Some Protestant faiths believe almost everything the Church teaches… but they reject the authority of the Pope. They ask, “why do Catholics have a Pope and bishops?”
For Catholics, the Pope is a direct successor of the apostles. We can trace a line directly from the current Pope back through the centuries to St. Peter. Where did St. Peter get the authority to become the first Pope? That commissioning came directly from Jesus, when he said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). In this passage, Jesus was clearly giving Peter authority over the Church on earth.
The Gospel of Matthew further tells us that the apostles selected other men to continue the ministry and to “shepherd the Church of God” (Matthew 28:20). Therefore, Christ and the Apostles established the hierarchy of the Church, from the very beginning. The passing of authority and Tradition from one generation to the next is called Apostolic Succession.
Since Peter and the first apostles and bishops, the line of apostolic succession has continued unbroken. It is conferred from a bishop to a priest through the sacrament of Holy Orders. The Catechism says, “Christ himself chose the apostles and gave them a share in his mission and authority… Christ continues to act through the bishops. Since the sacrament of Holy Orders is the sacrament of the apostolic ministry, it is for the bishops as the successors of the apostles to hand on ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Apostolic line’”(CCC 1575-1576).
The beauty of apostolic succession is that we place our faith in Christ, not in man. The Catholic Church was not invented by a single person. We do not blindly follow the ideas of the Pope. Instead, we always look back to Christ and the original apostles, and the early Church fathers who explained some of the apostolic teachings. Every modern Catholic priest, bishop, and Pope must match their faith with those traditions… because ultimately it is a religion that follows the teachings of Christ.
Don’t you just love that? I do! Please comment below and let us know.