The Petrine Catholic Church, or simply Petrine Catholicism or just Petrinism, is the world's largest religion, practiced by over two billion people. Its reach is worldwide, with Churches in almost every major centre of the world, with its base in the City of Rome. It is headed by the Petrine Pontiff, or simply the Pope, who is elected by registered Catholics when the previous Pope dies or resigns his office. The Pope is the spiritual leader of the entire Church and thus is an influential figure worldwide. This is especially true in Catholic-majority Ecuador, where the Pope essentially acts as the top advisor to the Emperor.
It got its start when Saint Peter (who gave the current Church gets its name) founded the religion of Christianity in the first century AD in honour of Jesus Christ, of whom Peter was an Apostle. Peter set his base in the City of Rome, and, because of his growing influence, soon began to be referred to as "father" or "papa", which became the title of Pope. Rome soon became the base for the Christian religion within the Roman Empire. After a few turbulent centuries where the Romans oscillated between oppression and indifference, the growth of the religion forced the Romans into eventual acceptance, which they did when Constantine the Great issued the Edict of Milan in 313. As the 4th century continued, Christianity's influence within Rome grew, so much that it became the dominant religion of the Empire by the 5th century. Julius Nepos, upon recovering the Western Empire in 485, stemmed the tide a little, but the Edict of Recognition by Regulus and the growing threat of the Arabs meant that Christianity dominated Roman society and politics for the next 1000 years or so, spreading across the rest of Europe. This allowed the Roman Emperors to continue to exert considerable political influence despite possessing a small amount of territory.
The Great Schism of 1054 saw the departure of the Byzantines from the Church over several disagreements, mostly around the concept of iconoclasm. Byzantium eventually spearheaded their own religion, Eastern Orthodoxy, as a result of the split, but Catholicism (as the Roman Church came to be called) continued to exert considerable influence over the rest of Europe. A series of disastrous Crusades began to undermine the Catholics' authority, as well as the dispute over indulgences, leading to a slow decline in the Catholics' influence.
The Reformation changed the Church's course from that of a political influencer to more of a diplomatic role. The growth of alternative Christian religions- among them Nathanism, Anglicanism and Protestantism- as well as the resurgence of Jovianism within Rome itself- meant that the Pope no longer was the sole voice in Europe, forcing him to adopt a more conciliatory approach. In 1600, the Church began to be referred to as the Petrine Church, after St. Peter, although this is an informal term- the Church still refers to itself simply as the "Catholic Church", as it views the other Catholic Churches (namely the Nathanites) as heretics.
Despite its new approach, the Church continued to be at odds with Rome, since the Petrines continued to be staunchly conservative at a time when Rome was embracing progressivism. As the centuries wore on, the Petrines became the voice of Roman conservatism and allied themselves with the other Christian Churches across Europe, who adopted conservative values themselves.
However, the scourge of Nathanism- which periodically committed terrorist attacks in Europe and in its colonies- made the Petrines reconsider their staunch conservative approach, so as not to be confused with the Nathanites. Thus, the Petrine Church started to adopt more progressive policies following Vatican II, and elected more progressive Popes in the form of Leo XIV (elected in 1982 after Pope John Paul II's assassination), Adrian VII and Sixtus VI, which reformed the Petrine Church into a polity that is relatively moderate at the worldwide level (although it is still comparatively conservative). This move, though, has served to cause its more right-leaning members to distance itself from the Church, a factor in the recent resurgence of Nathanism.
Political influences and structure
The Petrine Church is headed by the Petrine Pontiff. Initially, as a result of the reforms of Julius Nepos, the Pope was an official appointed by the Roman Emperor, as the Pope held the Roman office of Pontifex Maximus, or the chief religious leader in the Empire. Following the reforms of Decius Capitolinus, the Romans reclaimed the title of Pontifex Maximus so they could appoint their own person to the role, turned into a role to serve as Rome's official ambassador to the Pope, a practice that still goes on today. Capitolinus' reforms changed who appointed new Popes, creating a system where Popes were elected into office by territorial cardinals upon the death or resignation of the previous Pope.
After the reforms of Leo XIV, the Pope became an elected official chosen by the ballots of all people who are registered as Catholics, determined by those who have completed the sacrament of confirmation. Elections, as before, only occur when a Pontiff dies or if the Pontiff resigns his office, otherwise the Pontiff rules in perpetuity. There have been calls for reform allowing for more regular elections, along with proposed reforms seeking to "weight" the votes towards the citizens of countries where the Pope is the head of state, although they haven't gained serious consideration among the Church's elite.
The Pope is the Church's supreme authority and is seen as being sent from God Himself. Thus, on a spiritual level, the Pope's proclamations are binding on practising Catholics worldwide, but on a legal level, the Pope's decisions are only binding on subservient Church officials. The only notable exception is in Ecuador, a Catholic-majority country where the Pope officially crowns their Emperor and must approve government appointments. There, the Pope acts as an influential political administrator.
Directly below the Pope are the Cardinals, one for each country the Pope maintains Churches in. The Cardinal is the official representative of the Pope within the country, with the Cardinal essentially speaking on behalf of the Pontiff. In countries where the Pope has actual legal authority, the Cardinal's role means he can provide direct input on laws and directives, if not actually create them himself. In a practical sense, Cardinals typically serve as the "go-between" when a country and the Pope are at odds on an issue, with the Cardinal negotiating a deal between the parties.
Below the Cardinals are the Archbishops, who oversee territories known as an archdiocese, which are typically congruent with political provinces. The Archbishop thus resolves matters at the archdiocese level, and administers those functions which are deemed to be those of archdiocesan importance, the scope of which depending on the laws of the country in question. Below the Archbishop is the Bishop, who administers a diocese, which is essentially congruent with the concept of a political municipality. Lastly, from a territorial perspective, is the Priest, who administers the local Churches that make up a diocese. These local Churches are essentially Petrinism's administrators at the neighbourhood level.
The Ecuadorian Empire, or simply Ecuador, is a sprawling, economically powerful country in the continent of South America, where 99% of the country are adherents to Petrinism. Thus, while Ecuador is officially secular, Ecuadorian laws and cultural practices are heavily influenced by the Petrine Pontiff, so much so that the Ecuadorian Emperor is, by law, required to be crowned by the Pontiff himself (although the Emperor retains the sole authority to choose his successor and retains the actual authority to draw up his country's laws).
Furthermore, Church officials are recognized by Ecuadorian law to be the legal administrators of their region, with the country's archbishops being the Emperor's official advisors. Although the Pope legally maintains the authority to select the Ecuadorian officials, every Church official- from the priesthood right up to the archbishops- is "recommended" to the Pope by the Emperor for appointment, with the Pope simply "rubber stamping" the Emperor's wishes. Only in rare cases have the Emperor's choices been rejected by the Pope, with disagreements getting resolved rather quickly.
Despite these strong cultural and political ties to the Papacy, the Ecuadorians fiercely guard their independence and watch to ensure the Pope does not influence their policies too much. Thus, Ecuador tends to be culturally and politically to the left of Petrinism, although it is not as far to the left comparatively as Rome or Casara. As the nation is self-sufficient, the Ecuadorians maintain policies of official isolationism and protectionism, with the Empire largely forgoing getting involved in political affairs. Still, despite Ecuador's official stance refusing to align itself, the country is a part of the Roman Alliance as a means of having discourse with the world and ensuring other global powers respect their interests.