Apostolic Succession in Ancient Catholicism
Canonical Apostolic Succession of the Ancient Catholic Church

The Significance & Context of Apostolic Succession

 

Official heraldic Pontifical seal of the 12th century Ancient Catholic Church, of the Templar Ancient Priesthood of Solomon, carrying the 1st century denomination of Ancient Catholicism

Official heraldic Pontifical seal of the 12th century Ancient Catholic Church, of the Templar Ancient Priesthood of Solomon, carrying the 1st century denomination of Ancient Catholicism

C (Gold Fill)Carrying the original 1st century denomination of Ancient Catholicism, the 12th century Ancient Catholic Church incorporates and embodies the venerable tradition of Apostolic Succession. The canonical practice of maintaining documented lines of Episcopal succession is not for any so-called “hierarchy” or “control”, as superficially misperceived in modern times. Rather, it is a classical framework for providing and supporting doctrinal authenticity and continuity of the original spiritual mission of the early Church.

The Ancient Catholic Church respects, recognizes and supports the religious validity of many Christian denominations which do not require direct or strict Apostolic Succession (e.g. Protestant, Pentacostal, Calvanist, Lutheran, Gnostic, Celtic, and Anglican). Nevertheless, the Church also accepts its own responsibility as a Catholic denomination to maintain this tradition, as established by Apostolic scripture in the New Testament (Romans 10:15; John 20:21; Matthew 28:18) [1].

According to Vatican doctrines for Catholicism, Apostolic Succession is “the mark” of being “recognized as identical with the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles… [as] the true Church of Christ… [which] contains the other three marks, namely, Unity, Sanctity, and Catholicity.” Apostolic Succession “means that the Church is one moral body, possessing the mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to the Apostles, and transmitted through them and their lawful successors in an unbroken chain to the present representatives of Christ upon earth. … It consists in the legitimate transmission of the ministerial power conferred by Christ upon His Apostles. No one can give a power which he does not possess.” [2]

For these reasons, it is customary for the classical Churches to maintain detailed records of Apostolic Succession, sometimes called “Succession Books”. These ecclesiastical documents are traditionally given to all new Bishops with their consecration, allowing them to demonstrate their valid Episcopal lineage. (This is strictly practiced in the Old Catholic, Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations.)

The Ancient Catholic Church possesses many of its own lines of direct priestly succession, both from the Apostles, and from the most ancient sources as the earliest foundations of the Priesthood of Jesus and the Apostles. These sources of lineage are documented in the historical record as a continuation through successive Priesthoods since the beginning of recorded history. However, due to this rare degree of extreme antiquity, specific documentation of the lineage through each and every successive individual personality was not possible to preserve.

To perfect and canonize its own most ancient lineages, the Ancient Catholic Church has incorporated recognized and exhaustively documented canonical lines of Apostolic Succession, all of which passed through the Vatican Holy See of Rome. In doing so, the Church acknowledges the primacy of the “Vatican Lines” for classical Catholicism, with gratitude for the Vatican’s Holy work in serving as the most highly developed historical institution, which best preserved the 1st century Apostolic lines for the benefit of future generations of all Christianity.

 

“Templar Lines” of Classical Apostolic Succession

 

T (Gold Fill)The Ancient Catholic Church, as preserved and restored by the 12th century Order of the Temple of Solomon from the Ancient Priesthood of Solomon, carries seven primary sources of classical Apostolic Succession from ca. 33 AD. These constitute the original and legendary “Templar Lines” of Apostolic Succession, which were later restored to canonical status in the Vatican by Pope Benedict XIV from 1726-1740 AD:

(1) Nazarene Essene Priesthood of Jesus from ca. 33 AD;
(2) Saint Mark the Apostle;
(3) Saint Thomas the Apostle;
(4) Saint Mary Magdalene the Disciple (and Gnostic Apostle) of Jesus;
(5) Saint Thecla the Disciple (and Gnostic Apostle) of the Apostle Peter;
(6) Gnostic Essene Priesthood ca. 250 BC of the Cathars from 1054 AD; and
(7) Saint Bernard de Clairvaux the Patron Saint of the Knights Templar from 1129 AD.

These lineages of classical Apostolic Succession, transmitted by canonical “laying on of hands”, are supported by an additional seven sources of priestly Magistral Succession of the Magi Priesthood of Melchizedek, as the most ancient Biblical pre-Christian origins of the denomination of Ancient Catholicism.

Jesus the Nazarene Essene taught that Episcopal consecration can be “through the Holy Spirit” alone, without any human intermediary (Acts 1:2, 1:5, 1:8, 2:2-4, 20:28; I Peter 2:25; II Corinthians 1:21-22) [3], as was often recognized in the Ancient Priesthoods and by the Essenes.

