Apostolic Succession in the Roman Catholic Church
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Welcome graphic



My name is Charles Bransom. I have been engaged in research on apostolic succession and episcopal lineages for more than forty five years, in collaboration with colleagues in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. My published works include Ordinations of U. S. Catholic Bishops, 1790-1989 (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1990); "Philippine Episcopology" (Boletin Eclesiastico de Filipinas); "Franciscan Bishops" (Franciscan Studies), "Sons of Don Bosco, Successors of the Apostles, Salesian Bishops" (Journal of Salesian Studies, Vol. XII, n. 1, 2001), and "Les ordinations épiscopales des évêques oblats" (Vie Oblate Life, Avril/April 2000). I have amassed a large data base on the episcopal ordinations of Roman Catholic bishops going back more than five centuries. I am the editor and publisher of the Revue des Ordinations Épiscopales (ISSN 1077-4459) which was founded in 1994.

THE REBIBAN SUCCESSION

More than ninety five percent of the approximately 5,135 Roman Catholic bishops alive today trace their episcopal lineage back to one bishop who was appointed in 1541 - Scipione Rebiba. Why so many bishops trace their lineages to this one bishop can be explained in great part by the intense sacramental activity of Pope Benedict XIII, who ordained at least 159 bishops during his episcopate and pontificate, including many cardinals, papal diplomats, and bishops of important dioceses who, in turn, ordained many other bishops. The bishop who ordained Benedict XIII gives us the direct link to Scipione Rebiba. It is widely believed that Rebiba was ordained bishop by Gian Pietro Cardinal Carafa, who became Pope Paul IV. However, no documentary evidence has been found to verify this hypothesis.
 
The lack of documentation of the episcopal ordination for the last bishop in any episcopal lineage should not be considered as evidence that the lineage ends with that bishop or that the bishop in question never received episcopal ordination.  It simply means that the details of that bishop's episcopal ordination have not yet been found and that the bishop in question is the last known bishop in that lineage.

A word of caution regarding episcopal lineages: until 1965 the lineages prepared for many bishops showed Pope Alexander VII as the ordaining bishop of Cardinal Paluzzo Altieri in 1666, and those lineages went back to the early 1400`s. In the mid 1960`s, a contemporary account of Cardinal Altieri`s episcopal ordination was found in the Gazette de France. This account revealed that Pope Alexander VII became ill shortly before the ceremony and was replaced by Cardinal Ulderico Carpegna. Any episcopal lineage which gives Pope Alexander VII as the consecrator of Cardinal Altieri is incorrect.
 
SCIPIONE REBIBA - A BIOGRAPHY
 
Thanks to two priests of the Diocese of Patti, we finally have a biography of Scipione Rebiba.  Father Basilio Rinaudo, Rector of the Seminary of the Diocese of Patti and a native of San Marco d'Alunzio - the birthplace of Scipione Rebiba - and Father Salvatore Miracola, parish priest of San Marco d'Alunzio, have published an excellent biography of the bishop to whom more than 92 percent of the current world-wide hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church trace their episcopal lineages.
 
Il Cardinale Scipione Rebiba (1504 - 1577), Vita e azione pastorale di un vescovo riformatore (L'Ascesa, 2007; ISBN 978-88-903039-0-6) is a meticulously documented account of the life and pastoral activity of Cardinal Rebiba.  The authors have provided extensive footnotes in this two hundred page book which includes an eleven page bibliography and documentary and photographic appendices. 
 
While the book contains no new information on the consecration of Scipione Rebiba, it provides its readers with a wealth of information on his life and works. We learn that his family's origins are French and that he was born in San Marco (today called San Marco d'Alunzio).  As a young priest, he quickly became a preferred member of the ecclesiastical family of Gian Pietro Cardinal Carafa, the future Pope Paul IV.  As a priest and bishop, he provided loyal and valuable service to Carafa both before and after Carafa's election to the See of Peter. Rebiba's fidelity and dedication to the Church never faltered.  He died at Rome on 23 July 1577 and is buried in the Church of San Silvestro al Quirinale.
 
This biography makes Scipione Rebiba more than just a name at the end of an episcopal lineage.  It tells the story of a good, faithful, zealous successor of the apostles.  
 
I thank the authors for providing us with this excellent work.  Molte grazie !!!
 
I highly recommend this book.  
 
