The pope known as the supreme pontiff, is the Bishop of Rome and ex officio leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy; the current pope is Francis, elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI. While his office is called the papacy, the episcopal see and ecclesiastical jurisdiction is called the Holy See, it is the Holy See, the sovereign entity of international law headquartered in the distinctively independent Vatican City State, established by the Lateran Treaty in 1929 between Italy and the Holy See to ensure its temporal and spiritual independence. The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is derived from his role as the apostolic successor to Saint Peter, to whom primacy was conferred by Jesus, giving him the Keys of Heaven and the powers of "binding and loosing", naming him as the "rock" upon which the church would be built; the apostolic see of Rome was founded by Saint Peter and Saint Paul in 1st century, according to Catholic tradition.
The papacy is one of the most enduring institutions in the world and has had a prominent part in world history. In ancient times the popes helped spread Christianity, intervened to find resolutions in various doctrinal disputes. In the Middle Ages, they played a role of secular importance in Western Europe acting as arbitrators between Christian monarchs. In addition to the expansion of the Christian faith and doctrine, the popes are involved in ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, charitable work, the defense of human rights. In some periods of history, the papacy, which had no temporal powers, accrued wide secular powers rivaling those of temporal rulers. However, in recent centuries the temporal authority of the papacy has declined and the office is now exclusively focused on religious matters. By contrast, papal claims of spiritual authority have been firmly expressed over time, culminating in 1870 with the proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility for rare occasions when the pope speaks ex cathedra—literally "from the chair"—to issue a formal definition of faith or morals.
Still, the Pope is considered one of the world's most powerful people because of his extensive diplomatic and spiritual influence on 1.3 billion Catholics and beyond, as well as the official representative of the Catholic Church being the largest non-government provider of education and health care in the world, with a vast international network of charities. The word pope derives from Greek πάππας meaning "father". In the early centuries of Christianity, this title was applied in the east, to all bishops and other senior clergy, became reserved in the west to the Bishop of Rome, a reservation made official only in the 11th century; the earliest record of the use of this title was in regard to the by deceased Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Heraclas of Alexandria. The earliest recorded use of the title "pope" in English dates to the mid-10th century, when it was used in reference to the 7th century Roman Pope Vitalian in an Old English translation of Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.
The Catholic Church teaches that the pastoral office, the office of shepherding the Church, held by the apostles, as a group or "college" with Saint Peter as their head, is now held by their successors, the bishops, with the bishop of Rome as their head. Thus, is derived another title by which the pope is known, that of "Supreme Pontiff"; the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus appointed Peter as leader of the Church, the Catholic Church's dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium makes a clear distinction between apostles and bishops, presenting the latter as the successors of the former, with the pope as successor of Peter, in that he is head of the bishops as Peter was head of the apostles. Some historians argue against the notion that Peter was the first bishop of Rome, noting that the episcopal see in Rome can be traced back no earlier than the 3rd century; the writings of the Church Father Irenaeus who wrote around AD 180 reflect a belief that Peter "founded and organized" the Church at Rome.
Moreover, Irenaeus was not the first to write of Peter's presence in the early Roman Church. Clement of Rome wrote in a letter to the Corinthians, c. 96, about the persecution of Christians in Rome as the "struggles in our time" and presented to the Corinthians its heroes, "first, the greatest and most just columns", the "good apostles" Peter and Paul. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote shortly after Clement and in his letter from the city of Smyrna to the Romans he said he would not command them as Peter and Paul did. Given this and other evidence, such as Emperor Constantine's erection of the "Old St. Peter's Basilica" on the location of St. Peter's tomb, as held and given to him by Rome's Christian community, many scholars agree that Peter was martyred in Rome under Nero, although some scholars argue that he may have been martyred in Palestine. First-century Christian communities would have had a group of presbyter-bishops functioning as leaders of their local churches. Episcopacies were established in metropolitan areas.
