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Counter-Reformation


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A revival in the Roman Catholic Church between the mid-16th and mid-17th centuries. It had its origins in reform movements which were independent of the Protestant Reformation, but it increasingly became identified with, and took its name from, efforts to ‘counter’ the Protestant Reformation. There were three main ecclesiastical aspects. First a reformed papacy, with a succession of popes who had a notably more spiritual outlook than their immediate predecessors, and a number of reforms in the church's central government initiated by them. Secondly, the foundation of new religious orders, notably the Oratorians and in 1540 the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and the reform of older orders, notably the Capuchin reform of the Franciscans. Thirdly, the Council of Trent (1545–63), which defined and clarified Catholic doctrine on most points in dispute with Protestants and instituted important moral and disciplinary reforms within the Catholic Church, including the provision of a better education for the clergy through theological colleges called seminaries. All this led to a flowering of Catholic spirituality at the popular level, but also to an increasingly anti-Protestant mentality. The movement became political through its links with Catholic rulers, notably Philip II of Spain, who sought to re-establish Roman Catholicism by force. The stalemate between Catholics and Protestants was effectively recognized by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which brought to an end the Thirty Years War and in a sense concluded the Counter-Reformation period.

Subjects: History — Literature.


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