Jesus also taught the Apostles that consecration by the Holy Spirit alone needs to be perfected only by Doctrinal Succession, consisting of following the original ancient doctrines as taught and practiced by Jesus himself (Acts 2:38-42; I Timothy 4:16; II Timothy 2:2; I Corinthians 11:2; I Timothy 1:3-4; John 7:16-17) [4].

The Vatican established a canonical precedent that the Ancient Priesthood lineages, in particular those directly connected with Knights Templar heritage, actually become vested in the Pontificate as an institution. This precedent confirms that such lines do effectively pass by Doctrinal Succession, when vested in the Pontifical authority of a relevant classical denomination:

One especially prized “Melchizedek Ancient Roman Catholic Pontifical Line of 38 AD” was continued by direct succession from the Apostle Saint Simon-Peter through an extensive lineage of Popes, including all those who actively supported the Templar Order and the Independent Church Movement: Pope Honorius II in 1124 AD, Pope Innocent II in 1130 AD, Pope Celestine II in 1143 AD, the Cistercian Pope Eugenius III in 1145 AD, Pope Urban IV in 1261 AD, Pope Clement V in 1305 AD, Pope John XXII in 1316 AD, Pope Leo X in 1513 AD.

In 1655 AD, this Vatican “Melchizedek Line” was passed to Cardinal Antonio Barberini (the nephew of Pope Urban VIII), who was consecrated by Papal order of Pope Alexander VII, which was actually performed by the Bishops Scanarello, Bottini and Govotti. Thus, the laying on of hands was performed, although not directly by the lineal predecessor. As a result, the lineage was effectively continued based upon the line being canonically vested in the Pontificate as an institution, by means of initiatory and doctrinal continuation of the tradition which characterizes that line.

This landmark precedent also establishes the means by which a priestly line is canonically “vested” in a Pontificate – by passing through several Popes of the Holy See as a historical institution. This is analogous to passing through multiple Pontiffs of a canonical denomination, or through multiple Grand Masters of the Knights Templar carrying recognized Pontifical authority of the Ancient Priesthood of Solomon since the 12th century.

According to the above scriptures, as supported by canonical precedent, all 14 sources of the “Templar Lines” of Episcopal and priestly authority constitute direct lines of initiatory succession, each additionally perfected by authenticity of Doctrinal Succession. Therefore, they wholly embody the lineal continuation of the Melchizedek, Solomonic and also Apostolic traditions. This establishes a substantial level of ecclesiastical authority, meeting the general standards of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches under traditional Canon law for genuine Apostolic Succession.

 

“Vatican Lines” of Canonical Apostolic Succession

 

'Saint Eligius Consecrated as a Bishop' (ca. 1527 AD) by Pere Nunyes (detail)

‘Saint Eligius Consecrated as a Bishop’ (ca. 1527 AD) by Pere Nunyes (detail)

B (Gold Fill)Beyond the valid customary practices of the Ancient Priesthood, and the legitimacy of the Templar Lines, the canonical Apostolic practice of Catholic Christianity also involves the “laying on of hands” (Acts 1:22, 1:25-26, 6:1-6, 9:17; 13:1-5; I Timothy 4:1, 4:14, 5:22; II Timothy 1:6). This includes “anointing” by sacred oils, such as the Pontifical consecration of the Biblical King Solomon (I Kings 1:39) [5], which was also practiced in the Ancient Priesthood in Egypt (the hieroglyphics ‘Se Neter’ meaning “to consecrate” literally mean to “infuse with the Holiness of God”) [6].

Continuing this Apostolic tradition, in addition to the historical Templar Lines (preserved by the Order of the Temple of Solomon by its own means), the Ancient Catholic Church was further restored by an infusion of fully documented canonical Apostolic lines. All of these lines passed from Jesus ca. 33 AD through a long succession of Saints, Catholic Bishops and Popes of the Vatican Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church, and are thus informally called “Vatican Lines”.

These Vatican Lines, by consecrations from Independent Bishops of the Old Catholic, Reformed Catholic and Liberal Catholic movements, were vested in the Grand Mastery of the modern Templar Order, which in turn vested them in the Pontifical Curia of the autonomous Ancient Catholic Church, throughout the year 2015.

As a result of this canonical full restoration of the Episcopal Pontificate, the Ancient Catholic Church additionally carries an accumulated 66 Vatican Lines of canonical Apostolic Succession, which represent multiple traditions from the history of Christianity. This enables its Clergy to interact with diverse Christian denominations, having the relevant ecclesiastical lineages to support ecumenical spiritual practices, and to administer sacraments in accordance with the respective traditions.

