holiness, the scrutiny of their writings and evidence that people are drawn to holiness and prayer through the individual’s example.

  1. Individual can be called a “servant of God”;
  2. Individual is called “venerable”;
  3. Individual is beatified and declared “blessed” (requires a miracle attributed to the individual’s intercession)
  4. Individual is canonised as a saint for veneration by the universal Church (requires a further authenticated miracle)


The seven ceremonies that mark Catholics’ religious development through life. They are Baptism, Eucharist (Communion), Reconciliation (often called Confession), Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick.


The writings of the Old and New Testaments.


A college where men are trained for the priesthood.


A meeting of regional or national bishops to discuss doctrinal and pastoral needs of Church.


The locked receptacle in a church (usually behind the altar) where the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Eucharist is “reserved”. A red light indicates the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The contents are brought out by a priest for distribution at Mass if there are insufficient hosts consecrated by him. They can be taken out at any time to take to the sick or the dying.


Garments worn by those celebrating Mass or administering sacraments (eg alb – long white tunic; chasuble – main outer-garment; stole – type of scarf worn around the neck).

The stole is the principle symbol of ministerial authority and is worn by deacons, priests and bishops when administering the sacraments.


The eve of a religious festival observed by special prayer services and devotional exercises. Traditionally this has occurred for the major feast of Easter and Christmas. However, vigil is now also sometimes used to describe the Saturday evening Mass.


A religious calling – all Christians have a vocation to be followers of Christ in the world. However, vocation is most colloquially used to describe vocations or callings to the priesthood or religious life.

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