Antioch may have developed such a structure before Rome. In Rome, there were many who claimed to be the rightful bishop, though again Irenaeus stressed the validity of one line of bishops from the time of St. Peter up to his contemporary Pope Victor I and listed them; some writers claim that the emergence of a single bishop in Rome did not occur until the middle of the 2nd century. In their view, Linus and Clement were prominent presbyter-bishops
Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops. This series was seen as that of the bishops of a particular see founded by one or more of the apostles. According to historian Justo L. González, apostolic succession is understood today as meaning a series of bishops, regardless of see, each consecrated by other bishops, themselves consecrated in a succession going back to the apostles. According to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, "apostolic succession" means more than a mere transmission of powers, it is succession in a Church which witnesses to the apostolic faith, in communion with the other Churches, witnesses of the same apostolic faith. The "see plays an important role in inserting the bishop into the heart of ecclesial apostolicity", once ordained, the bishop becomes in his Church the guarantor of apostolicity and becomes a successor of the apostles.
Those who hold for the importance of apostolic succession via episcopal laying on of hands appeal to the New Testament, they say, implies a personal apostolic succession. They appeal as well to other documents of the early Church the Epistle of Clement. In this context, Clement explicitly states that the apostles appointed bishops as successors and directed that these bishops should in turn appoint their own successors. Further, proponents of the necessity of the personal apostolic succession of bishops within the Church point to the universal practice of the undivided early Church, before being divided into the Church of the East, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Christians of the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Anglican and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions maintain that "a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this apostolic succession." Each of these groups does not consider consecration of the other groups as valid.
However, some Protestants deny the need for this type of continuity, the historical claims involved have been questioned by them. Jay comments that the account given of the emergence of the episcopate in chapter III of the encyclical Lumen Gentium "is sketchy, many ambiguities in the early history of the Christian ministry are passed over". Michael Ramsey, an English Anglican bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury, described three meanings of "apostolic succession": One bishop succeeding another in the same see meant that there was a continuity of teaching: "while the Church as a whole is the vessel into which the truth is poured, the Bishops are an important organ in carrying out this task"; the bishops were successors of the apostles in that "the functions they performed of preaching and ordaining were the same as the Apostles had performed". It is used to signify that "grace is transmitted from the Apostles by each generation of bishops through the imposition of hands", he adds that this last has been controversial in that it has been claimed that this aspect of the doctrine is not found before the time of Augustine of Hippo, while others allege that it is implicit in the Church of the second and third centuries.
In its 1982 statement on Baptism and Ministry, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches stated that "the primary manifestation of apostolic succession is to be found in the apostolic tradition of the Church as a whole.... Under the particular historical circumstances of the growing Church in the early centuries, the succession of bishops became one of the ways, together with the transmission of the Gospel and the life of the community, in which the apostolic tradition of the Church was expressed." It spoke of episcopal succession as something that churches that do not have bishops can see "as a sign, though not a guarantee, of the continuity and unity of the Church" and that all churches can see "as a sign of the apostolicity of the life of the whole church". The Porvoo Common Statement, agreed to by the Anglican churches of the British Isles and most of the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia and the Baltic, echoed the Munich and Finland statements of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church by stating that "the continuity signified in the consecration of a bishop to episcopal ministry cannot be divorced from the continuity of life and witness of the diocese to which he is called."Some Anglicans, in addition to other Protestants, held that apostolic succession "may be understood as a continuity in doctrinal teaching from the time of the apostles to the present."
For example, the British Methodist Conference locates the "true continuity" with the Church of past ages in "the continuity of Christian experience, the fellowship in the gift of the one Spirit. "To fulfil this apostolic mission, Christ... promised the Holy Spirit to the apostles...". "enriched by Christ the Lord with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit... This spi
Pope John XIX
Pope John XIX was Pope from May 1024 to his death in 1032. Born Romanus in Rome was Count of Tusculum and his wife Mary. While his brother Theophylactus held the papacy as Pope Benedict VIII, Romanus held the temporal power in the city as consul and senator. Upon the death of Benedict, Romanus, a layman, was elected to succeed him, he was ordained in all the orders in succession, consecrated bishop in order to enable him to ascend the papal chair. He took the name of John, he played a role in the process leading to the Schism of 1054 by rejecting a proposal by Patriarch Eustathius of Constantinople to recognise that Patriarchate's sphere of interest in the east. Against the grain of ecclesiastical history, John XIX agreed, upon being paid a large bribe, to recognize the Patriarch of Constantinople's claim to the title of ecumenical bishop. However, this proposal excited general indignation throughout the Church, compelling him immediately to withdraw from the agreement. John invited the celebrated musician, Guido of Arezzo, to visit Rome and explain the musical notation invented by him.
