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The Profession of Faith

229

862

“Just as the office which the Lord confided to Peter alone,

as first of the apostles, destined to be transmitted to his successors,

is a permanent one, so also endures the office, which the apostles

received, of shepherding the Church, a charge destined to be

exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.”

375

Hence the Church teaches that “the bishops have by divine insti-

tution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in

such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and

whoever despises them despises Christ and him who sent

Christ.”

376

The apostolate

863

The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains,

through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in

communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is “sent

out” into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this

mission, though in various ways. “The Christian vocation is, of its

nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.” Indeed, we call an

apostolate “every activity of the Mystical Body” that aims “to

spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth.”

377

864

“Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church’s

whole apostolate”; thus the fruitfulness of apostolate for ordained

ministers as well as for lay people clearly depends on their vital

union with Christ.

378

In keeping with their vocations, the demands

of the times and the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostolate

assumes the most varied forms. But charity, drawn from the Eucha-

rist above all, is always “as it were, the soul of the whole aposto-

late.”

379

865

The Church is ultimately

one, holy, catholic, and apostolic

in

her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that “the

Kingdom of heaven,” the “Reign of God,”

380

already exists and will

be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person

of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorpo­

rated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. Then all

those he has redeemed and made “holy and blameless before him

in love,”

381

will be gathered together as the one People of God, the

375

LG

20 § 2.

376

LG

20 § 2.

377

AA

2.

378

AA

4; cf.

Jn

15:5.

379

AA

3.

380

Rev

19:6.

381

Eph

1:4.

880

1556

900

2472

828

824

1324

811, 541