If from one burning lamp someone lights another, then another from that one, and so on in succession, he has light continuously. In the same way, through the Apostles ordaining their successors, and these successors ordaining others, and so on, the grace of the Holy Spirit is handed down through all generations and enlightens all who obey their shepherds and teachers. – St. Gregory Palamas
Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, which has usually been associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops. This series was seen originally 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 generally understood today as meaning a series of bishops, regardless of see, each consecrated by other bishops, themselves consecrated similarly in a succession going back to the apostles. But, according to documentation produced by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, the “sees plays an important role in inserting the bishop into the heart of ecclesial apostolicity”.
Those who hold for the importance of apostolic succession via episcopal laying on of hands appeal to the New Testament, which, they say, implies a personal apostolic succession (from Paul to Timothy and Titus, for example). They appeal as well to other documents of the early Church, especially 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; given this, such leaders of the Church were not to be removed without cause and not in this way. 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 (up to AD 431), before being divided into the Church of the East, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Christians of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican, Moravian, 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 necessarily consider consecration of the other groups as valid.
This deposition resulted in the Meletian Schism, which saw several groups and several claimants to the see of Antioch:
||The Meletian groupThe largest grouping, centred on the deposed bishop Meletius. It moved towards an acceptance of the Nicene creed and participated in the Council of Constantinople, but was not recognized by Alexandria or Rome:
||The Eustathian groupThe followers of Eustathius, strictly adhering to the Nicene creed, elected the following bishops, who were recognized by bishops of Alexandria and Rome:
After his death the Eustathians did not elect another bishop. In 399 they lost the recognition of Alexandria and Rome, but remained in schism until 415.
On May 11, 330 the town of Constantinople was consecrated by the Roman emperor Constantine I on the site of an already-existing city, Byzantium, thus becoming the capital of the East Roman Empire (known also as Byzantine Empire).
On May 29, 1453 occurred the Fall of Constantinople, thus marking the end of the Byzantine Empire. The Ecumenical Patriarchate became subject to the Ottoman Empire.
There are different suggestions by scholars for the succession of the Patriarchs from 1462 to 1466. The main positions are the following:
|According to Kiminas (2009):
||According to Laurent (1968):
||According to Gemanos of Sardeis (1933–38):
On July 23, 1833 the Church of Greece declared itself autocephalous. It was followed by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1864, the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1872, and the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1879, thus reducing the extension of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
On July 24, 1923 the Ottoman Empire dissolved, replaced by the Republic of Turkey.