He encouraged the Benedictine to instruct the Roman clergy in music. On the death of the Emperor Henry II in 1024, he gave his support to Emperor Conrad II, who along with his consort was crowned with great pomp at St. Peter's Basilica on Easter of 1027. Two kings, Rudolph of Burgundy and Canute of Denmark and England, took part in this journey to Rome. Consistent with his role as a Christian king, Cnut went to Rome to repent for his sins, to pray for redemption and the security of his subjects, to improve the conditions for pilgrims, as well as merchants, on the road to Rome. Rudolph had control of many of the toll gates. Negotiations being successful, the solemn word of the Pope, the Emperor and Rudolph was given with the witness of four archbishops, twenty bishops, "innumerable multitudes of dukes and nobles", suggesting it was before the ceremonies were completed. In 1025 he sent the crown to Poland and blessed the coronation of the Polish king Bolesław I the Brave. On 6 April 1027, John held a Lateran synod in which he declared for the Patriarch of Aquileia against the Patriarch of Grado, giving its bishop, Poppo of Aquileia, the patriarchal dignity and putting the bishop of Grado under his jurisdiction.
In fact, the patriarch took precedence over all Italian bishops. In 1029, John reaffirmed all the dignities of Grado. John enacted a Papal Bull endowing Byzantius, Archbishop of Bari, with the right to consecrate his own twelve suffragans after the reattachment of the Bariot diocese to Rome in 1025; this was part of a conciliatory agreement with Eustathius, whereby the existence of the Byzantine Rite would be allowed in Italy in exchange for the establishment of Latin Rite churches in Constantinople. Pope John XIX took the Abbey of Cluny under his protection, renewed its privileges in spite of the protests of Goslin, Bishop of Macon, he offered Odilo of Cluny the archbishopric of Lyons, but Odilo refused and the pope chided Odilo for disobedience. John XIX died shortly after and his successor did not press the matter any further, he was said to have been killed by a mob of angry peasants, but there is no evidence to support this. The actual cause of death is unknown. After John XIX's death, his nephew Pope Benedict IX was found as a successor, although he was still young.
The next Pope named John was Pope John XXI. List of popes Chisholm, Hugh, ed.. "John XIX.". Encyclopædia Britannica. Cambridge University Press. Herbermann, Charles, ed.. "Pope Benedict IX". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Runciman, Steven. Byzantine Civilisation. London, University Paparback, 1961; this article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed.. "Pope John XIX". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton
Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church that states that, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error "when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church." "Infallibility means more than exemption from actual error. According to Catholic theology, there are several concepts important to the understanding of infallible, divine revelation: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Sacred Magisterium; the infallible teachings of the Pope are part of the Sacred Magisterium, which consists of ecumenical councils and the "ordinary and universal magisterium". In Catholic theology, papal infallibility is one of the channels of the infallibility of the Church; the infallible teachings of the Pope must be based on, or at least not contradict, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. The doctrine of infallibility relies on one of the cornerstones of Catholic dogma: that of Petrine supremacy of the pope, his authority as the ruling agent who decides what are accepted as formal beliefs in the Roman Catholic Church.
The use of this power is referred to as speaking ex cathedra. The solemn declaration of papal infallibility by Vatican I took place on 18 July 1870. Since that time, the only example of an ex cathedra decree took place in 1950, when Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as an article of faith. Prior to the solemn definition of 1870, there were other decrees which fit the definition of ex cathedra, for example, Pope Boniface VIII in the bull Unam Sanctam of 1302, Pope Pius IX in the Papal constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 1854; the church teaches that infallibility is a charism entrusted by Christ to the whole church, whereby the Pope, as "head of the college of bishops," enjoys papal infallibility. This charism is the supreme degree of participating in Christ's divine authority, which, in the New Covenant, so as to safeguard the faithful from defection and guarantee the profession of faith, ensures the faithful abide in the truth; the church further teaches that divine assistance is given to the Pope when he exercises his ordinary Magisterium.
