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Catholic Dictionary




The older men in a community acting as a governing body (I Samuel 16:4). The Sanhedrin, for instance, was made up of elders (Exodus 3:16). they were mentioned in Matthew as joining the chief priests in challenging Jesus during his ministry (Matthew 27:12). The traditional system carried over into Christian communities. The Apostles appointed elders to take charge of each church (Acts 14:23). According to the Council of Trent, the elders mentioned by St. James as administrators of the sacrament of anointing (James 5:14) "does not refer to the older men nor to the more influential men in the community, but to the bishops or the priests duly ordained by the bishops through the laying on of hands of the presbyterate" (Denzinger 1697).