INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION
CATHOLIC TEACHING ON APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION
Vatican - 1973
This study sets out to throw light on the concept of apostolic
succession, on the one hand, because a clear presentation of the
Catholic doctrine would seem to be useful to the Catholic Church as a
whole, and, on the other hand, because it is demanded by ecumenical
dialogue. For some time now ecumenical dialogue has been going on in
various parts of the world, and it has a promising future provided the
Catholics taking part in it remain faithful to their Catholic identity.
(1) So we propose to present the Catholic teaching on apostolic
succession in order to strengthen our brothers in the Faith and to
contribute to the mature development of ecumenical dialogue.
We begin by listing some of the difficulties that are frequently encountered:
1. What can be deduced, scientifically, from the witness of the New
Testament? How can one show the continuity between the New Testament
and the Church’s Tradition?
2. What is the place of the imposition of hands in apostolic succession?
3. Is there not a tendency in some quarters to reduce apostolic
succession to the apostolicity that is common to the whole Church, or,
conversely, to reduce the apostolicity of the Church to apostolic
4. How can one evaluate the ministry of other churches and Christian communities in relation to apostolic succession?
Behind all these questions lies the problem of the relationship between
Scripture, Tradition, and the dogmatic pronouncements of the Church. (2)
The dominant note in our thinking is provided by the vision of the
Church as willed by the Father, emerging from Christ’s Paschal mystery,
animated by the Holy Spirit, and organically structured. We hope to set
the specific and essential function of apostolic succession in the
context of the whole Church, which confesses its apostolic Faith and
bears witness to its Lord. (3)
We rely upon Scripture, which has for us a twofold value as a
historical record and an inspired document. Insofar as it is a
historical record, Scripture recounts the most important events in the
mission of Jesus and the life of the Church of the first century;
insofar as it is an inspired document, it bears witness to certain
facts and at the same time interprets them and reveals their inner
significance and dynamic coherence. As an expression of the thought of
God in the words of men, Scripture has a normative value for the
thinking of Christ’s Church in every age. (4)
But any interpretation of Scripture that regards it as inspired and
therefore normative for all ages is necessarily an interpretation that
takes place within the Church’s Tradition, which recognizes Scripture
as inspired and normative. The recognition of the normative character
of Scripture fundamentally implies a recognition of that Tradition
within which Scripture itself was formed and came to be considered and
accepted as inspired. The normative status of Scripture and its
relationship to Tradition go hand in hand. The result is that any
theological considerations about Scripture are at the same time
ecclesial considerations. (5)
This, then, is the methodological starting point of the document: any
attempt to reconstitute the past by selecting isolated phrases from the
New Testament Tradition and separating them from the way they were
received in the living Tradition of the Church is contradictory. (6)
The theological approach that sees Scripture as an indivisible whole
and that links it with the life and thought of the early community that
acknowledges and "recognizes" it as Scripture certainly does not mean
that properly historical judgments are eliminated in advance by an
ecclesiological a priori, which would make impossible an interpretation
in conformity with the demands of historical method. (7)
The method adopted here enables one to grasp the limitations of pure
historicism: it admits that the purely historical analysis of a book in
isolation from its effects and influence cannot show with certainty
that the way Faith actually developed in history was the only possible
way. But these limits to historical proof, which one cannot doubt, do
not destroy the value and weight of historical knowledge. On the
contrary, the fact that the early Church accepted Scripture as
constitutive is something to be constantly meditated upon: that is, we
have to think out again and again the relationship, the differences,
and the unity between the different elements. (8)
That also means that one cannot dissolve Scripture into a series of
unrelated sketches, each one of which would be an attempt to express a
lifestyle founded on Jesus of Nazareth, but rather that one must
understand it as the expression of a historical unfolding path that
reveals the unity and the catholicity of the Church. There are three
broad stages along this path: the time before Easter, the apostolic
period, and the subapostolic period, and each period has its own
specific value; it is significant that what the dogmatic constitution
"On Divine Revelation", Dei Verbum (18), calls "viri apostolici" should
be responsible for some of the New Testament writings. (9)
This helps one to see clearly how the community of Jesus Christ solved
the problem of remaining apostolic even though it had become
subapostolic. This explains why the subapostolic part of the New
Testament has a normative character for the Church at a later period,
for it must build on the apostles, who themselves have Christ as their
foundation. In the subapostolic writings, Scripture itself bears
witness to Tradition and gives evidence of the Magisterium in that it
recalls the teaching of the apostles (see Acts 2:42; 2 Pet 1:20). This
Magisterium really begins to develop in the second century, at the time
when the idea of apostolic succession is made fully explicit. (10)
Scripture and Tradition taken together, pondered upon and authentically
interpreted by the Magisterium, faithfully transmit to us the teaching
of Christ our Lord and Savior and determine the doctrine that it is the
Church’s mission to proclaim to all peoples and to apply to each
generation until the end of the world. It is in this theological
perspective — fully in accord with the doctrine of Vatican II — that we
have written this document on apostolic succession and evaluated the
ministries that exist in churches and communities not yet in full
communion with the Catholic Church. (11)