According to the teaching of the First Vatican Council and Catholic tradition, the conditions required for ex cathedra papal teaching are as follows: the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole ChurchThe terminology of a definitive decree makes clear that this last condition is fulfilled, as through a formula such as "By the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, by Our own authority, We declare and define the doctrine... to be revealed by God and as such to be and immutably held by all the faithful," or through an accompanying anathema stating that anyone who deliberately dissents is outside the Catholic Church. For example, in 1950, with Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII's infallible definition regarding the Assumption of Mary, there are attached these words: "Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which We have defined, let him know that he has fallen away from the divine and Catholic Faith."As with all charisms, the church teaches that the charism of papal infallibility must be properly discerned, though only by the Church's leaders.
The way to know if something a pope says is infallible or not is to discern if they are ex cathedra teachings. Considered infallible are the teachings of the whole body of bishops of the Church but not only in an ecumenical council. Pastor aeternus does not allow any infallibility for the Pope for new doctrines. Any doctrines defined must be "conformable with Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Traditions": "For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles. " It gives examples of the kinds of consultations that are appropriate include assembling Ecumenical Councils, asking for the mind of the church scattered around the world, so on. Not all Catholic teaching is infallible; the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith differentiates three kinds of doctrine: to be believed as divinely revealed to be held following a solemn defining act by a Pope or Ecumenical council following a non-defining act by a Pope, confirming or re-affirming a thing taught by the ordinary and universal teaching authority of bishops worldwide otherwise, to be respected or submitted to as part of the ordinary teaching authority of bishops, but without any claim of infallibility.
In July 2005 Pope Benedict XVI stated during an impromptu address to priests in Aosta that: "The Pope is not an oracle. Pope John XXIII once remarked: "I am only infallible if I speak infallibly but I shall never do th
Ultramontanism is a clerical political conception within the Catholic Church that places strong emphasis on the prerogatives and powers of the Pope. The term's origins are in ecclesiastical language from the Middle Ages: when a non-Italian was elected to the papacy, he was said to be papa ultramontano, that is, a pope from beyond the mountains. Foreign students at medieval Italian universities were referred to as ultramontani; the word was revived but the meaning reversed after the Protestant Reformation in France, to indicate the "man beyond the mountains" located in Italy. In France, the name ultramontain was applied to people who supported papal authority in French affairs, as opposed to the Gallican and Jansenist factions of the indigenous French Catholic Church; the term was intended to be insulting, or at least to imply a lack of true patriotism. From the 17th century, ultramontanism became associated with the Jesuits. In the 18th century the word passed to Austria, where it acquired a much wider significance, being applicable to all the conflicts between church and state, the supporters of the Church being called ultramontanes.
In Great Britain and Ireland, it was a reaction to Cisalpinism, the stance of moderate lay Catholics who sought to make patriotic concessions to the Protestant state to achieve Catholic emancipation. In Canada, the majority of Canadian Catholic clergy despised the French Revolution and its anti-clerical bias and looked to Rome for both spiritual and political guidance. There were many laymen and laywomen who supported these ideals as key to preserving Canadian institutions and values. For this reason they were called ultramontanists; the ultramontanes distrusted both the Protestant anglophone and francophone politicians, but the Church found it easier to deal with British governors, who appreciated the role of the Church in containing dissent, than with the francophone liberal professionals who were secularists. According to Jeffrey P. von Arx,The threat to the Catholic Church and the papacy through the 19th century was real, the church’s reaction to that threat was understandable. Indeed, the church remained threatened on all sides.
On the left, secular liberals sought to reduce or eliminate the role of the church in public life and civil society. The more radical heirs of the revolution and the socialists and communists into whom they evolved remained committed to the church’s utter destruction, but the threat was from the nationalist right. Otto von Bismarck’s Kulturkampf was aimed directly at the Catholic Church, imposing state supervision of Catholic schools and seminaries and government appointment of bishops with no reference to Rome; the response was a condemnation of Gallicanism as heretical, e condemn and reject the opinions of those who hold that this communication of the supreme head with pastors and flocks may be lawfully obstructed. The Council asserted papal primacy. In July 1870, the it issued the Dogmatic constitution Pastor aeternus, defining four doctrines of the Catholic faith: the apostolic primacy conferred on Peter, the perpetuity of this primacy in the Roman pontiffs, the meaning and power of the papal primacy, Papal infallibility.
E teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world." Von Arx compares this to "...the great empires and national states of the 19th century, which used new means of communication and transportation to consolidate power, enforce unity and build bureaucracies." "Cardinal Henry Edward Manning in Great Britain thought unity and discipline within the church were of the utmost importance in protecting the church and advancing its interests in a liberal, democratic state, so he was one of the strongest advocates of the ultramontane position."