Ordering information may be obtained by contacting Father Rinaudo at:
 
Seminario Vescovile
via Magretti, 147
98066 Patti (Me)
Italy
Fax: (39) 0941 21591
 

Some new “old” books

In 1881, Dr Julian Pelesz, a priest of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Lviv of the Ukrainians, rector of the Greek Catholic Central Seminary in Vienna, and future Eparch of Stanislaviv (1885-1891) and of Przemysl (1891-1896) published Geschichte der Union der ruthenischen Kirche mit Rom,  a history of the union of the Ruthenian and Ukrainian Churches with the Holy See.

This important historical work contains, inter alia, the episcopal ordinations of Ukrainian, Ruthenian,  Romanian, and Croatian Byzantine bishops . 

Concerning the use of the name Ruthenian in the title of the book, it should be noted that both Ukrainian and Ruthenian eparchs and eparchies were regularly called Ruthenian in Roman documents prior to the twentieth century. 

This excellent work is available free on Google books:

http://www.google.com/books?id=29UCAAAAQAAJ

Another new old book is Les Syriens catholiques et leur Patriarche Mgr Ant Samhiri published in 1855 by l'abbé Jean Mamarbaschi, the secretary of the Patriarchate of Antioch.  This small (24 page) book recounts the entry of the future Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians into full communion with the Holy See, as well as that of other Syrian Orthodox (then called Jacobite) bishops and faithful.   This book is also available for free download at:

 http://books.google.it/books?id=ZcIAAAAAcAAJ

Finally, we have a book written in 1852 by the Rev. George Percy Badger, an Anglican priest: The Nestorians and their Rituals (with the narrative of a mission to Mesopotamia and Coordistan in 1842-1844). This book describes the profession of faith of Archbishop Mar Youhannan VIII Hormizd, a future Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, who was consecrated on May 22, 1776 by his uncle Patriarch Eliya XII Denha.  This book is available at:

http://books.google.com/books?id=cnURAAAAYAAJ&oe=UTF-8

I wish to thank Father Glen J. Pothier, DTh, JCL, Adjutant Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Palm Beach, for bringing these valuable works to my attention.  Father Pothier is tri-ritual (Latin, Ruthenian, and Melkite rites). 

 

THE END OF A LINE OF SUCCESSION : THE REBIBAN LINE ABSORBS ANOTHER LINE

 
The line of succession which recently became known as la Chaîne Polonaise - la ligne Rangoni (the Rangoni line), formerly known as la Chaîne Polonaise - the Uchanski line - has become part of the Rebiban line. 
 
A correspondent on the Italian Catholic forum Cattolici Romani alerted me to an article on the consecration of Bishop Claudio Rangoni of Reggio Emilia and Professor Giuseppe Giovanelli, editor of "Memoria Ecclesiae" provided me with a copy of the article.  My thanks to both of them for their kind assistance.
 
Father Roberto Fornaciari, OSB Cam, is the author of "Notizie sulla Elezione e Consacrazione del Vescovo Claudio Rangone" which was published in the December 13, 2008 issue of "Memoria Ecclesiae", the historical supplement of the Reggio Emilia diocesan weekly newspaper La Libertà.
 
Thanks to Father Fornaciari`s research, we now know that Bishop Claudio Rangoni of Reggio Emilia was ordained bishop on 10 January 1593 in Rome, in the chapel of the Palazzo, by his uncle Cardinal Girolamo Bernerio, O.P., Bishop of Ascoli, assisted by the Archbishop of Spalato, Giovanni Domenico Malcoto detto Foconio, O.P., and the Bishop of Como, Feliciano Ninguarda, O.P. 
 
Father Fornaciari has made his study available on the website of the Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose "Beato Gregorio X" di Arezzo:
 
Coming from the ranks of the nobility of Modena, Claudio Rangoni was named Bishop of Reggio Emilia on 16 December 1592 and was Apostolic Nuncio to Poland from 1598 to 1607.  He died on 2 September 1621.
 
As previously noted, episcopologists had believed that Wawrzyniec Gembicki, Bishop of Chelmno, had received episcopal ordination in 1601 from the hands of Archbishop Stanislaw Karnkowski of Gniezno and we knew that Archbishop Karnkowski had been ordained Bishop of Wloclawek on 25 January 1568 by Archbishop Jakub Uchanski of Gniezno.  

Thanks to the eminent historian of the Polish episcopate, Dr Krzysztof Rafal Prokop, we found that Bishop Wawrzyniec Gembicki was not consecrated by Archbishop Karnkowski, but by Bishop Claudio Rangoni, Bishop of Reggio Emilia and Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, on Laetare Sunday, the first of April 1601.