I. THE APOSTOLICITY OF THE CHURCH AND THE COMMON PRIESTHOOD
1. The creeds confess their Faith in the apostolicity of the Church.
That means not simply that the Church continues to hold the apostolic
Faith but that it is determined to live according to the norm of the
primitive Church, which derived from the first witnesses of Christ and
was guided by the Holy Spirit, who was given to the Church by Christ
after his Resurrection. The Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles show
how effective was this presence of the Spirit in the whole Church, and
that he ensured not only its diffusion but also and more importantly
the transformation of hearts: the Spirit assimilates them to Christ and
his feelings. Stephen, the first martyr, repeats the words of
forgiveness of his dying Lord; Peter and John are beaten and rejoice
that they should be found worthy to suffer with him; Paul bears in his
body the marks of Christ (Gal 6:17), wants to be conformed to the death
of Christ (Phil 3:10), to know nothing save the crucified One (1 Cor
1:23; 2:2), and he considers his whole life as an assimilation to the
expiating sacrifice of the Cross (Phil 2:17; Col 1:24). (12)
2. This assimilation to the "thoughts" of Christ and above all to his
sacrificial death for the world gives ultimate meaning to the lives of
those who want to lead a Christian, spiritual, and apostolic life. (13)
That is why the early Church adapted the priestly vocabulary of the Old
Testament to Christ, the Paschal Lamb of the New Covenant (1 Cor 5:7),
and then to Christians whose lives are defined in relation to the
Paschal mystery of Christ. Converted by the preaching of the Gospel,
they are convinced that they are living out a holy and royal priesthood
that is a spiritual transposition of the priesthood of the Old
Testament (1 Pet 2:5-9; see Ex 19:6; Is 61:6) and that was made
possible by the sacrificial offering of him who recapitulates in
himself all the sacrifices of the Old Law and opens the way for the
complete and eschatological sacrifice of the Church (see St. Augustine,
De civitate Dei 10, 6). (14)
Christians as living stones in the new building that is the Church
founded on Christ offer to God worship in the Spirit who has made them
new; their cult is both personal, since they have to "present their
bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1;
see 1 Pet 2:5), and communal, since together they make up the
"spiritual house", the "royal priesthood" and "holy nation" (1 Pet
2:9), whose purpose is to offer "spiritual sacrifices that Jesus Christ
has made acceptable to God", (1 Pet 2:8). (15)
This priesthood has a moral dimension—since it must be exercised every
day and in ordinary situations—and an eschatological dimension, since
it is, in eternity to come that Christ has promised to make of us "a
line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father" (Rev 1:6; see 5:10;
20:6); but it has also a cultural dimension, since the Eucharist by
which they live is compared by Saint Paul to the sacrifices of the Old
Law and even - though only to make a sharp contrast - to pagan
sacrifices (1 Cor 10:16-21). (16)
3. Now Christ instituted a ministry for the establishment, animation,
and maintenance of this priesthood of Christians. This ministry was to
be the sign and the instrument by which he would communicate to his
people in the course of history the fruits of his life, death, and
Resurrection. The first foundations of this ministry were laid when he
called the Twelve, who at the same time represent the new Israel as a
whole and, after Easter, will be the privileged eyewitnesses sent out
to proclaim the Gospel of salvation and the leaders of the new people,
"fellow workers with God for the building of his temple" (see 1 Cor
3:9). (17) This ministry has an essential function to fulfill toward
each generation of Christians. It must therefore be transmitted from
the apostles by an unbroken line of succession. If one can say that the
Church as a whole is established upon the foundation of the apostles
(Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14), one has to add that this apostolicity, which is
common to the whole Church, is linked with the ministerial apostolic
succession, and that this is an inalienable ecclesial structure at the
service of all Christians. (18)
II. THE ORIGINALITY OF THE APOSTOLIC FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH
The apostolic foundation has this special characteristic: it is both historical and spiritual.
