Apostolic Succession

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Apostolic succession (Hebrew: האפיפיור הירושה‎, Greek: Αποστολική διαδοχή) is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors (properly ordained bishops) of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were conferred upon them by the Apostles, who in turn received their spiritual authority from Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches are the predominant proponents of this doctrine.[1] To them, present-day bishops, as the successors of previous bishops, going back to the early days of Christianity, have spiritual and ecclesiastical power by this unbroken chain of ordinations stemming from the Apostles. This link with the Apostles guarantees for them their authority in matters of faith, morals, and the valid administration of sacraments. This is reaffirmed every Sunday in the reciting of the Nicene Creed by priests and congregants, with the words, "We believe in one holy and catholic and apostolic Church.." (Catholic is capitalized in the Roman version.). The Catholic Church doubly believes that a bishop's authority on matters of faith and morals is infallible when what he teaches is universally taught by all the college of bishops in communion with the Pope, who in turn is seen as the successor of St. Peter the Apostle and the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

Essential to maintaining the apostolic succession is the proper consecration of bishops. Apostolic succession is to be distinguished from the Petrine supremacy (see Papacy and Coptic Pope). Protestants (other than Anglicans) consider the authority given to the apostles as unique, proper to them alone. They reject any doctrine of a succession of their power. The Protestant view of ecclesiastical authority differs accordingly.[2]

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