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It has all the ordinary elements of a mature legal system: Canon law concerns the Catholic Church's life and organisation and is distinct from civil law.In its own field it gives force to civil law only by specific enactment in matters such as the guardianship of minors.The Catholic Church has influenced Western philosophy, culture, art, and science.

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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.

a small city-state entirely enclaved within the city of Rome, which is an entity distinct from the Holy See.

It is as head of the Holy See, not as head of Vatican City State, that the pope receives ambassadors of states and sends them his own diplomatic representatives.

Its teaching includes Divine Mercy, sanctification through faith and evangelisation of the Gospel as well as Catholic social teaching, which emphasises voluntary support for the sick, the poor, and the afflicted through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and health care in the world.

Before the Council of Ephesus in AD 431 the Church of the East also shared in this communion, as did the Oriental Orthodox churches before the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, all separating primarily over differences in Christology.

From the late 20th century, the Catholic Church has received criticism from some for its teaching on sexuality, its refusal to ordain women, as well as the handling of sexual abuse cases involving clergy.

The name "Catholic Church" for the whole church is used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1990) and the Code of Canon Law (1983).

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