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Headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope, the church's doctrines are summarised in the Nicene Creed.

Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, enclaved within Rome, Italy.

The largest and most well known is the Latin Church, with more than 1 billion members worldwide.

Relatively small in terms of adherents compared to the Latin Church, are the 23 self-governing Eastern Catholic Churches with a combined membership of 17.3 million as of 2010 The Latin Church is governed by the pope and diocesan bishops directly appointed by him.

There are three levels of clergy, the episcopate, composed of bishops who hold jurisdiction over a geographic area called a diocese or eparchy; the presbyterate, composed of priests ordained by bishops and who work in local diocese or religious orders; and the diaconate, composed of deacons who assist bishops and priests in a variety of ministerial roles.

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.In parallel to the diocesan structure are a variety of religious institutes that function autonomously, often subject only to the authority of the pope, though sometimes subject to the local bishop.Most religious institutes only have male or female members but some have both.Additionally, lay members aid many liturgical functions during worship services. The Catholic Church holds that Christ instituted the papacy upon giving the keys of Heaven to Saint Peter.His ecclesiastical jurisdiction is called the "Holy See" (Sancta Sedes in Latin), or the "Apostolic See" (meaning the see of the apostle Peter).

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Canon law concerns the Catholic Church's life and organisation and is distinct from civil law.

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