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Counter-Reformation, the name given by Protestant historians to the action promoted by the Catholic church (16th-17th centuries) in order to combat the Protestant Reformation and the initiatives in order to realize its own inner reformation, hoped for since the beginning of the 16th century by the Catholic Reformation movement. A conservative and at the same time a modernization movement, had as its maximum expression the Council of Trent (1545-63), which accentuated the church's hierarchical aspect, the Papal centralism, liturgical and disciplinary uniformity. Expression of the Counter-Reformation was on one side the Holy Office (1542), the sacred congregation of the Index (1571), the reorganisation of the Roman Curia (1588); and on the other, the creation of seminaries, new religious orders with educational intentions, mainly the Company of Jesus, the missionary activity. Actually, while the Jesuits, by means of a thick network of colleges, educated the sons of nobility of the upper middle class, destined to become the ruling class, and above all in Germany stood up against the recently risen Protestant universities, the Scolopi of the Spaniard Giuseppe Calasanzio instituted popular schools in which the moral and religious education of the poor children accompanied the learning of rudiments of knowledge and of a trade. Religious orders (in particular the Franciscans, the Jesuits, the oblati (lay people) of St. Ambrose, the Lazzarists) even developed a vast evangelization action among the people of the countryside by means of social missions.

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