 

Summary of Key Apostolic Lines of the Ancient Catholic Church

 

Episcopal Consecration of a Bishop (detail)

Episcopal Consecration of a Bishop (detail)

M (Gold Fill)Many of the Vatican Lines vested in the Ancient Catholic Church represent certain “exotic” or legendary heritage. Apostolic lines are generally considered to be “characterized” by any distinctive heritage, as a result of the canonical requirement of Doctrinal Succession (Acts 2:38-42; John 7:16-17; I Timothy 4:16; I Corinthians 11:2; I Timothy 1:3-4). Accordingly, they are informally named after the most distinctive tradition which characterizes each line, based upon the doctrines and practices of the most notable Bishops through whom such lines continued.

Some of the most culturally significant lines of Apostolic Succession of the Ancient Catholic Church are briefly summarized here, indicating the descriptive name of each distinct tradition, the year when each became identifiable as a separate path of lineage, and the key historical figures who characterized each line:

 

“Melchizedek” Ancient Roman Catholic Pontifical Line of 38 AD – From the Ascended Master Jesus the Nazarene Essene High Priest of the most ancient Magi Priesthood of Melchizedek, to Apostle Saint Peter sub-condicione in 38 AD, through a direct lineal succession of all Roman Catholic Popes from 67 AD until 1655, including:

Pope Honorius II (ratified Temple Rule of the Knights Templar) in 1124 AD, Pope Innocent II (granted Omne Datum Optimum Templar sovereignty) in 1130 AD, Pope Celestine II (of Milites Templi) in 1143 AD, the Cistercian Pope Eugenius III (of Militia Dei, also created first Independent Bishops of Independent Church Movement, supported by Saint Bernard de Clairvaux) in 1145 AD, Pope Urban IV (of Pantaleon confirming Templar origins in the historical Biblical Temple of Solomon) in 1261 AD, Pope Clement V (issued Chinon Parchment vindicating the Knights Templar) in 1305 AD, Pope John XXII (granted Papal Patronage to Spanish “Order of Montessa” to absorb surviving Templars, and allowed Templars of Portugal to change name to “Knights of Christ”) in 1316 AD, Pope Leo X (of Debitum Pastoralis confirming autonomous jurisdiction and immunity of Independent Bishops) in 1513 AD;

Then to Cardinal Barberini (created first Jesuit branch of Apostolic Old Catholic lines from the Vatican) in 1655, to Archbishop Michael Le Tellier (Jesuit Provincial, Confessor to French King Louis XIV who codified Rules of Courtly Etiquette of 1682 AD as Knights Templar heritage of the Ancient Priesthood) in 1668, through Cistercian Bishop Dominicus Varlet (Coadjutor and successor Patriarch to Latin Bishop of Babylon in Persia) in 1719, to Archbishop Van Steenhoven (restoring Utrecht succession for early Old Catholic Church) (supported by Pope Benedict XIV who restored “Gnostic Templar Rosicrucian Lines” to canonical Vatican status, and granted King of Portugal the headquarters of Knights Templar as renamed “Order of Christ” to support Templar survival) in 1724, through Archbishop Gerardus Gul (supported by Pope Leo XIII who “restablished” the Order of Malta Grand Mastery after 587 years of abeyance, setting precedent for restoring the Knights Templar) in 1892, to Archbishop Arnold Harris Matthew (Roman Catholic Priest, made Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX, first Old Catholic Bishop of Great Britain) in 1914, and Bishop James Ingall Wedgewood (founder of the Liberal Catholic Movement, mentored by Theosophical Society, Sorbonne doctoral scholar) in 1916.

 

“Celtic Catholic” Line of 336 AD – From Saint Mark in 336 AD, through Saint Silverius in 536 AD, through Pope Constantine in 708 AD, through Saint Nicholas I in 858 AD, through Pope Clement V (who issued the Chinon Parchment vindicating the Knights Templar) in 1305, through Cardinal Antonio Barberini (founder of the Old Catholic branch from the Vatican) in 1657;

 

“Celtic Anglican” Line of 519 AD – From Saint David (First Celtic Bishop of Mineva in Wales) in 519 AD, through Henry Chichele (Bishop of Saint David’s Celtic Church, made Archbishop of Canterbury by Rome) ca. 1408, through Thomas Crammer (Archbishop of Canterbury from a Celtic line) to B. William Laud (Bishop of Saint David’s Celtic Church, Chancellor of Oxford University, Archbishop of Canterbury) ca. 1621, through Bishop Samuel Seabury (Episcopal Church of Scotland in Anglican Communion, founder of the Protestant Episcopal Church) in 1784, through Archbishop John F. Gilbert and Bishop Betty Reeves (Universal Gnostic Fellowship, House of Independent Bishops) in 1994;