Dr. Prokop gives a detailed account in his recently published Stan badan nad problematyka sakr biskupich XVI- i XVII-wiecznych metropolitów gnieznienskich, Studia Gnesnensia XXIII (2009) 315-316. 

Interestingly, there was another bishop by the same name, also from the nobility of Modena, who was a contemporary of this bishop of Reggio Emilia. The second Claudio Rangoni was named Bishop of Piacenza on 2 December 1596 and died on 15 September 1619. 

I wish to express my congratulations to Father Fornaciari on the publication of his article.  Likewise, I wish to express my sincere thanks to Father Fornaciari for his diligent research which has provided us with the details of the episcopal ordination of Bishop Claudio Rangoni of Reggio Emilia.

At the same time, my sincere thanks to Dr Krzysztof Rafal Prokop for his diligent research which revealed that Bishop Wawrzyniec Gembicki was consecrated by Bishop Rangoni and for his other excellent research on the Polish episcopate.  I cannot fail to thank two others who are responsible for the research on the line of succession from Pope Pius XI back to the Polish bishops in the seventeenth century:  Hofrat Dr. Manfred Dieter Kierein of Vienna, Austria, and Brother Josef Grünstäudl, S.M., of Tragwein, Austria.

THE END OF A SMALL BUT INTERESTING LINE

The little known Balkan-Ukrainian-Ruthenian line came to an end on December 6, 2008 with the death of Bishop Ivan Semedi, Bishop emeritus of Mukachevo.  This line has been traced back to Archbishop Athanasius of Achrida who made a profession of faith around the year 1660.  He ordained Archbishop Onofrio Costantini of Derbe in 1665 and this line of succession was passed on first to bishops of Italo-Albanian origin who ministered in the Balkans, eventually counting several bishops of the Eparchies of Presov, Hajdudorog, and Mukachevo, including Blessed Theodore Romzha, the martyred Apostolic Administrator of Mukachevo, and several clandestinely ordained bishops, among them Bishop Semedi.

ANOTHER PAPAL CONSECRATION ADDED

Since the addition of papal episcopal lineages to this site, no changes were made until September 1, 2008.  The principal details of the consecration of Pope Julius III were discovered in a book published in 1843 and a new page was added with the information.  Subsequently, the merger of the former Uchanski line with the Rebiba line was noted and on March 17, 2011 the first details of the consecration of Giuliano della Rovere, Pope Julius II, were added, thus extending that line to the year 1440 and renaming it the d'Estouteville line.

OTHER LINES OF SUCCESSION

The other active lineages include the d'Estouteville line, ending in 1440; the von Bodman lineage, which ends in 1686; the Ravizza line (1667); and the de Bovet line (1789).
 
The d'Estouteville line was previously called the della Rovere line, ending between 1479 and 1483, and prior to that it was called the Gesualdo line which ended in 1564 with Alfonso Gesualdo. The identity of Cardinal Gesualdo`s consecrator was discovered and that discovery allowed the extension of this lineage back to Pope Julius II. Now the consecrator of Giuliano della Rovere has been discovered and the line extends to 1440 and Cardinal Guillaume d'Estouteville, O.S.B.
 
Recently the consecrator of Cardinal Verissimo de Lencastre has been discovered and the name of his line has been changed to the Ravizza line which ends, for the moment, in 1667.  The identity of Cardinal de Lencastre's consecrator was found in the papers of the late m. Jean Montier, one of the first of the modern episcopologists. 
 
The Maronite, Greek Melkite, Chaldean, and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches account for the majority of Eastern Catholic lineages. However, there are several Eastern Catholic bishops who belong to the Rebiban succession and there are some Roman-rite bishops who belong to the Maronite and Chaldean lineages.  An example of the Maronite lineage has been added to this site as of November 13, 2012.  It can be accesssed through the hyperlinks to the left of this text.
 
THE CURRENT STATE of EPISCOPAL LINEAGES (28 February 2013)
 
As of 18 July 2013, there are approximately 5,160 living Roman Catholic bishops; that is, bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

The overwhelming majority of these bishops trace their orders to Scipione Rebiba who was named a bishop in 1541.

Approximately 168 bishops belong to lines of various Eastern churches in communion with Rome: Chaldeans, Maronites, Melkites, Syriacs, Syro-Malankars, and Ukrainians. Among this small number of bishops nine Roman-rite bishops belong to the Maronite line and eleven Roman-rite bishops belong to the Chaldean line.

