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How long has the Roman Catholic church been around for?

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The first suggests that the Christian church had no organized structure prior to the 4th century. This in not entirely true; Christianity was organized but necessarily in way less formal than its later development, because the Roman pagan State was determined to stamp out the new faith. Christians met secretly; when they were discovered by the Roman authorites, history has recorded accounts of the trials and martyrdoms of dozens of Christians in Roman dominions throughout the first, second, and third centuries. (It strains credulity to imagine substantial numbers of persons willing to undergo violent and horrific deaths for a cause they had never heard of or didn't really believe in.) These martyrdoms would appear to be stong evidence of a highly effective - but necessarily covert - organization, one which operated effectively for hundreds of years until the persecutions ceased. more
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