Strand: Church and Tradition (CTL5-6E2)

Level 5 and 6

The Catholic Church headed by the pope, gathers in local communities, at both parish and diocesan levels, united in a common faith around the successor of the apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome. The various Christian denominations bring different perspectives to being Church. 

Compare and contrast the history, design and function of the local Catholic church with another Christian place of worship. Explore various ways in which the People of God can be Church today as faithful bearers of the mission of Jesus.


As the leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope draws his authority across a 2000 year history. Based on the words of Jesus to the apostle Peter “on this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18), Peter becomes the foundation ‘rock’ of the church; with authority passed through subsequent popes. Also known as the Bishop of Rome, this role has remained steadfast despite major reform in the Church following the Reformation.

A Catholic Church design and architecture reflects the four ways Catholic Christians understand God to be present in the Mass:

  1. The priest (note the priest’s chair)
  2. The people (note the large number of pews)
  3. The Word (note the lectern)
  4. The Eucharist (note the altar, tabernacle etc.)

Catholic Churches are also known for their style of mediating an understanding of God through the beauty of stained glass windows, paintings and furnishings, statues and features of sacramental life (such as Baptismal font, holy oils etc.). Some of the ornate interiors were originally intended to be ‘visions’ of heaven, with the architecture varying from age to age. Sacred art and architecture are said to preach the gospel without words.

Christian denominations established during or after the Reformation have been much simpler in the main. As these churches moved away from the authority and control of the Roman Catholic Church, the emphasis was more on the place of Scripture in the lives of Christians. Consequently, Protestant and evangelical churches tend to be more modest in both architecture and furnishings. While non-Catholic churches each have a leader, there is a greater consultative process for decision making within the congregation. The place of the Eucharist will also vary from church to church. (e.g. Mass for Catholic Christians may be available every day, whereas Eucharist for Uniting Church Christians is perhaps once per month).

See Learning Lites: People of God, Models of Church, Laity

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See Learning Lites: People of God, Models of Church, Laity

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