It is historical in the sense that it comes into being through an act
of Christ during his earthly existence: the call of the Twelve at the
start of his public ministry, their commission to represent the new
Israel and to be involved ever more closely with his Paschal journey,
which is consummated in the Cross and Resurrection (Mk 1:17; 3:14; Lk
22:28; Jn 15:16). Far from destroying the pre-Easter structure, the
Resurrection confirms it. In a special manner Christ makes the Twelve
the witnesses of his Resurrection, and they head the list that he had
ordered before his death: the earliest confession of Faith in the Risen
One includes Peter and the Twelve as the privileged witnesses of his
Resurrection (1 Cor). (19)
Those who had been associated with Jesus from the beginning of his
ministry to the eve of his Paschal death are able to bear public
witness to the fact that it is the same Jesus who is risen (Jn 15:27).
After Judas’ defection and even before Pentecost, the first concern of
the Eleven is to replace him in their apostolic ministry with one of
the disciples who had been with Jesus since his baptism, so that with
them he could be a witness of his Resurrection (Acts 1:17-22). Moreover
Paul, who was called to the apostolate by the risen Lord himself and
thus became part of the Church’s foundation, is aware of the need to be
in communion with the Twelve. (20)
This foundation is not only historical; it is also spiritual. Christ’s
pass-over, anticipated at the Last Supper, establishes the New Covenant
and thus embraces the whole of human history. The mission and task of
preaching the Gospel, governing, reconciling, and sanctifying that are
entrusted to the first witnesses cannot be restricted to their
lifetime. As far as the Eucharist is concerned, Tradition—whose broad
lines are already laid down from the first century (see Lk and
Jn)—declares that the apostles’ participation in the Last Supper
conferred on them the power to preside at the eucharistic celebration.
Thus the apostolic ministry is an eschatological institution. Its
spiritual origins appear in Christ’s prayer, inspired by the Holy
Spirit, in which he discerns, as in all the great moments of his life,
the will of the Father (Lk 6:12). The spiritual participation of the
apostles in the mystery of Christ is completed fully by the gift of the
Holy Spirit after Easter (Jn 20:22; Lk 24:44-49). The Spirit brings to
their minds all that Jesus had said (Jn 14:26) and leads them to a
fuller understanding of his mystery (Jn 16:13-15). (22)
The kerygma (preaching), if it is to be properly understood, must not
be separated or treated in abstraction from the Faith to which the
Twelve and Paul came by their conversion to the Lord Jesus or from the
witness to him manifested in their lives. (23)
III. THE APOSTLES AND APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION IN HISTORY
The documents of the New Testament show that in the early days of the
Church and in the lifetime of the apostles there was diversity in the
way communities were organized, but also that there was, in the period
immediately following, a tendency to assert and strengthen the ministry
of teaching and leadership. (24)
Those who directed communities in the lifetime of the apostles or after
their death have different names in the New Testament texts: the
presbyteroi-episkopoi are described as poimenes, hegoumenoi,
proistamenoi, kyberneseis. In comparison with the rest of the Church,
the feature of the presbyteroi-episkopoi is their apostolic ministry of
teaching and governing. Whatever the method by which they are chosen,
whether through the authority of the Twelve or Paul or some link with
them, they share in the authority of the apostles who were instituted
by Christ and who maintain for all time their unique character. (25)
In the course of time this ministry underwent a development. This
development happened by internal necessity. It was encouraged by
external factors, and above all by the need to maintain unity in
communities and to defend them against errors. When communities were
deprived of the actual presence of apostles and yet still wanted to
refer to the authority, there had to be some way of continuing to
exercise adequately the functions that the apostles had exercised in
and in relation to them. (26)
Already in the New Testament texts there are echoes of the transition
from the apostolic period to the subapostolic age, and one begins to
see signs of the development that in the second century led to the
stabilization and general recognition of the episcopal ministry. The
stages of this development can be glimpsed in the last writings of the
Pauline Tradition and in other texts linked with the authority of the
The significance of the apostles at the time of the foundation of the
earliest Christian communities was held to be essential for the
structure of the Church and local communities in the thinking of the
subapostolic period. The principle of the apostolicity of the Church
elaborated in this reflection led to the recognition of the ministry of
teaching and governing as an institution derived from Christ by and
through the mediation of the apostles. The Church lived in the certain
conviction that Jesus, before he left this world, sent the Twelve on a
universal mission and promised that he would be with them at all times
until the end of the world (Mt 28:18-20). (28)
The time of the Church, which is the time of this universal mission, is
therefore contained within the presence of Christ, which is the same in
the apostolic period and later and which takes the form of a single
apostolic ministry. (29)
As one can see from the New Testament writings, conflicts could not
always be avoided between individuals and communities and the authority
of the ministry. Paul, on the one hand, strove to understand the Gospel
