Q. When did Catholics begin calling themselves “Catholics” instead of simply “Christians”?
A. The word English “Catholic” comes from the Greek term catholikos, meaning “universal.” The first use of the phrase “Catholic Church” in surviving historical records comes from around the year a.d. 110, only a few years after the death of the Apostle John.
In his Letter to the Smyrnaeans, St. Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, wrote, “Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (8). The usage of “Catholic” here seems to connote “one and only.”