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Catholic Dictionary




The successors of the Apostles under the Pope as successor of St. Peter. Three powers are included under the Catholic hierarchy: teaching, pastoral, and sacerdotal. They correspond to the threefold office laid on Christ as man for the redemption of the world; the office prophet or teacher, the pastoral or royal office of ruler, and the priestly office of sanctifying the faithful. Christ transferred this threefold office, with the corresponding powers, to the Apostles and their successors. A man enters the hierarchy by episcopal ordination when he receives the fullness of the priesthood. But he depends on collegial union with the Bishop of Rome and the rest of the Catholic hierarchy for actually being able to exercise the two other powers of teaching divine truth and of legitimately ruling the believers under his jurisdiction. (Etym. Latin hierarchia, holy authority, from Greek hierarchia, power of a hierarch_s, a steward or president of sacred rites.)