with and in the community and so to work out with them norms for
Christian life, but, on the other hand, he appealed to his apostolic
authority whenever it was a matter of the truth of the Gospel (see Gal)
or unyielding principles of Christian life (see 1 Cor 7 and so on). (30)
Likewise, the ministry of governing should never be separated from the
community in such a way as to place itself above it: its role is one of
service in and for the community. But when the New Testament
communities accept apostolic government, whether from the apostles
themselves or their successors, then they obey and relate the authority
of the ministry to that of Christ himself. (31)
The absence of documents makes it difficult to say precisely how these
transitions came about. By the end of the first century the situation
was that the apostles or their closest helpers or eventually their
successors directed the local colleges of episkopoi and presbyteroi. By
the beginning of the second century the figure of a single bishop who
is the head of the communities appears very clearly in the letters of
Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who further claims that this institution is
established "unto the ends of the earth" (Ad Epk. 3, 2). (32)
During the second century and after the Letter of Clement this
institution is explicitly acknowledged to carry with it the apostolic
succession. Ordination with imposition of hands, already witnessed to
in the pastoral Epistles, appears in the process of clarification to be
an important step in preserving the apostolic Tradition and
guaranteeing succession in the ministry. The documents of the third
century (Tradition of Hippolytus) show that this conviction was arrived
at peacefully and was considered to be a necessary institution. (33)
Clement and Irenaeus develop a doctrine on pastoral government and on
the word in which they derive the idea of apostolic succession from the
unity of the word, the unity of the mission, and the unity of the
ministry of the Church; thus apostolic succession became the permanent
ground from which the Catholic Church understood its own nature. (34)
IV. THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT OF APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION
If after this historic survey we try to understand the spiritual
dimensions of apostolic succession, we will have to stress first of all
that the ordained ministry, although it represents the Gospel with
authority and is essentially a service toward the whole Church,
nevertheless demands that the minister should make Christ present in
his humility (2 Cor 4:5) and make present Christ crucified (see Gal
2:19ff.; 16:14; 1 Cor 4:9ff.). (35)
The Church that it serves is informed and moved by the Spirit, and
"Church" here means the Church as a whole and in its members, for
everyone who is baptized is "taught by the Spirit" (1 Thess 4:9; see
Heb 8:11; Jer 31:33ff.; 1 Jn 2:20; Jn 6:45). The role of the priestly
ministry is therefore to bring to mind authoritatively what is already
embryonically included in baptismal Faith but can never be fully
realized here below. Likewise the believer should nourish his Faith and
his Christian life through the sacramental mediation of the divine
life. The norm of Faith - which is formally known as the regula fidei -
becomes immanent in Christian life thanks to the Spirit while it
remains transcendent in relation to men, since it can never be purely
an individual matter but is rather by its very nature ecclesial and
Thus in the rule of Faith the immediacy of the divine Spirit in each
individual is necessarily linked to the communitarian form of this
Faith. Paul’s statement is still valid: "No one can say ‘Jesus is the
Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 2:3)—without the conversion
that the Spirit is always ready to grant to human hearts, no one can
recognize Jesus as the Son of God, and only those who know him as the
Son will know the one whom Jesus calls "Father" (see Jn 14:7; 8:19; and
so on). Since, therefore, it is the Spirit who brings us knowledge of
the Father through Jesus, Christian Faith is trinitarian: its pneumatic
or spiritual formnecessarily implies the content that is realized
sacramentally in baptism in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The regula fidei, that is, the sort of baptismal catechesis in which
the trinitarian content of Faith is developed, constitutes in its form
and content the permanent basis for the apostolicity and catholicity of
the Church. It realizes apostolicity because it binds those who preach
the Faith to the christopneumatological norm: they do not speak in
their own name but bear witness to what they have heard (see Jn 7:18;
Jesus Christ shows that he is the Son in that he proclaims that he
comes from the Father. The Spirit shows that he is the Spirit of the
Father and the Son, because he does not devise something of his own but
reveals and recalls what comes from the Son (Jn 16:13). This
prolongation of the work of Christ and of his Spirit gives apostolic
succession its distinctive character and makes the Church’s Magisterium
distinct from both the teaching authority of scholars and the rule of
authoritarian power. (39)
If the teaching authority were to fall into the hands of professors,
Faith would depend upon the lights of individuals and would be thereby
exposed to influence from the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. And
where Faith depends upon the despotic power of certain individuals or
groups, who themselves would decide what the norm was, then truth is
replaced by arbitrary power. The true Magisterium, on the contrary, is
bound by the word of the Lord and thus ushers those who listen to it
into the realm of liberty. (40)
Nothing in the Church can forego this need to refer to the apostles.
