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As the pope is the successor of Peter, the bishops are the successors of the apostles. As the pope is the Vicar of Christ for the whole Church, each diocesan bishop is a vicar of Christ for his diocese.
A bishop holds the highest degree of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Only a bishop has the power to ordain deacons, priests or bishops.
Jesus said, Jn 8:28 “I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.” So, too, the bishop does nothing on its own authority, but speaks only as the pope teaches and directs, because his authority completely derives from the pope. The bishop has authority to the extent that he is in union with the pope.
That does not mean the pope personally directs each and every action. The pope delegates authority to his bishops by giving them a mandate, authority over a specific territory called a diocese.
For example, the canon law, published under the pope’s authority, says Canon 1251, “Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.” Each bishop has authority to instruct his flock in Friday abstinence from meat according to the canons. If his country’s national bishops’ conference has decided that cultural conditions in their country would make abstinence from a different food more appropriate, the bishop may instruct his flock to abstain from that food instead. But the bishop does not have authority to decide that his flock should not practice the discipline of Friday abstinence.
Similarly, the bishop gives each priest in his diocese faculties, which are grants of authority to do a specific thing. For example, the bishop generally gives each priest in his diocese a faculty to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass anywhere in the diocese. The priest does not have to ask the bishop each time.
Jesus ordained the apostles as bishops at the Last Supper when He said, Lk 22:19 “Do this in remembrance of me.” All Catholic bishops are successors of the apostles. Jesus told His apostles, and by extension their successors, Mt 10:40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me.” That authority has crossed the centuries in a continuing line of apostolic succession. Every Catholic bishop, priest, and deacon was ordained by a bishop who was ordained by a bishop who was ordained by a bishop … who was personally ordained by Jesus Himself.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1897-1904, 2238, 2242
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