How come there is no evidence issued out by the Vatican that proves their list of Popes that have carried on from Apostle Peter?

I can't find this anywhere and since I can't meet Pope Francis unless I'm Katy Perry or Trump, how would I ever be able to find out about this? I can't really enter the Vatican and ask...


I can't just trust the Vatican by their 'words'. I don't KNOW if they really did come from the line of Peter or not. I can only go by their word. This is not good enough for me. What if they made these people up? So far we can prove St Linus and St Clement existed since they were mentioned by Apostle Paul in the NT but whether they went onto being Arcbishops; we don't know for sure.

How do we know whether the Catholic church is the successor of Peter or the Orthodox church? Since they both claim they are from the line of Peter...

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    Katherine, what sort of evidence are you hoping for? There will obviously be few, if any, secular historical documents concerning the Church for the first few centuries. What would convince you? Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 11:26
  • Irenaeus compiled a list of Bishops of Rome in the second century, and his writings have survived to this day. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 19:23
  • But if your premise is that we can't be certain about anything from the past because we don't know if the authors were trustworthy, then we can't really know anything at all. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 19:26

1 Answer 1


First of all, the Catholic Church admits that both Rome and Antioch (Orthodox) have a line of succession starting with St. Peter.

Speaking of the apostolic succession of Antioch, the Catholic Encyclopedia says :

"The first Bishop of Antioch after St. Peter..." [...]


Second of all, the Orthodox Church, which is not in union with the Catholic Church, also admits that both Antioch and Rome have St. Peter as their first Bishop.

Speaking of the apostolic successions originating from St. Peter, OrthdoxWiki says :

After the Ascension, the apostles dispersed to preach Christianity to the world. They each founded different patriarchates. Some of the most prominent disciples of Jesus founded the patriarchates that made up the Pentarchy.

Jerusalem - James

Antioch - Peter

Rome - Peter

Alexandria - Mark

Constantinople - Andrew


Third of all, the Orthodox Church has always recognized that technically speaking Rome is superior to all of their churches in view of the Pentarchy. The only reason they go off the rails so to say is that, in a spirit of contradiction, they excommunicated the primate when he disagreed with them.

The Orthodox attitude to the Papacy is admirably expressed by a twelfth-century writer, Nicetas, Archbishop of Nicomedia :

My dearest brother, we do not deny to the Roman Church the primacy amongst the five sister Patriarchates; and we recognize her right to the most honourable seat at an Ecumenical Council. But she has separated herself from us by her own deeds, when through pride she assumed a monarchy which does not belong to her office … How shall we accept decrees from her that have been issued without consulting us and even without our knowledge? If the Roman Pontiff, seated on the lofty throne of his glory wishes to thunder at us and, so to speak, hurl his mandates at us from on high, and if he wishes to judge us and even to rule us and our Churches, not by taking counsel with us but at his own arbitrary pleasure, what kind of brotherhood, or even what kind of parenthood can this be? We should be the slaves, not the sons, of such a Church, and the Roman See would not be the pious mother of sons but a hard and imperious mistress of slaves.’

Wikipedia relates to us that : Pentarchy (from the Greek Πενταρχία, pentarchía, from πέντε pénte, "five", and ἄρχειν archein, "to rule") is a model of Church organization historically championed in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It found its fullest expression in the laws of Emperor Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire. In the model, the Christian church is governed by the heads (patriarchs) of the five major episcopal sees of the Roman Empire: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.[2]


The greater authority of these sees in relation to others was tied to their political and ecclesiastical prominence; all were located in important cities and regions of the Roman Empire and were important centers of the Christian Church. Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were prominent from the time of early Christianity, while Constantinople came to the fore upon becoming the imperial residence in the 4th century. Thereafter it was consistently ranked just after Rome.


In other words, both Catholics and Orthodox believe the Pope is the successor of St. Peter. The difference being that Rome makes the difference between mere succession and the dispensation of the keys which would be considered final and most important succession. Therefore you cannot assume there is a bias in the lines of succession. By the way, Orthodox believe that the Bishop of Rome is the original Primus Inter Pares, a title of primacy which has now been usurped by Constantinople, although if unity is regained Constantinople will lose the title :

The Eastern Orthodox Church also uses the term "first among equals" in regard to the Bishop of Rome during the first thousand years of Christianity. Whereas the Patriarch of Constantinople is now considered first among the Orthodox patriarchs, the Orthodox Church considers the Bishop of Rome (regarded as the "Patriarch of the West") the "first among equals" in the Pentarchy of the Patriarchal Sees according to the ancient, first millennial order (or "taxis" in Greek) of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, established after Constantinople became the eastern capital of the Roman/Byzantine Empire. The Bishop of Rome no longer holds this distinction in the Orthodox Church because, following the East–West Schism, he is no longer in communion with the Orthodox Church.

Primus inter pares (Wikipedia)

Lastly, the list of Roman Bishops can be found easily but if you want to verify the validity of every individual instance of succession you'll obviously need to consult more precise ressources, like the Catholic Encyclopedia for all the instances of succession.

  • I am no expert on the lines of succession, but what I do know is that more often than not Catholic Encyclopedia can go over the head of many people as it is advanced. As I said you cannot appeal to bias, you cannot say "Catholics are lying" because the Orthodox have done their investigations and agree with us as well. Even the Anglican Church agrees with us. It is rather your arduous job to go look under every little stone of if you want to re-do all of the work the Catholic, the Orthodox and the Anglican Church historians have akready done. Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 8:35
  • You keep saying the Pope is busy meeting Katy Perry, I get it okay and every Catholic that is serious about his faith gets it, it is a scandal. And I al scandalized by it. But if you think the Church's doctrine says that the Pope is always perfect then you're in for a surprise because that is not the doctrine. He is perfect under certain conditions not all. The problem of evangelization is not that bad when it comes to evangelizing places outside of Europe and America, just take a look at China. But you are right in Europe and America we're losing the grip. And that needs to change, so help us Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 8:42
  • You need to understand that the Church is in crisis pretty much every century, it is always something or other which needs to be fixed like exposing heresy or lowering immorality, etc. The Church Fathers had their stuff to deal with, now it is our turn in the 21th century where we're dealing with potentially the worst crisis the Church has ever met and we were warned about this by previous Popes mind you. Post-modernism. We need all the help we can get man, I myself intend to found an order to help deal with this problem and I want to become a priest and a theologian. Lets do it the right way. Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 8:46

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