Pastors and their flocks cannot avoid it; statements of Faith and moral
precepts must be measured by it. The ordained ministry is bound to this
apostolic mediation in a double way, since on the one hand it must
submit to the norm of Christian origins and on the other hand it has
the duty of learning from the community of believers, who themselves
have the duty to instruct it. (41)
We draw two conclusions from what has just been said:
1. No preacher of the Gospel has the right to proclaim the Gospel
according to personal theories he may happen to have. He proclaims the
Faith of the apostolic Church and not his own personality or his own
religious experience. (42)
This implies that we must add a third element to those we have already
mentioned as belonging to the rule of Faith - form and content: the
rule of Faith presupposes a witness who has been entrusted with a
mission, who does not authorize him to speak, and that no individual
community can authorize him to speak; and this comes about in virtue of
the transcendence of the word. Authorization can only be given
sacramentally through those who have already received the mission. It
is true that the Spirit can freely arouse in the Church various
charisms of evangelization and service and inspire all Christians to
bear witness to their Faith, but these activities should be exercised
with reference to the three elements mentioned in the regula fidei (see
LG 12). (43)
2. This mission (trinitarian in its basis) enters into the rule of
Faith and implies a reference to the catholicity of Faith, which is at
once a consequence of apostolicity and a condition of its permanence.
For no individual and no community by itself has this power to send on
a mission. It is only in relation with the whole - kath’holon,
catholicity in time and in space - that permanence in mission can be
guaranteed. In this way catholicity explains why the believer, as a
member of the Church, is introduced into an immediate participation in
the trinitarian life through the mediation not only of the God-Man but
of the Church who is intimately associated with him. (44)
Because of the catholic dimension of its truth and its life, the
mediation of the Church has to be achieved in an ordered way, through a
ministry that is given to the Church as one of its constitutive
elements. This ministry does not have as its only point of reference a
historical period that is now no more (and that is represented by a
series of documents); given this reference back, it must be endowed
with the power of representing in itself its Source, the living Christ,
through an officially authorized proclamation of the Gospel and by
authoritative celebration of sacramental acts, above all the Eucharist.
V. APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION AND ITS TRANSMISSION
Just as the divine Word made Flesh is itself both proclamation and the
communicating principle of the divine life into which it brings us, so
the ministry of the word in its fullness and the sacraments of Faith,
especially the Eucharist, are the means by which Christ continues to be
for mankind the ever-present event of salvation. Pastoral authority is
simply the responsibility that the apostolic ministry has for the unity
of the Church and its development, while the word is the source of
salvation and the sacraments are both the manifestation and the locus
of its realization. (46)
Thus apostolic succession is that aspect of the nature and life of the
Church that shows the dependence of our present-day community on Christ
through those whom he has sent. The apostolic ministry is, therefore,
the sacrament of the effective presence of Christ and of his Spirit in
the midst of the people of God, and this view in no way underestimates
the immediate influence of Christ and his Spirit on each believer. (47)
The charism of apostolic succession is received in the visible
community of the Church. It presupposes that someone who is to enter
the ministry has the Faith of the Church. The gift of ministry is
granted in an act that is the visible and efficacious symbol of the
gift of the Spirit, and this act has as its instrument one or several
of those ministers who have themselves entered the apostolic
Thus the transmission of the apostolic ministry is achieved through
ordination, including a rite with a visible sign and the invocation of
God (epiklesis) to grant to the ordinand the gift of his Holy Spirit
and the powers that are needed for the accomplishment of his task. This
visible sign, from the New Testament onward, is the imposition of hands
(see LG 21). The rite of ordination expresses the truth that what
happens to the ordinand does not come from human origin and that the
Church cannot do what it likes with the gift of the Spirit. (49)
The Church is fully aware that its nature is bound up with apostolicity
and that the ministry handed on by ordination establishes the one who
has been ordained in the apostolic confession of the truth of the
Father. The Church, therefore, has judged that ordination, given and
received in the understanding she herself has of it, is necessary to
apostolic succession in the strict sense of the word. (50)
The apostolic succession of the ministry concerns the whole Church, but
it is not something that derives from the Church taken as a whole but
rather from Christ to the apostles and from the apostles to all bishops
to the end of time. (51)
VI. TOWARD AN EVALUATION OF NON-CATHOLIC MINISTRIES
The preceding sketch of the Catholic understanding of apostolic
succession now enables us to give in broad outline an evaluation of
non-Catholic ministries. In this context it is indispensable to keep
firmly in mind the differences that have existed in the origins and in
the subsequent development of these churches and communities, as also
their own self-understanding. (52)
1. In spite of a difference in their appreciation of the office of
Peter, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox church, and the other churches
that have retained the reality of apostolic succession are at one in
sharing a basic understanding of the sacramentality of the Church,
which developed from the New Testament and through the Fathers, notably
through Irenaeus. These churches hold that the sacramental entry into
the ministry comes about through the imposition of hands with the
invocation of the Holy Spirit, and that this is the indispensable form
for the transmission of the apostolic succession, which alone enables
the Church to remain constant in its doctrine and communion. It is this
unanimity concerning the unbroken coherence of Scripture, Tradition,
and sacrament that explains why communion between these churches and
the Catholic Church has never completely ceased and could today be
2. Fruitful dialogues have taken place with Anglican communions, which
have retained the imposition of hands, the interpretation of which has
varied. We cannot here anticipate the eventual results of this
dialogue, which has as its object to inquire how far factors
constitutive of unity are included in the maintenance of the imposition
of hands and accompanying prayers.