 

“Antiochian Jacobite” (Syriac Orthodox) Line of 541 AD – From the original Holy See of Antioch (the “First Church” of the New Testament) of both Saint Peter and Saint Paul in 37 AD, through Jacobus Baradaeus (Ecumenical Bishop of Edessa, later a Templar Principality, who ordained the Patriarch of Antioch Paul II the Black of Alexandria) ca. 541 AD, through Ignatius Peter IV (Patriarch of Antioch of the Syriac Orthodox Church Holy See of Utrecht) ca. 1872, through Archbishop Mor Julius Alvares (Latin Rite Independent Catholic Church of Ceylon, Goa and India) in 1889, to Bishop Joseph Rene Vilatte (approved by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, and supported by Pope Leo XIII who “restablished” the Order of Malta Grand Mastery after 587 years of abeyance, setting precedent for restoring the Knights Templar) in the Old Latin Rite of the Syrian Church of Antioch in 1892, to Bishop Paolo Maraglia Gulotti of Piacenza in 1900, through Franciscan Bishop Carmel Henry Carfora (co-founder of Old Roman Catholic Church) in 1911;

 

“Gnostic Templar” (Rosicrucian) Lines of 1530 AD – From multiple lines of Vatican consecrated Bishops from the 12th century Knights Templar in Portugal (renamed as the “Order of Christ” in 1319 AD), who established the Rosicrucian Order ca. 1407 AD, and merged with Rosicrucians as “Gnostic Templars” ca. 1530 AD [7] [8]. Such “Templar Lines” were not entered into written records prior to 1726 AD to avoid persecution by the Inquisition. Pope Benedict XIV effectively “canonized” these lines by reestablishing them as documented Episcopal lineage through the Vatican, from 1726-1740 AD.

Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758 AD) had an affinity for the Templars as law-givers of the Magna Carta civil rights [9], and for the Templar mission of preserving sacred knowledge [10]. He directly supported survival of the Templar Order by granting the King of Portugal the headquarters monastery of the Knights Templar (as the renamed “Order of Christ”) in 1740 AD. The Pope’s personal mission of revitalizing 12th century Orders of Chivalry is confirmed by his successful peace-making mediation supporting the Knights of Malta with the King of Naples in 1756 AD. [11]

The primary “Gnostic Templar” lines from ca. 1530 were collected and vested in Benedict XIV as a Bishop sub-condicione in 1726, and all related “Templar Rosicrucian” lines were additionally vested in him sub-condicione in 1740 when he became Pope of the Vatican. The Templar Lines continued from Pope Benedict XIV through a series of French Bishops, to Lucien François Jean-Maine (founder of Ecclesia Gnostica Spiritualis, the Gnostic Spiritual Church) in 1953, through Bishop Bertil Persson (Director of Saint Ephraim Institute in Sweden, Prelate of the Apostolic Episcopal Church for the United States) in 1989, through Archbishop John F. Gilbert and Bishop Betty Reeves (Universal Gnostic Fellowship, House of Independent Bishops) in 1994;

 

“Benedictine” (Old Roman Catholic) Line of 1566 AD – From Cardinal Scipione Rebiba to Cardinal Santinio in 1566, through Pope Benedict XIII (Cardinal Orsini) in 1675, through Pope Benedict XIV (Cardinal Prospero Lambertini) in 1723. (This was the original “Benedictine” line, before Benedict XIV collected and merged the “Gnostic Templar” lines into it sub-condicione three years later in 1726);

 

“Jesuit” (Roman Old Catholic) Line of 1655 AD – From Pope Alexander VII to Cardinal Antonio Barberini (founder of the Jesuit Old Catholic branch) in 1655, to Michael Le Tellier (Jesuit Provincial and Confessor to King Louis XIV of France who codified Rules of Courtly Etiquette of 1682 AD as Knights Templar heritage of the Ancient Priesthood) in 1668;

 

