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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Apostolic Succession

How does the apostolic succession of bishops, and of the Pope, contribute to the mark of the Church as “apostolic?”

The Catholic Church regards Saint Peter as the original Pope, and the first in a line of Apostolic succession. “It is as a consequence of the special revelation associated with him that we have the image of “Peter the
confessor of the true Christian faith,” and “Guardian of the faith against false teaching (Marthaler 306).” The apostles became the first bishops of the early Church. Each bishop has a successor, leading to a continuity that endures to this day. This continuity is the basis for the Catholic Church's apostolic. The direction of the Church by these bishops is what is called episcopal authority. It is unbroken and God given.

The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
 - she was and remains built on "the foundation of the Apostles," the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;
- with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the "good deposit," the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;
- she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ's return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, "assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church's supreme pastor": 
                                                You are the eternal Shepherd
                                                who never leaves his flock untended.
                                                Through the apostles
                                                you watch over us and protect us always.
                                                You made them shepherds of the flock
                                                to share in the work of your Son. . . .(CCC 857).

The sacramental authority bestowed upon the Apostles, the first bishops of the Church, by Jesus, is
what allows for the creation of new bishops through the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Source:

Marthaler, Berard. The Creed. 2nd ed. Mystic, Connecticut: Twenty Third Publications, 1993. 306. Print.

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