Scenario: All Bishops in the Church die...what then?

Hi everyone,

So I was thinking the other day about a scenario - whether completely possible or completely impossible, I’m not sure.

Here’s a scenario: I think we can all agree that the military weapons of today are the most destructive in history; we can destroy an entire town and leave 99% of the population dead in a single bomb. Therefore, let us say that the Third Vatican Council is convened in the near future (for whatever reason). I do realize that there are over five-thousand bishops of today. Let us assume that all the bishops attend.

Now, the Third Vatican Council is convened, and all bishops take their seat. Suddenly, some rogue nation or terrorist organization launches an atomic bomb - fully functional, no defects, and so on - and it lands in the middle of Rome. The entire Vatican collapses and disintegrates, and every bishop inside dies.

Now, my question is: with all the bishops of the Church dead, what would happen what would happen to Apostolic Succession? Who would take charge of the Church? How can a priest from Italy legitimate authority over, for example, a priest in Africa? Who’s to say who is in charge?

I want to note and emphasize that this is purely a thought experiment… not any personal wish or desire, of course. Not at all. But I want to know what would happen in this scenario. Or is it one of those “It’s impossible because of Matthew 16:18” answers?

Apostolic succession would end. Or God would raise a bishop from the dead. This is probably one reason that not all bishops attend the ecumenical councils.

Thank you for your answer. However, the above part of your post may be incorrect. An ecumenical council, according to Canon Law, is a council in which every bishop has a right to attend.

Can. 339 §1:
“All Bishops, but only Bishops who are members of the College of Bishops, have the right and the obligation to be present at an Ecumenical Council with a deliberative vote.”

So it is certainly possible to attend an ecumenical council, and thus is a possibility that all bishops may attend.

Or God would simply not allow them all to die. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Hmm, I see. I was thinking of an election of the Pope, where only Cardinals can attend.

But if I’m not mistaken, you have to be a bishop to ordain another bishop, so it would be quite unfortunate if all of them died. In that sort of situation, I would expect a miracle (a resurrection or someone miraculously surviving, like snarflemike said).

EDIT: Then again, I wonder if any of the other Apostolic churches would be willing to ordain a few bishops for us. I imagine the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches would rather have the remaining Catholics convert, but can a bishop outside the Catholic church ordain a Catholic bishop? Or the Pope? :highprayer:

No idea in terms of Church protocol, but I’m confident God would intervene in some way - perhaps miraculously - or even in a simple way such as having a Bishop be sick and unable to travel to the Council.

My sci-fi mind imagines God miraculously redirecting the bomb into space, exploding with the resulting image looking like the face of our Blessed Mother or something. But that’s my Star Trek watching imagination talking.

God bless,

Ah, but there are Apolitically and Sacramentally valid Bishops who are not subject to Canon Law. Such as Greek and Oriental Orthodox Bishops, and Bishops of smaller groups, such as the Polish National Catholic Church and the Old Catholic Church. If just one of these Bishops were willing to ordain someone within the (Roman) Catholic Church then the Orders would be restored.

Of course, there are always a number of retired Bishops who may attend a Council, but generally would not (there is no obligation)

If ALL of these Bishops all died without successors - well, that would be the end of the Church on earth. Of course, Jesus promised that the power of hell would never prevail over the Church (and it’s hard to imagine a set of actual circumstances where all of these Bishops would die at the same time). But, hypothetically, the Church cannot exist apart from the Bishops.

Not all Catholic bishops would attend an ecumenical council. Some did not attend even Vatican II, and some would be disabled and unable to travel, for example. Nor am I sure auxiliary bishops attended.
But if all bishops were simultaneously killed, that could be the end of the Catholic Church. However, it is a conviction of the Catholic faith that the Church will continue to the end of the world, the end of the world as shown in the last book of the Bible. So God would not allow such an event to occur.
Would the Orthodox, for one, ordain Catholic bishops? I am not so sure about this.

If all Bishops died, our Lord is a liar. I do not like hypotheticals, as they always lead ultimately to, “What if there is no God?”

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