The bishops of the Armenian, Bulgarian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Ruthenian, Slovak, and Syro-Malabar sui iuris Churches belong to the Rebiban line with the exception of one Slovak bishop who belongs to the Ukrainian line. In addition, one Maronite bishop - a former nuncio - and eight Ukrainian bishops belong to the Rebiban line.

In addition to the majority Rebiba line, there are four active Roman-rite lines which account for a total of 49 bishops. Those lines are:

*the Ravizza line, with four living members

*the de Bovet line, with ten living members

*the von Bodman line, with twelve living members

*the d'Estouteville line, with twenty three living members

A list of the bishops belonging to these four lines as well as examples of these lineages can be found on this website by accessing the appropriate hyperlinks in the menu to the left.

Research is ongoing to find information which will extend these lines as well as the Rebiba line.

In summary, 95.6% of Roman Catholic bishops belong to the Rebiba line; 3.3% belong to one of the several Eastern lines; and 1.1% belong to one of the other four active Roman-rite lines.

A New Website

 

I am attempting to complete the episcopal ordinations of the twentieth century.  There are less than one hundred which are incomplete and most of them are missing the names of the co-consecrating bishops.

 

There are presently eleven incomplete Latin American consecrations:  six from Peru and one each from Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico.

 

Inquiries to those who should have the missing information have gone unanswered and therefore I have set up a special website in Spanish where these consecrations are listed.  It is my hope that visitors to the website who have the missing information will be kind enough to forward it to me.  All information will be shared with David M. Cheney, creator and webmaster of Catholic-Hierarchy.org 

 

I intend to set up similar websites for the other incomplete episcopal ordinations. 

 

Here is the link to this new website: http://mysite.verizon.net/res7gdmc/episcopologioslatinoamericanos/

 

My sincere thanks to anyone who can be of assistance. 

 

PAPAL EPISCOPAL LINEAGES
 
The episcopal lineages of the popes of the past five hundred years have been added to this site.  For the period from 1503 to 2005, the details of the consecrations of only three popes are missing. 
 
Ironically, if Pope Alexander VII had not been ill on the morning of Paluzzo Altieri`s consecration, more than ninety-six percent of living Roman Catholic bishops would trace their lineages back to Guillaume d'Estouteville instead of Scipione Rebiba. 
 
A NEW WEBSITE:   BISHOPS OF CHINA
 
My good friend Andreas Brender has created a website about the Roman Catholic bishops of China: Katholische Bischöfe in China.  It is an excellent website, providing biographical details of the bishops of China from the nomination of the first bishop up to the end of the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, and it includes the portraits of many of the bishops.  The url is listed below in the section on recomended websites.  My warmest congratulations to my good friend on the creation of an excellent, interesting, and well-documented website. 

RECOMMENDED READING
 
Since the middle of the twentieth century, there have been many works on the episcopates of various nations and on the members of religious orders and congregations who have been raised to the episcopal dignity. 
 
The most recent addition to these works is a new book on the College of Cardinals by Father Jean Le Blanc: Dictionnaire biographique des cardinaux du XIXe siècle. Contribution à l`histoire du Sacré-Collège sous les pontificats du Pie VII, Léon XII, Pie VIII, Grégoire XVI, Pie IX et Léon XIII. 1800 - 1903. (Wilson & Lafleur. Montréal. 2007. ISBN 978-2-89127-801-0).
 
This book contains a wealth of information on the cardinals of the nineteenth century. It is meticulously documented and is another example of the author`s superb works on the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. I highly recommend this book.
 
It is in the same style as his Dictionnaire biographique des évêques catholiques du Canada.  Les diocèses catholiques canadiens des Églises latine et orientales et leurs évêques; repères chronologiques et biographiques, 1658-2012 2e édition  (Wilson & Lafleur. Montréal.  2012.  ISBN 978-2-89689-006-4). 
 
Father LeBlanc`s Dictionnaire is the finest work on the Catholic bishops of Canada to date and it would be difficult for anyone to surpass his excellent work.  He has brought together in one place a wealth of information on the Canadian Catholic bishops. I highly recommend this book.
 
Monsignor Francis J. Weber, Archivist of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, has gifted historians, both ecclesiastical and secular, and those who have an interest in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in California with numerous books, monographs, and articles on this area of church history. His published works are too numerous to list in this brief space, but his biographies of James Francis Cardinal McIntyre - His Eminence of Los Angeles. James Francis Cardinal McIntyre. 2 vols  St. Francis Historical Society.  Mission Hills, California.  1997 - and Timothy Cardinal Manning - Magnificat: The Life and Times of Timothy Cardinal Manning. Kimberly Press, Inc. Santa Barbara, California.  1999 - are among the finest biographies of twentieth century U. S. cardinals. I highly recommend these books. 
 