“Old Catholic Church” Line of 1657 AD – From Pope Clement V (who issued the Chinon Parchment vindicating the Knights Templar) in 1305, through Cardinal Antonio Barberini (nephew of Pope Urban VIII, first to branch Apostolic lines of Saint Peter from the Vatican, thus founder of the Old Catholic lineages of the Jesuit branch from the Vatican) in 1657 to Charles Maurice Le Tellier (son of the Grand Chancellor of France) in 1668, through the Cistercian Bishop Dominicus Marie Varlet of Ascalon (Coadjutor and successor Patriarch to Latin Bishop of Babylon in Persia) in 1719, to Archbishop Peter John Meindaerts of Utrecht (carrying Irish Celtic lines from the Bishop of Maeth and Archbishop of Dublin) in 1739, through Archbishop Gerardus Gul (first of the “Old Catholic Church” lines) in 1892, to Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew (Roman Catholic Priest, made Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX, first Old Catholic Bishop of Great Britain) in 1908;

 

“Liberal Catholic” Line of 1916 AD – From Pope Clement V (who issued the Chinon Parchment vindicating the Knights Templar) in 1305, through Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew (Roman Catholic Priest, made Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX, first Old Catholic Bishop of Great Britain) in 1908, to Bishop James Ingall Wedgewood (Anglican, founder of Liberal Catholic Movement, mentored by Theosophical Society, Sorbonne doctoral scholar) sub-condicione in 1916 (then to Charles Webster Leadbeater sub-condicione in 1916), from Wedgewood to Irving S. Cooper (founder of the Liberal Catholic Church) in 1919, through Archbishop John F. Gilbert and Bishop Betty Reeves (Universal Gnostic Fellowship, House of Independent Bishops) in 1994;

 

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Suggested Topics Related to this Information

 

Click to learn about the Ancient Catholic Church as a Pontifical institution.

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Click for a full report on the Ancient Catholic Denomination of the Templars.

 

Academic Source References for this Topic

 

[1] New Testament, Authorized King James Version (AKJV), Cambridge University Press (1990): Saint Paul: “How shall they preach unless they be sent?” (Romans 10:15); Jesus: “As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21); “Teach ye all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days” (Matthew 28:18)

[2] The Vatican, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907), The Encyclopedia Press, New York (1913), Volume 1, “Apostolicity”, p.648.

[3] New Testament, Authorized King James Version (AKJV), Cambridge University Press (1990): Jesus conveyed his ministry to the Apostles “through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2), saying “ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5), and “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you” (Acts 1:8); “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven… and it filled all the house… And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:2-4); Saint Paul: “Take heed therefore unto… all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:28); Saint Peter: Holy Spirit as consecrator of souls, “For ye… are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25); Saint Paul: God ordains Priests by the seal of the Holy Spirit, “He which… hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (II Corinthians 1:21-22).

[4] New Testament, Authorized King James Version (AKJV), Cambridge University Press (1990): Saint Peter: “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … And they continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:38-42); Saint Paul: “Take heed… unto the doctrine; continue in them” (I Timothy 4:16); Saint Paul: “The things that thou hast heard of me… the same commit thou to faithful men, who be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2); Saint Paul: “I praise you… that ye… keep the ordinances, and I delivered them to you.” (I Corinthians 11:2); Saint Paul: “teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies… rather than godly edifying which is in faith, so do.” (I Timothy 1:3-4); Jesus: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me [God]. If any man will do his will, he shall know the doctrine.” (John 7:16-17).

[5] Old Testament, Authorized King James Version (AKJV), Cambridge University Press (1990): “Zadok the Priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And… all the people said, God save King Solomon.” (I Kings 1:39).

[6] Sir Alan G. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar: The Study of Hieroglyphs, Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University, Griffith Institute, Oxford (1927), “Se Neter” (“Infuse with God” = Christian “Consecrate”), List of Hieroglyphic Signs (pp.438 et seq.): “S NTR” (“Consecrate”), S29-R8, R8-T22-X1-D21; “NTR” (“God”, Holiness, Astral), R8, R8-N14.

[7] Antonio de Macedo, Instruções Iniciáticas – Ensaios Espirituais, 2nd Edition, Hughin Editores, Lisbon (2000), p.55.

[8] J. Manuel Gandra, Portugal Misterioso: Os Templários, Lisbon (2000), pp.348-349.

[9] The Vatican, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907), The Encyclopedia Press, New York (1913), Volume 2, “Benedict XIV”, p.432:  Describes how Pope Benedict XIV was passionately dedicated to civil law and principles of enforcement of the rule of law.

[10] The Vatican, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907), The Encyclopedia Press, New York (1913), Volume 2, “Benedict XIV: Liturgical Reforms”, p.434:  Describes how Pope Benedict XIV founded the Vatican Museum Christianum, and established the Vatican Library Catalogue of 3,300 rare manuscripts; He “exercised the closest supervision” with all such heritage restoration projects.

[11] The Vatican, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907), The Encyclopedia Press, New York (1913), Volume 2, “Benedict XIV: Public Policy”, p.433.