The English bishops at the Council were characterized by their ultramontanism and described as "being more Catholic than the Pope himself". Other Christian groups outside the Catholic Church declared this as the triumph of what they termed "the heresy of ultramontanism", it was decried in the "Declaration of the Catholic Congress at Munich", in the Theses of Bonn, in the Declaration of Utrecht, which became the foundational documents of Old Catholics who split with Rome over the declaration on infallibility and supremacy, joining the Old Episcopal Order Catholic See of Utrecht, independent from Rome since 1723. As with previous pronouncements by the pope, Liberals across Europe were outraged by the doctrine of infallibility and many countries reacted with laws to counter the influence of the church; the term "ultramontanism" was revived during the French Third Republic as a pejorative way to describe policies that went against laïcité a concept rooted in the French Revolution. French philosopher Jacques Maritain, noted the distinction between the models found in France and the separation of church and state in the United States in the mid-twentieth century.
He considered the US model of
Second Vatican Council
The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican known as the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II, addressed relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world. The council, through the Holy See, was formally opened under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and was closed under Pope Paul VI on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1965. Several changes resulted from the council, including the renewal of consecrated life with a revised charism, ecumenical efforts towards dialogue with other religions, the universal call to holiness, which according to Pope Paul VI was "the most characteristic and ultimate purpose of the teachings of the Council". According to Pope Benedict XVI, the most important and essential message of the council is "the Paschal Mystery as the center of what it is to be Christian and therefore of the Christian life, the Christian year, the Christian seasons". Other changes which followed the council included the widespread use of vernacular languages in the Mass instead of Latin, the subtle disuse of ornate clerical regalia, the revision of Eucharistic prayers, the abbreviation of the liturgical calendar, the ability to celebrate the Mass versus populum, as well as ad orientem, modern aesthetic changes encompassing contemporary Catholic liturgical music and artwork.
Many of these changes remain divisive among the Catholic faithful. Of those who took part in the council's opening session, four have become popes: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, who on succeeding John XXIII took the name Pope Paul VI. In the 1950s, theological and biblical studies in the Catholic Church had begun to sway away from the Neo-Scholasticism and biblical literalism which a reaction to Catholic modernism had enforced since the First Vatican Council; this shift could be seen in theologians such as Karl Rahner, Michael Herbert, John Courtney Murray who looked to integrate modern human experience with church principles based on Jesus Christ, as well as others such as Yves Congar, Joseph Ratzinger and Henri de Lubac, who looked to an accurate understanding of scripture and the early Church Fathers as a source of renewal. At the same time, the world's bishops faced challenges driven by political, social and technological change; some of these bishops sought new ways of addressing those challenges.
The First Vatican Council had been held nearly a century before but had been cut short in 1870 when the Italian Army entered the city of Rome at the end of Italian unification. As a result, only deliberations on the role of the papacy and the congruent relationship of faith and reason were completed, with examination of pastoral issues concerning the direction of the Church left unaddressed. Pope John XXIII, gave notice of his intention to convene the Council on 25 January 1959, less than three months after his election in October 1958; this sudden announcement, which caught the Curia by surprise, caused little initial official comment from Church insiders. Reaction to the announcement was widespread and positive from both religious and secular leaders outside the Catholic Church, the council was formally summoned by the apostolic constitution Humanae Salutis on 25 December 1961. In various discussions before the Council convened, John XXIII said that it was time to "open the windows and let in some fresh air".
He invited other Christians outside the Catholic Church to send observers to the Council. Acceptances came from both the Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestant denominations as internal observers, but these observers did not cast votes in the approbation of the conciliar documents. Pope John XXIII's announcement on 25 January 1959 of his intention to call a general council came as a surprise to the cardinals present; the Pontiff pre-announced the council under a full moon when the faithful with their candlelights gathered in St. Peter's square and jokingly noted about the brightness of the moon, he had tested the idea only ten days before with one of them, his Cardinal Secretary of State Domenico Tardini, who gave enthusiastic support to the idea. Although the Pope said the idea came to him in a flash in his conversation with Tardini, two cardinals had earlier attempted to interest him in the idea, they were two of the most conservative, Ernesto Ruffini and Alfredo Ottaviani, who had in 1948 proposed the idea to Pope Pius XII and who put it before John XXIII on 27 October 1958.
