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The largest and most well known is the Latin Church, with more than 1 billion members worldwide.Relatively small in terms of adherents compared to the Latin Church, are the 23 self-governing Eastern Catholic Churches with a combined membership of 17.3 million as of 2010 The Latin Church is governed by the pope and diocesan bishops directly appointed by him.The triple crown papal tiara symbolises the triple power of the Pope as "father of kings", "governor of the world" and "Vicar of Christ".The gold cross on a monde (globe) surmounting the tiara symbolises the sovereignty of Jesus.Additionally, lay members aid many liturgical functions during worship services. The Catholic Church holds that Christ instituted the papacy upon giving the keys of Heaven to Saint Peter.His ecclesiastical jurisdiction is called the "Holy See" (Sancta Sedes in Latin), or the "Apostolic See" (meaning the see of the apostle Peter).The position of cardinal is a rank of honour bestowed by popes on certain clergy, such as leaders within the Roman Curia, bishops serving in major cities and distinguished theologians.For advice and assistance in governing, the pope may turn to the College of Cardinals.
The church teaches that through consecration by a priest the sacrificial bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.Canon law concerns the Catholic Church's life and organisation and is distinct from civil law.In its own field it gives force to civil law only by specific enactment in matters such as the guardianship of minors.The pope exercises a direct patriarchal role over the Latin Church, which is considered to form the original and still major part of Western Christianity, a heritage of certain beliefs and customs originating in Europe and northwestern Africa, some of which are inherited by many Christian denominations that trace their origins to the Protestant Reformation.
The Eastern Catholic Churches follow the traditions and spirituality of Eastern Christianity and are Churches that have always remained in full communion with the Catholic Church or who have chosen to reenter full communion in the centuries following the East–West Schism and earlier divisions.
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.