3. The communities that emerged from the sixteenth-century Reformation
differ among themselves to such an extent that a description of their
relationship to the Catholic Church has to take account of the many
individual cases. However, some general lines are beginning to emerge.
In general it was a feature of the Reformation to deny the link between
Scripture and Tradition and to advocate the view that Scripture alone
was normative. Even if later on some sort of place for Tradition is
recognized, it is never given the same position and dignity as in the
ancient Church. But since the sacrament of orders is the indispensable
sacramental expression of communion in the Tradition, the proclamation
of sola scriptura led inevitably to an obscuring of the older idea of
the Church and its priesthood. (54)
Thus through the centuries, the imposition of hands either by men
already ordained or by others was often in practice abandoned. Where it
did take place, it did not have the same meaning as in the Church of
Tradition. This divergence in the mode of entry into the ministry and
its interpretation is only the most noteworthy symptom of the different
understandings of Church and Tradition. There have already been a
number of promising contacts that have sought to reestablish links with
the Tradition, although the break has so far not been successfully
In such circumstances, intercommunion remains impossible for the time
being, because sacramental continuity in apostolic succession from the
beginning is an indispensable element of ecclesial communion for both
the Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches. (56)
To say this is not to say that the ecclesial and spiritual qualities of
the Protestant ministers and communities are thereby negligible. Their
ministers have edified and nourished their communities. By baptism, by
the study and the preaching of the word, by their prayer together and
celebration of the Last Supper, and by their zeal they have guided men
toward faith in the Lord and thus helped them to find the way of
salvation. There are thus in such communities elements that certainly
belong to the apostolicity of the unique Church of Christ. (57)
1) Christians will identify with Jesus Christ instead of an apostle or church.
Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of
Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided?
Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1
2) Christians will use Scripture instead of traditions of men.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped
for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
3) Christians will confess Jesus Christ instead of a church.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your
heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you
confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that
God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart
one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made
unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will
not be put to shame.” Romans 10:8-11.
4) Christians will rely on Scripture instead of traditions of men.
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the
commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded,
saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses
father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever
says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received
from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or
mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your
tradition. Matthew 15:3-6.
5) Christians will not rely on church traditions for guidance on faith in Jesus Christ.
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according
to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay
here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible
things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by
tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as
of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1 Peter 1:17-19.
6) Jesus Christ renounced the traditions of men that conflicted with Scripture.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not
walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with
unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah
prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me
with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they
worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ Mark 7:5-7.
7) False interpretations of Scripture from history must be rejected.
For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—
the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” Mark 7:8-9.
8) Faith in Jesus Christ did not develop over centuries within a specific church.
But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith
in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Galatians 3:22.
9) Bad dark-age interpretations and traditions must be rejected.
For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in
among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will
rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after
themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did
not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. Acts 20:29-31.
10) Believers have tested teachings by referring back to Scripture themselves.
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to
Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they
received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily
to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them
believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as
men. Acts 17:10-12.
11) Pope Alexander VI is in the line of the Roman Catholic “Apostolic Succession”.
He is one of the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, partly
because he acknowledged fathering several children by his mistresses.
Therefore his Italianized Valencian surname, Borgia, became a byword
for libertinism and nepotism, which are traditionally considered as
characterizing his pontificate. Two of Alexander's successors, the
controversial pontiffs Sixtus V and Urban VIII, described him as one of
the most outstanding popes since Saint Peter. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
12) Pope Leo X is in the line of the Roman Catholic “Apostolic Succession”.
Leo is probably best remembered for granting indulgences for those who
donated to reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica, which practice was
challenged by Martin Luther's 95 Theses. He seems not to have taken
seriously the array of demands for church reform that would quickly
grow into the Protestant Reformation. He borrowed and spent heavily. A
significant patron of the arts, upon election Leo is alleged to have
said, "Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it." Wikipedia
13) Scripture clearly proclaims the death of Jesus Christ for salvation.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were
still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been
justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For
if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of
His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His
life. Romans 5:8-10.