Actual preparations for the Council took more than two years, included work from 10 specialised commissions, people for mass media and Christian Unity, a Central Commission for overall coordination. These groups, composed of members of the Roman Curia, produced 987 proposed constituting sessions, making it the largest gathering in any council in church history. Attendance varied in sessions from 2,100 to over 2,300. In addition, a varying number of periti were available for theological consultation—a group that turned out to have a major influence as the council went forward. Seventeen Orthodox Churches and Protestant denominations sent observers. More than three dozen representatives of other Christian communities were present at the opening session, the number grew to nearly 100 by the end of the 4th Council Sessions. Pope John XXIII opened the Council on 11 October 1962 in a public session and read the declaration Gaudet Mater Ecclesia before the Council Fathers. What is needed at the present t
An episcopal polity is a hierarchical form of church governance in which the chief local authorities are called bishops. It is the structure used by many of the major Christian Churches and denominations, such as the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East and Lutheran churches or denominations, other churches founded independently from these lineages. Churches with an episcopal polity are governed by bishops, practicing their authorities in the dioceses and conferences or synods, their leadership is both constitutional. Bishops are considered to derive their authority from an unbroken, personal apostolic succession from the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Bishops with such authority are said to represent the historical historic episcopate. Churches with this type of government believe that the Church requires episcopal government as described in the New Testament. In some systems, bishops may be subject to bishops holding a higher office, they meet in councils or synods.
These gatherings, subject to presidency by higher ranking bishops make important decisions, though the synod or council may be purely advisory. For much of the written history of institutional Christianity, episcopal government was the only known form of church organization; this changed at the Reformation. Many Protestant churches are now organized by either congregational or presbyterian church polities, both descended from the writings of John Calvin, a Protestant reformer working and writing independently following the break with the Roman Catholic Church precipitated by The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther; the definition of the word episcopal has variation among Christian traditions. There are subtle differences in governmental principles among episcopal churches at the present time. To some extent the separation of episcopal churches can be traced to these differences in ecclesiology, that is, their theological understanding of church and church governance. For some, "episcopal churches" are churches that use a hierarchy of bishops that regard themselves as being in an unbroken, personal apostolic succession.
"Episcopal" is commonly used to distinguish between the various organizational structures of denominations. For instance, "Presbyterian" is used to describe a church governed by a hierarchy of assemblies of elected elders, referred to as Presbyterian polity. "episcopal" is used to describe a church governed by bishops. Self-governed local congregations, governed neither by elders nor bishops, are described as "congregational". More the capitalized appellation "Episcopal" is applied to several churches based within Anglicanism, including those still in communion with the Church of England. Using these definitions, examples of specific episcopal churches include: The Catholic Church The Eastern Orthodox Church The Oriental Orthodox churches The Assyrian Church of the East The Churches of the Anglican Communion The Old Catholic churches Numerous smaller "catholic" churches Certain national churches of the Lutheran confession The African Methodist Episcopal Church The United Methodist ChurchSome Lutheran churches practice congregational polity or a form of presbyterian polity.
Others, including the Church of Sweden, practice episcopal polity. Many Methodist churches retain the form and function of episcopal polity, although in a modified form, called connexionalism. Since all trace their ordinations to an Anglican priest, John Wesley, it is considered that their bishops do not share in apostolic succession, though United Methodists still affirm that their bishops share in the historic episcopate. All orthodox Christians were in churches with an episcopal government, that is, one Church under local bishops and regional Patriarchs. Writing between ca. 85 and 110, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Patriarch of Antioch, was the earliest of the Church fathers to define the importance of episcopal government. Assuming Ignatius' view was the Apostolic teaching and practice, the line of succession was unbroken and passed through the four ancient Patriarchal sees, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Rome was the leading Patriarchate of the ancient four by virtue of its founding by Saints Peter and Paul and their martyrdom there, not to mention being the political center of the Roman empire at the time.
Some organizations, though aloof from the political wranglings of imperial Christianity also practiced episcopal polity. Shortly after the Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity in 321, he constructed an elaborate second capital of the Roman Empire located at Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople, in 324; the single Roman Empire was divided between these two autonomous administrative centers and Constantinopolitan, West and East, Latin speaking and Greek speaking. This