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Chapter 11. The Four Marks of the Church • 133

To further ensure the Church’s fidelity to the Gospel, Christ has

willed that the Apostles be succeeded by the bishops. The Apostles acted

together as a body, with Peter at their head, in their leadership of the

Church. Thus they are called by the Church a “college.” The college of

bishops has succeeded the college of the Apostles, and it is the Bishop of

Rome, the Pope, who has succeeded the role of Peter as head of the col-

lege. Thus they are called by the Church a “college,” and their essential

unity as one body is understood as the principle of collegiality.

Each bishop works in his particular diocese in a priestly shepherd-

ing and teaching role. He possesses the fullness of the priesthood and so

is the principal celebrant of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, by

which the Church grows in holiness and union with Christ. He is also

the chief shepherd of the diocese and so is responsible for compassion-

ate and loving governance of the people entrusted to him. And he is the

chief teacher of his diocese, responsible for authentic proclamation of

the Gospel.

The teaching office of the college of bishops is called the “Magi­

sterium.” When all the bishops throughout the world, together with the

Pope, in the fulfillment of their teaching office, proclaim a doctrine that

has been divinely revealed, it must be accepted with the obedience of

faith by the whole People of God. “The Church, through its magiste-

rium, has been entrusted with the task of authoritatively interpreting

what is contained in revelation, so that ‘all that is proposed for belief, as

being divinely revealed, is drawn from the one deposit of faith’ (DV, no.

10). In some cases, these doctrines have been explicitly defined; in others,

they are universally considered to be an essential and irreformable ele-

ment of the one Catholic faith” (USCCB,

The Teaching Ministry of the

Diocesan Bishop


However, at certain times, the bishops gather in an Ecumenical

Council with the Pope, and they teach and proclaim a doctrine that

must be accepted with faith because it is divinely revealed. The bish-

ops of the world defined and proclaimed a divinely revealed doctrine at

the First Vatican Council (1869-1870). This was when they taught that

under certain conditions the Pope himself can proclaim a doctrine that

is divinely revealed and must be believed by all. This is known as the

dogma of papal infallibility.