From the great Hans Kung comes a landmark history of the Catholic Church and its place in the world, from its roots in the teachings of Jesus Christ to the present day. To recount the two-thousand-year story of how the church developed from a small band of persecuted Jews who followed Christ into the most enduringly powerful institution in the history of the world is to face controversy at every step. Hans Kung flinches at nothing, from the origins and legitimacy of the Vatican's claims to supremacy--and, much later, infallibility--to the matter of the Holocaust and the fierce debates Kung himself has been involved in as the primary author of Vatican II and one of the Christian world's great reforming voices. The great individuals--Paul, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, the magnificent popes, and the disastrous ones--and the watershed events--the conversion of the Roman emperors, the great schism with the east, the crusades and the challenge of Islam, the great heroes and their suppression, the Inquisition, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the change of modernity and the waning of the church's influence as an earthly power, the role of women, the treatment of the Jews--are all treated with magisterial wisdom and erudition. Always, Hans Kung distinguishes between what is timeless and universal in the Catholic Church's values and what is the product of human agency.