The word “catholic” means “universal” and that is what the Catholic Church is – a global community of Christ’s followers that has existed for nearly two thousand years. The church technically began with Jesus and his ministry, but it officially began when Peter became the first pope. Since then, the church has accrued over a billion followers, making it the largest branch of Christianity today.
This is all with a little help from good ole Emperor Constantine I. He is the man who made it legal to be a Christian with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. Thanks to this document and some political savvy per Constantine, the Church and the Holy Roman Empire sort of merged. During this time Catholicism spread all over Europe and became the dominant religion. Because of Constantine’s influence, the Catholic Church became rather “Roman.” As the Romans of the time switched their religion from paganism to monotheism, they kept many of the same architectural and artistic styles that were seen in Roman paganism. Some Christian symbols have their roots in paganism because of this, giving Catholicism a little Roman flavor. Take a church like the Pantheon, for instance. This was originally constructed to be a Roman temple, but it was converted to a Catholic church later on as the religious climate of Rome changed.
The Roman side of Catholicism can also be seen in how many followers the Church has. As the Roman Empire stretched across the then-known world, the Catholic Church is truly global today. It has followers in every country and missionaries are constantly working to spread its message even farther. Yes, we truly are Roman Catholics.