Help! Confused About Apostolic Succession


I’m having a discussion on another forum, and I’m getting confused about certain terms. What, precisely, is apostolic succession? Does it apply only to the direct successors of the twelve apostles, or can it also apply to those Bishops they appointed? Are all Bishops in the church said to have apostolic succession?

The person I’m debating argues the following:

“Apostolic Succession argues for direct succession from the original apostles. This can really only be accomplished one of two ways: transference of office from one apostle to another or inheritance. Creating new office bearers is NOT the same thing as succession, and this is what the RCC tries to include under Apostolic Succession. They shouldn’t.”

How do I answer this?

Also, are priests considered to be “successors” of the apostles, in the sense that they can forgive sins and confect the Eucharist?

He also asks if we recognize the apostolic succession of Orthodox churches. I was going to answer, “yes”, but then I found the following passage in the Catholic Encylopedia:

“Regarding the Greek Church, it is sufficient to note that it lost Apostlic succession by withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the lawful successors of St. Peter in the See of Rome.”

So, do we reject their apostolic succession, but accept their sacramental orders?


I’m no expert, but I think apostolic succession refers only to the pope. Christ gave Peter the keys to his Church, and Peter’s role is passed on through the popes. I’ll try to find out for sure for you.

EDIT: Strike that! I’ve just found an article on it, which says differently, so read this: and this: may also be good to read


No, what both you and the original poster are reffering to is Episcopal Lineage, which applies only to the original Patriarchies which were founded by Apostles (ie. the successor of St. Peter, the successor of St. James, ect.).

Apostolic Succession involves the entirety of the clergy. A priest is ordained by a bishop, who received Episcopal Consecration from three other bishops, who were all consecrated themselves by more bishops, going all the way back to the Apostles.


Thanks, this helps alot! What about the Orthodox, though? Why does the Catholic encyclopedia deny that they have apostolic succession?


Does it? I never noticed that. Sounds kind of strange since Apostolic Succession is necessary for valid Holy Orders.


Orthodoxy has Apostolic succession.


It was in my original post:

“Regarding the Greek Church, it is sufficient to note that it lost Apostlic succession by withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the lawful successors of St. Peter in the See of Rome.”

It’s in the article on apostolicity:


The information on New Advent is quite outdated (1909) and very polemic and prejudiced. Many popes have confirmed the Apostolic succession of the Orthodox Church (including B16 and JP2).


I believe Holy Orders is just like any other sacrament. You can’t take it back.

Once a person is ordained a Bishop by a Bishop that Ordination cannot be revoked.

He may loose his See or no longer function in that capacity in the Church, but he is still a “bishop.”

So I don’t see how it could be claimed that the Orthodox “lost” their Apostolic succession.

Just like any Catholic Bishop they should be able to trace their lineage back to an Apostle.

I fact I think there is a web site some where that does just that for all Bishops? (Anybody remember such a beast?)



Here is a site I’m aware of on Apostolic Succession


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