The Church is Apostolic
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified
Apostolic in Three Ways (857)
The Church is apostolic in three ways:
- She is built on "the foundation of the Apostles," those witnesses chosen by Christ.
- The Church hands on the teaching of the Apostles (the deposit of faith).
- The Church is guided by the successors of the apostles, the bishops in union with the Pope. Jesus is "the eternal shepherd who never leaves his flock untended" (Preface of Apostles).
The Original Twelve and Their Successors (858-860)
Jesus "named twelve as his companions whom he would send to preach the Good News" (Mk 3:14).
Apart from Jesus, the apostles could do nothing (Jn 5:19) for they had received from Christ their mandate and their power. They knew that they were "ambassadors of Christ" (2 Cor 6:4) and "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4:1).
The original apostles were witnesses of Christ's Resurrection and the foundation stones of the Church. They took care to appoint successors, because Jesus promised to remain with them until the end of time (Mt 28:20).
The Duty to Pass on the Office (861-862)
The apostles gave their successors the duty of completing their work and urged them to shepherd the Church of God (Acts 20:28). They also required that, when these successors died, other proven men should take over their ministry.
The apostles' task of shepherding the Church "was destined to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops" (Second Vatican Council). The bishops, by divine institution, have taken the place of the apostles. Whoever listens to them listens to Christ. Whoever despises them, despises Christ.
Sharing in the Mission (863-864)
Because the Church is in communion with the apostles, all Church members share in this mission. "Apostolate" means "every activity of the Mystical Body" which "aims to spread the kingdom of Christ over the whole world" (Second Vatican Council).
Because Christ is the source of the Church's apostolate, ordained ministers and lay people must be in a vital union with Christ. Guided by his Spirit, their apostolate assumes many forms.
The Kingdom Fully Revealed (865)
The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic because the kingdom of heaven already exists in her. This kingdom has come in Christ, grows within the hearts of believers, and will be fully manifested on the Last Day, when all are gathered into one People of God. This kingdom is the heavenly Jerusalem which has the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb written on its foundation (Rev 21:14).