Matthew 16:18

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

Is there any teaching of the Catholic Church on when it can be considered the end of its existence by definition? Clearly, it is not the death of the pope as the new one can be elected. Is there a time period how quickly the pope needs to be elected and if not met the institution ends? I doubt there is.

Would that be if the last person who was baptized in the Catholic Church die? Can we then say this is the end of the Catholic Church on Earth? We still have the communion of the saints so basically, it will never cease but I'm asking on Earth.

When I say "when" I don't mean in time but rather what are the conditions so we can say this is not the church anymore.

  • 1
    Does the Church Militant - Church Penitent - Church Triumphant description of the Church not answer your question, or is this question framed to separate the Church Militant from the rest? Mar 21, 2017 at 14:07
  • When I say "when" I don't mean in time but what are the conditions so we can say this is not the church anymore.
    – Grasper
    Mar 21, 2017 at 14:38
  • @Grasper: That would be when "the gates of Hell shall (...) prevail against her" (Mt 16:18), that is to say, never.
    – Wtrmute
    Mar 21, 2017 at 17:55
  • so let's say if there is some disaster and all humanity was wiped out except one person and that one person wouldn't be a catholic. Because of this one living person, it's not the end of the world yet. Will that mean the Church ended? I know it will never happen, I'm just trying to understand what it means to end such a huge community as the Church is.
    – Grasper
    Mar 21, 2017 at 18:01

2 Answers 2


The papacy will last until the end of the world, as the First Vatican Council said in Pastor Æternus (July 18, 1870), ch. II, "On the Perpetuity of the Primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman Pontiffs":

That which the Prince of Shepherds and great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ our Lord, established in the person of the blessed Apostle Peter to secure the perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church, must, by the same institution, necessarily remain unceasingly in the Church; which, being founded upon the Rock, will stand firm to the end of the world.

If the papacy "will stand firm to the end of the world," so will Church Militant (the Church on earth), as the papacy without the Church would be an absurdity.

Perhaps a more interesting question would be: "Will there be a pope at the time of the end of the world?" I believe this is still an open question.

  • but we didn't have a pope many times during the election periods. Did it mean the Church didn't exist during those periods?
    – Grasper
    Mar 21, 2017 at 17:55
  • @grasper who is in charge when there is no pope It's the college of cardinals, with limited power.
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 21, 2017 at 18:13
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    @Grasper Papacy ≠ pope (just like: presidency ≠ president, kingship ≠ king, etc.). The papacy is the office; a pope is the holder of the office. The office doesn't cease to exist when no man holds the office (e.g., during interregnums).
    – Geremia
    Mar 21, 2017 at 19:52

I wish I could find a reference, but I've heard priests say, probably on Relevant Radio, maybe EWTN that the Catholic Church would exist even if there were no members left on Earth.

There is always a chance for renewal, even if we have to crawl back from being one-cell microbes.

God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

CCC 1527

If God is not bound by His sacraments, there's always a way to bring the Catholic Church back to full steam as long as there's heat in the Universe (maybe even without heat, who knows).

  • so if there is only one person left and he isn't a catholic God would convert him so the Church prevails?
    – Grasper
    Mar 21, 2017 at 18:04
  • @grasper, not necessarily. I'm saying it wouldn't even have to be a person, the fact the God can do whatever He wants. Like the Rev. Know-It-All says "God has this problem: He thinks He's God."
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 21, 2017 at 18:10
  • but I'm asking from the world perspective, not Gods.
    – Grasper
    Mar 21, 2017 at 18:51
  • Even from the world's perspective, God can do anything he wants. Mar 28, 2017 at 1:51
  • But I was asking when would the world say this is the end of them.
    – Grasper
    Mar 29, 2017 at 14:27

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