In the Nicene Creed we say while referring to the Church, that it is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. In the Apostles' Creed, however, the wording is "Holy Catholic Church." Both the Creeds were formulated before the different denominations would come into being. While the Nicene Creed, by the phrase Catholic, expresses the Universality of the Church, irrespective of the various denominations it now comprises of, the Apostles' Creed does not appear to be doing so. Instead of saying "Holy and Catholic" (i.e. Universal) Church, it appears to tell about the (Roman) Catholic Church which is Holy. This could have been a result of weak translation. Agreed that many versions in English do away with capital letters 'H' and 'C' to imply that the words 'holy' and 'catholic' are not proper nouns. But keep in mind that very few other languages use capital letters. Hence the confusion.

My question therefore is: Has the Catholic Church ever made an attempt to reconcile the attributes of the Universal Church as mentioned in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds?

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    What do you mean by "reconcile"? Is there a conflict between the two?
    – workerjoe
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 2:52
  • Yes, there is a difference . For instance, the Creed at Jesuitresource.com has ' holy Catholic Church ' where ' holy' is adjective and 'Catholic ' is Proper Noun with capital ' C '. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 3:31
  • Maybe it is me, but I am having a hard time to understand the nuances of the question.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 11:54
  • @KadalikattJosephSibichan I would say "Catholic" is an adjective in both creeds. An adjective can be part of a proper noun (e.g. White House, Grand Canyon, etc.) without taking away its meaning as an adjective.
    – workerjoe
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 12:44
  • True,workerjoe. But, many such names have acquired meaning. For instance, Black Box of a plane is orange in color . White House would retain the name even if it is painted blue ! Agreed that in Nicene Creed, the word catholic is an adjective; but in Apostles' Creed it does sound like the part of a noun namely , 'Catholic Church .' Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 14:57

1 Answer 1


Has the Catholic Church ever made an attempt to reconcile the attributes of the Universal Church as mentioned in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds?

There is no need for the Church to do so. At the time of the formulation of these Creeds, both Greek and Latin were written in capital letters only. Only later modern versions wrote in lower case letters.

Lower case letters in Latin were developed in Middle Ages.

The lower case (minuscule) letters developed in the Middle Ages from New Roman Cursive writing, first as the uncial script, and later as minuscule script. The old Roman letters were retained for formal inscriptions and for emphasis in written documents. The languages that use the Latin alphabet generally use capital letters to begin paragraphs and sentences and for proper nouns. The rules for capitalization have changed over time, and different languages have varied in their rules for capitalization. Old English, for example, was rarely written with even proper nouns capitalised; whereas Modern English of the 18th century had frequently all nouns capitalised, in the same way that Modern German is today. - History of the Latin script

The Greek lower case letters developed in the nine to tenth centuries.

Greek minuscule was a Greek writing style which was developed as a book hand in Byzantine manuscripts during the 9th and 10th centuries. It replaced the earlier style of uncial writing, from which it differed in using smaller, more rounded and more connected letter forms, and in using many ligatures. Many of these forms had previously developed as parts of more informal cursive writing. The basic letter shapes used in the minuscule script are the ancestors of modern lower case Greek letters. - Greek minuscule

For example, capitalization of "Holy Ghost" can not imply a Trinitarian theology, all it says is that the translators think it is a proper noun. There are many theological positions which would identify "Holy Ghost/Spirit" as a proper noun without accepting Nicene or Chalcedonian Trinitarian theology, such as gnosticism, modalism, Arianism, Mormonism, and many more. This is equally true for Capitalizing Catholic which simply means Universal and vice versa. The official Orthodox Church often uses the word Catholic (Universal) in their Church title. This is not an issue for the Catholic Church.

  • Thanks, Ken Graham. Courtesy Wikipedia, one gets to read the texts used by defferent denominations. Rarely does any non- Catholic denomination use upper case for the word 'catholic ' .One even comes with an Asterix with the footnote " i.e. universal ". The counterpart in Latin goes " sanctam ecclesiam catholicam " which could better be translated as ' holy church which is universal'. The problem here is that over the ages, the Roman Catholic Church has come to have a sort of unofficial copywright over the word ' catholic' though , as you have pointed out , the Orthodox Church uses the word . Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 14:47
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    Well, of course, both the Eastern Orthodox churches and Protestant churches were formed by explicitly breaking away from the larger and older Catholic church, so they are not exactly unbiased in the matter. It may not be simply that Catholics "invented" the capitalization; on the contrary, it may be the separated churches which consciously chose to make it lowercase.
    – workerjoe
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 16:06
  • Thanks, workerjoe. It may be worthwhile to invite the views of believers who use languages other than English. I am one of those. In my native language Malayalam of Southern India , the Nicene Creed does not transliterate Catholic. Instead, it uses a word of Sanskrit roots meaning universal. But then, in the Apostles Creed it uses the word Catholica which sounds exactly like the Latin root. And, the language has no uppercase letters.. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 23:55

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