14) Scripture clearly proclaims Jesus Christ as the sacrificial Lamb of God.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29.
15) According to Scripture there is no one “True Church.”
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace
and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the
comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Acts 9:31.
16) Christians remember the death of Jesus Christ during Holy Communion.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that
the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;
and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is
My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the
same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the
new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in
remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this
cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 1 Corinthians
Note: The Eucharist is symbolic as you eat bread per Protestant Paul.
17) All Christians should proclaim Jesus Christ according to Scripture.
Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to
them. Acts 8:4-5.
18) Pope Sixtus V is in the line of the Roman Catholic “Apostolic Succession”.
As Pope, he energetically rooted out corruption and lawlessness across
Rome, and launched a far-sighted rebuilding programme that continues to
provoke controversy, as it involved the destruction of antiquities. The
cost of these works was met by heavy taxation that caused much
suffering. His foreign policy was regarded as over-ambitious, and he
excommunicated both Elizabeth I of England and Henry IV of France. He
is recognized as a significant figure of the Counter-Reformation.
19) Protestant Paul was ordained by a common Christian and not an apostle.
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him
the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight,
and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for
behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his
sight.” Acts 9:10-12.
20) Protestant Paul was generally not in communion with the original disciples.
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples;
but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a
disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he
declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had
spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name
of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.
And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against
the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found
out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. Acts
21) The original disciples were soon not presiding over the community of believers.
Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul
declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them
among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered,
saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at
the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His
name. Acts 15:12-14.
22) The will of God is not an eschatological institution but the salvation of mankind.
“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the
Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him
up at the last day.” John 6:40.
23) Christian preaching will be centered upon Jesus Christ.
For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach
Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks
foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ
the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24.
24) Sound Christian leadership today guards against heresies from the dark ages.
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you
may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to
fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly
edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is
love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,
from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk,
desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say
nor the things which they affirm. 1 Timothy 1:3-7.
25) Protestant Paul focused on the Gospel of Christ not his authority.
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity
is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I
do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been
entrusted with a stewardship. What is my reward then? That when I
preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge,
that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:16-18.
26) Jesus Christ intervenes directly with His churches through His written word.
Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the
things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars
which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The
seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven
lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. Revelation 1:19-20.
27) Jesus Christ wants all Christians to be responsible for their faith in Him.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and
opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with
Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I
also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an
ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation
28) There were only eleven disciples to witness the ascension of Jesus Christ.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which
Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him;
but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All
authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and
make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe
all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:16-20.
29) The mission of Christians is not to be afraid to be a witness for Jesus Christ.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His
prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according
to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy
calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose
and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but
has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who
has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through
the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a
teacher of the Gentiles. 2 Timothy 1:8-11.
30) Protestant Paul asserted his authority over Pope Peter.
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face,
because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he
would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and
separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the
rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even
Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. Galatians 2:11-13.
31) Protestant Paul wants all Christians to be personally responsible themselves.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.
Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed
you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not
disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5-6.
32) Protestant Paul wants all Christians to be personally responsible themselves.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence
only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with
fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to
do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13.
33) Protestant Paul was ordained by a common Christian and not by an apostle.
Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man,
how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has
authority from the chief priests tobind all who call on Your name.” But
the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My
name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will
show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts
34) Jesus Christ intervenes directly with His churches through His written word.
I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom
and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos
for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the
Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a
trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the
Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven
churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to
Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Revelation
35) Pope Urban VIII was demonically inspired through greed.
Urban VIII practiced nepotism on a grand scale; various members of his
family were enormously enriched by him, so that it seemed to
contemporaries as if were establishing a Barberini dynasty. He elevated
his brother Antonio Marcello Barberini (Antonio the Elder) and then his
nephews Francesco Barberini and Antonio Barberini (Antonio the Younger)
to Cardinal. He also bestowed upon their brother, Taddeo Barberini, the
titles Prince of Palestrina, Gonfalonier of the Church, Prefect of Rome
and Commander of Sant'Angelo. Historian Leopold von Ranke estimated
that during his reign, Urban VIII's immediate family amassed 105
million scudi in personal wealth. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
36) Baptism is not the Christian message or Gospel.
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not
with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of
noeffect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are
perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1
37) The Holy Spirit will bear witness of Jesus Christ not a church based in Italy.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of
Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from
the beginning.” John 15:26-27.
38) Faith comes by the Word of God not baptism.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who
has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and
hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:16-17.