The late Cardinal Carlos Oviedo Cavada, O. de M., Archbishop of Santiago de Chile (1990-1998) was an historian of the Chilean episcopate and of his religious order, the Mercedarians.  He was the author of Los Obispos de Chile  1561-1978 (Santiago de Chile, 1979); Los Obispos de Chile (2d ed  Editorial Andrés Bello. Santiago de Chile. 1996); and Los Obispos Mercedarios (Santiago de Chile, 1981). His collaborative work Episcopologio Chileno 1561-1815 (4t. Santiago de Chile, 1992) provides an in-depth look at the Catholic Church in Chile and its bishops for that period. These are the seminal works on the Catholic bishops of Chile and on the Mercedarian bishops. 
 
Two late Spanish priests have provided us with three episcopologios of the Church in Spain for the years 1500 to 1985. Monsignor Lamberto de Echeverría published his Episcopologio Español Contemporáneo (1868-1985) in Salamanca in 1986. Father Vidal Guitarte Izquierdo, a former student of Lamberto de Echeverría, gave us Episcopologio Español (1700-1867) (Castellón, 1992) and Episcopologio Español (1500-1699) (Castellón, 1994). These three works chronicle the episcopal ordinations of the bishops of and from Spain for a period of almost five centuries.
 
There are many other excellent works on the episcopate, but they are too numerous to list here.
 

A Book on Colombian Bishops

 

Recently I was privileged to receive a copy of a book dedicated to Colombian bishops associated with the Department of Antioquia, Colombia.  Doctor Ricardo Zuluaga Gil is the author of Antioquia y el Episcopado, published in 2011 by the Centro de Historia del Municipio de San Vicente Ferrer. 

 

Doctor Zuluaga Gil is a lawyer, Doctor of Law from the University of Salamanca, Titular Professor of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali, a corresponding member of the Academia Antiqueña de Historia, and of the Academia Colombiana de Historia Eclesiástica.   His outstanding gifts of intellect are apparent as one peruses this interesting work.

 

The author has gathered together in one volume a wealth of documentation on the development of the Catholic Church in Antioquia as well as key biographical information on the bishops who have been responsible for the evangelization of this region.

 

I thank Doctor Zuluaga Gil for authoring this important work on the bishops of Colombia.

 

Zuluaga Gil, Ricardo

Antioquia y el Episcopado

San Vicente, Colombia

2011

ISBN: 978-958-44-9516-7

 
RECOMMENDED SITES
 
I highly recommend the following sites:
 
The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church  www.fiu.edu/~mirandas/cardinals.htm
 
Catholic-Hierarchy.org  www.catholic-hierarchy.org
 
Katholische Bischöfe in China  http://www.brender.eu/default.asp?iId=JIDHJ
 (an English version is available on the homepage)
 
The Order of Saint Benedict   www.osb.org
 
 
Die Apostolische Nachfolge
 
Monsignor Mercurio Maria Teresi
 
The above website is dedicated to the cause of the beatification and canonization of Archbishop Mercurio Maria Teresi, Archbishop of Monreale, Sicily, from 1802 to 1805.  The life and works of this good prelate provide excellent reading.
 
Archbishop Teresi was ordained Archbishop of Monreale on 13 June 1802 in the Cathedral of Monreale by Bishop Francesco Vanni, Bishop of Cefalù, assisted by Archbishop Alfonso Airoldi, Titular Archbishop of Heraclea in Europa, and Bishop Gabriello Maria Gravina, Titular Bishop of Flavias.  I wish to express my sincere thanks to Monsignor Saverio Ferina, Director of the Diocesan Historical Archives of the Archdiocese of Monreale, who was responsible for providing the information concerning Archbishop Teresi`s episcopal ordination as well as similar information concerning the episcopal ordination of Archbishop Teresi`s successor, Archbishop Domenico Benedetto Balsamo, O.S.B.  To Monsignor Ferina: cordiali saluti e tante grazie!
 

This site is a work in progress. Due to my current projects, which include a new book on the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States of America, I am unable to provide copies of episcopal lineages to anyone other than directly to a Roman Catholic bishop.  Due to the misuse of notes on my previous site, no permission is given to use quotes from this site without my express written permission. 
 
You can contact me at:

bransomcn@live.com