Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What is Apostolic Succession?

"The office of the succession of Peter breaks open the merely local ecclesial model; the successor of Peter is not just the local bishop of Rome, but bishop for the whole Church and in the whole Church. He thus embodies an essential side of the apostolic mission, which must never be absent from the Church.

But the Petrine office itself would in turn be understood incorrectly and would become a monstrous exception, if we burdened its bearer alone with the realization of the universal dimension of apostolic succession.

There must also always be in the Church ministries and missions that are not tied to the local church alone, but serve universal mission and the spreading of the gospel.

The pope has to rely on these ministries, they on him, and the collaboration between the two kinds of ministries completes the symphony of the Church’s life.

We could even say, summing up the whole discussion, that the primacy of the successor of Peter exists in order to guarantee these essential components of the Church’s life and to ensure their orderly relation with the local ecclesial structures."

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In this article, Ratzinger describes the apostolic mission as the charismatic task in the Church which is responsible for spreading the Gospel and for bearing the responsibility for the universal Church instead of just local governance. As successors to the Apostles, the bishops originally had this universal responsibility, but over time they became local governors. The bishop of Rome, the Pope, continues to bear this universal task.

  1. What is the relationship between ecclesial movements and ecclesial communities, i.e. Protestants communions?
  2. How does this dynamic of local and apostolic tasks impact how one understands nominal Christianity, itinerent revivalists, new monasticism, etc?
  3. Or, how can renewal groups renew without becoming overly divisive? 
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