56 Globalizing Catholicism and the Return to a “Universal” Church

José Casanova

As a religious regime, Catholicism preceded and is likely to outlast the modern world system of nation-states. The transnational character of Catholicism can almost be taken for granted, but historically the nature and manifestations of that transnationalism have changed radically along with changes in the worldly regimes in which Catholicism has been embedded. The very attribute transnational only makes sense in relation to the system of sovereign nation-states that emerged in early modernity and eventually replaced the system of medieval Christendom, a system that had been centered on the conflictive interdependent relation between the Roman papacy, or “the political system of the popes,” and the Holy Roman Empire. The dynamic synergy of the new world system of sovereign states was such that one after another all the emerging national churches fell under the control of caesaro-papist rulers and the Roman papacy itself became just another, rather marginal and insecure, sovereign territorial state. It is precisely at the point when the Papal States were incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy and the papacy was finally forced to renounce its claims to territorial sovereignty, that the papacy could be reconstituted as the core of a transnational religious regime, this time on a truly Catholic, that is, ecumenical basis.

Ongoing processes of globalization offer a transnational religious regime ...

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