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The authority of the Church and the Pope

Apr 15, 2015

My protestant friend sent me these questions. Can you please help?

Why do Catholics believe the Catholic Church is the one true Church, founded 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ Himself?


Where does the Pope get his authority to lead the Church on earth? What do Catholics believe about ‘apostolic succession’?

Asked at 05:14 am on April 15th 2015

Dear Leanne,

We profess in the creed that the Church is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. These four characteristics of the Church, as the Catechism says are linked to each other and must be taken together (Catechism of the Catholic Church 811). The Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Christ because it has these four marks of the true Church. The Church is one because all her members profess one faith; they share the same sacramental life and are united under one head, the Pope, the successor of St. Peter. The Church is holy because of her founder Jesus Christ who is all-holy and gave himself up to sanctify her and to make her a source of sanctification. The Church is Catholic or universal because it never ceases to proclaim to all the human race the truths revealed by God as commissioned by Christ to do so. The Church is apostolic because it was founded on the apostles by Christ.

The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) says that this Church that Christ founded and commissioned Peter to shepherd (Jn.21:17) subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” (Lumen Gentium 8). Therefore, the authority of the Pope to lead the Church comes from Christ because it was Christ who appointed Peter to lead his Church and the successor of Peter is the Pope.

Answered by Fr Simon Kitimbo

Replied at 01:05 am on April 27th 2015

Dear Leanne

All of the above from Fr Simon plus

We believe that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus because a) we have a historically proven unbroken line of apostolic succession from our bishops back to the Apostles and b) we have historical proof that what the early Church of the first century believed and practiced is what the Catholic Church today believes and practices.

Ask your friend to read the First Apology of St Justin Martyr, written by the mid 2nd century AD and then to compare it to how the Catholic Church celebrates the sacraments today.

The Pope gets his authority to lead the Church straight from Jesus. That bit in the Gospels about Jesus giving Peter the keys of the kingdom is the way to understand it. In the Old Testament the prime minister was the one who held the keys for the king, and who acted with authority in the king’s absence. That office of prime minister was just like it is today, the office and role continues through history even though from time to time it is not the same person filling that position.

Replied at 01:59 pm on April 29th 2015