Apostolic succession refers to the Christian doctrine that holds modern churches to be the descendants of the early apostolic church through the sacramental handing down of authority through the episcopate. Most significantly, it considers that the authority to celebrate sacraments is dependent on being able to trace such authority back to the first apostles, who in turn received it directly from Christ.
This doctrine is most prominent in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches, as well as some other Eastern churches. It is also present in a modified form in the Methodist and the Mormon churches. Many other Protestant churches, as well as the Jehova's Witnesses, on the other hand, reject this doctrine entirely.
The Catholic church recognizes the Orthodox succession as valid, but the Orthodox does not recognize the Catholic succession. Neither recognizes the Anglican succession.
- Cf. the 1896 papal bull Apostolicae Curae