Jesus was very clear about Apostolic Succession which flows from the mandate given by Christ to Peter and expressed clearly in the Apostolic College at the Council of Jerusalem at which Peter as head of the Church stated the charter of the Church’s universality, giving his decision.
From the N.T. we know that Christ promised that His Church would last until the end of time, which would mean the constitutional permanence of the office of head of His Church which He had bestowed on Peter alone. (Mt 16:18).
Refer to early Church history: e.g. St Irenaeus, taught by St Polycarp who had been a disciple of St John the Apostle, wrote in his great work *Adversus Haeres *in Bk 3, Sect 2 “The blessed Apostles, after founding and building up the Church (in Rome), handed over to Linus the office of Bishop.”
It certainly was as the Apostles left bishops as their successors with “their own position of teaching authority.” [St Irenaeus, *Adv haeres. 3,3,1. See CCC # 77].
In the Acts of the Apostles (14:23) Saints Paul and Barnabas “appointed presbyters (=priests) for them in every church.” Paul and Barnabas were bishops who had received at ordination the power to ordain others. In Greek the words used were presbyteros for priest, elder, presbyter, and episcopos for bishop, overseer, supervisor, or guardian. By the time of St Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107) he speaks of the bishop as one who has “acquired his ministry, not from himself, nor through men”, and that he is to be regarded “as the Lord Himself.” (Ep. Ad Philad., 1; Ephes. 6).
St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch and was martyred in Rome in approximately 107 A.D. His letter comes from about 96 A.D. Even at this early date, the threefold hierarchy of bishops, priests (presbyters in Greek), and deacons is present and the practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist is clearly a long-established practice.
“The substance of the record contained in the Ignatian epistles is this:
While the Christian communities of this period (c.100-110) have many presbyters and deacons, they have only one bishop….there are bishops and the faithful are to obey both the bishops and the presbyters.” The New Biblical Theorists, Msgr George A Kelly, Servant Books, 1983, p 78].
Cardinal Lawrence Shehan says that the NT is not a book of neat linguistics. He cites the New American Bible, Hinds, Noble and Eldredge’s Greek English Dictionary, the English Jerusalem Bible, Goodspeed’s translation of the Chicago Bible, Kleist-Lilly, Joseph Fitzmer, SJ, and Fr Andre Feuillet’s *The Priesthood of Christ and His Ministers *as all acknowledging priests or priesthood in the NT under a variety of terms – presbuteroi, leitourgos, hierourgos, Leitourgon, Leitourgon hierougounta. “The absence of the use of the one term hierus is evidence merely that this one term was not used, not that priest or priesthood are unacknowledged in the NT.” [See *The New Biblical Theorists, Servant Books, 1983, by Msgr George A Kelly, p 84].
The First Epistle of Pope Clement (1 Clem) confirms “The apostles are from Christ …they appointed their first fruits – after having tested them though the Spirit – to be the bishops and deacons of the future believers.” ‘Apostolic succession thereby is confirmed in New Testament times by a non-New Testament source.’ The New Biblical Theorists, Msgr George A Kelly, Servant Books, 1982, p77-78].
Pope Clement I writing to the Church of Corinth reminds the rebels at Corinth that the apostles ordained bishops and deacons, and unquestionably expects them to respect men: “who had been appointed by the apostles or afterward by other eminent men……The apostles are from Christ…they appointed their first fruits – after having tested them through the Spirit – to be the bishops and deacons of the future believers.” The New Biblical Theorists, Msgr George A Kelly, Servant Books, 1983, p 97-98].