Note: The Roman Catholic Church is in disobedience to the Christian Gospel.
39) Will you obey God or men based in Italy?
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey
God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you
murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to
be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of
sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy
Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:29-32.
40) Beware of getting entangled in ecumenical dialogue with a corrupt Italy church.
For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure
through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have
actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them
liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person
is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they
have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and
overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 2 Peter
41) Christians have come to Jesus Christ not a church based in Italy.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal
life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing
to come to Me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40.
42) The Christian Gospel proclaims Jesus Christ.
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to
you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you
are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless
you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I
also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the
Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third
day according to the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
43) Being empowered to be a witness comes from the Word of God not sacraments.
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the
word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you
became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from
you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and
Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so
that we do not need to say anything. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8.
44) The Word of God has proclaimed the plurality of God from the beginning.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our
likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the
birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over
every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in
His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He
created them. Genesis 1:26-27.
45) Christians are empowered witnesses through sincere belief not sacraments.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans
46) The Holy Spirit is the means that Jesus Christ is with Christians today.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go
away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if
I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict
the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin,
because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My
Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this
world is judged.” John 16:7-11.
47) Pope Stephen VI was not sent by Jesus Christ.
Stephen is chiefly remembered in connection with his conduct towards
the remains of Pope Formosus, his penultimate predecessor. The rotting
corpse of Formosus was exhumed and put on trial, before an unwilling
synod of the Roman clergy, in the so-called Cadaver Synod (or Synodus
Horrenda) in January 897. Pressure from the Spoleto contingent and
Stephen's fury with his predecessor probably precipitated this
extraordinary event. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
48) Pope Sergius III was not a minster of Jesus Christ.
Pope Sergius III (c. 860 − 14 April 911) was Pope from 29 January 904
to his death in 911. He was pope during a period of feudal violence and
disorder in central Italy, when warring aristocratic factions sought to
use the material and military resources of the Papacy. Because Sergius
III had reputedly ordered the murder of his two immediate predecessors,
Leo V and Christopher, and was the only pope to have allegedly fathered
an illegitimate son who later became pope (John XI), his pontificate
has been variously described as "dismal and disgraceful", and
"efficient and ruthless". Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
49) Pope Anastasius III was not empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Pope Anastasius III (died June 913) was Pope from April 911 to his
death in 913. He was a Roman by birth. A Roman nobleman, Lucian, is
sometimes recognized as his father, although other sources assert that
he was the illegitimate son of his predecessor Pope Sergius III
(904–911). Almost nothing is recorded of Pope Anastasius III, his
pontificate falling in the period when Rome and the Papacy were in the
power of Theophylact, Count of Tusculum, and his wife Theodora, who
approved Anastasius III's candidacy. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
50) Pope John X did not receive his ordination from Jesus Christ.
Thus according to John Foxe, John X was the son of Pope Lando and the
lover of the Roman “harlot” Theodora, who had John overthrow his
supposed father, and set John up in his place. While according to Louis
Marie DeCormenin, John was: ”The son of a nun and a priest... more
occupied with his lusts and debauchery than with the affairs of
Christendom... he was ambitious, avaricious, an apostate, destitute of
shame, faith and honour, and sacrificed everything to his passions; he
held the Holy See about sixteen years, to the disgrace of humanity.”
51) Pope John XII did not come from Jesus Christ.
John’s dual role as the secular prince of Rome and the spiritual head
of the church saw his behaviour lean towards the former rather than the
latter. He was depicted as a coarse, immoral man in the writings which
remain about his papacy, whose life was such that the Lateran Palace
was spoken of as a brothel, and the moral corruption in Rome became the
subject of general disgrace. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
52) There can be no Christian unity with a church that amires anti-Christ popes.
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words,
even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which
accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed
with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife,
reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds
and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of
gain. From such withdraw yourself. 1 Timothy 6:3-5.
53) Jesus Christ imparted the Holy Spirit through His breath to His disciples.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me,
I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and
said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any,
they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are
retained.” John 20:21-23.
54) All Christians are a royal priesthood unto God.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His
own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called
you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a
people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but
now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10.
55) Protestant Paul was not called according to the traditions of men.
Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus
Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the
brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to
you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave
Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil
age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory
forever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:1-5.
56) Christian communion is centered upon Jesus Christ not church rituals.
For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those
in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,
that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit
together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of
understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the
Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom
and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with
persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with
you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness
of your faith in Christ. Colossians 2:1-5.
57) Christian ministers will preach Jesus Christ not apostolic succession fables.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will
judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach
the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke,
exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come
when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own
desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for
themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth,
and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things,
endure afflictions, dothe work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1-5.
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