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The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope.
Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
Since the 20th century the majority reside in the southern hemisphere due to secularisation in Europe, and increased persecution in the Middle East.
The Catholic Church shared communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church until the East–West Schism in 1054, disputing particularly the authority of the Pope.
In parallel to the diocesan structure are a variety of religious institutes that function autonomously, often subject only to the authority of the pope, though sometimes subject to the local bishop.
Most religious institutes only have male or female members but some have both.
is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the church.
In its own field it gives force to civil law only by specific enactment in matters such as the guardianship of minors.
The "Catholic" notion was further stressed in the edict De fide Catolica issued 380 by Theodosius I, the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire, when establishing the state church of the Roman Empire.) and the Western Church in communion with the Holy See has similarly taken "Catholic", keeping that description also after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, when those who ceased to be in communion became known as "Protestants".
While the "Roman Church" has been used to describe the pope's Diocese of Rome since the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and into the Early Middle Ages (6th–10th century), the "Roman Catholic Church" has been applied to the whole church in English language since the Protestant Reformation in the late 16th century.
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).
Positive ecclesiastical laws, based directly or indirectly upon immutable divine law or natural law, derive formal authority in the case of universal laws from promulgation by the supreme legislator—the Supreme Pontiff—who possesses the totality of legislative, executive and judicial power in his person, while particular laws derive formal authority from promulgation by a legislator inferior to the supreme legislator, whether an ordinary or a delegated legislator.