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Sunday, August 24, 2014


This blog is the successor to my previous website, Apostolic Succession in the Roman Catholic Church. My previous website will cease to exist in late September 2014 due to the discontinuation of website hosting by my internet provider. Over the following days and weeks I will migrate information and episcopal lineages from the old site to this blog.  

My name is Charles Bransom. I have been engaged in research on apostolic succession and episcopal lineages for almost fifty years, in collaboration with colleagues in Europe, Latin America, and Asia.  I have amassed a large data base on the episcopal ordinations of Roman Catholic bishops going back more than five centuries. 

My published works include Ordinations of U. S. Catholic Bishops, 1790-1989 (National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1990); "Philippine Episcopology" (Boletin Eclesiastico de Filipinas); "Franciscan Bishops" (Franciscan Studies), "Sons of Don Bosco, Successors of the Apostles, Salesian Bishops" (Journal of Salesian Studies, Vol. XII, n. 1, 2001), and "Les ordinations épiscopales des évêques oblats" (Vie Oblate Life, Avril/April 2000).  I am the editor and publisher of the Revue des Ordinations Épiscopales (ISSN 1077-4459) which was founded in 1994. I have composed the episcopal lineages for more than one thousand bishops around the world. 


More than ninety five percent of the approximately 5,135 Roman Catholic bishops alive today trace their episcopal lineage back to one bishop who was appointed in 1541 - Scipione Rebiba. Why so many bishops trace their lineages to this one bishop can be explained in great part by the intense sacramental activity of Pope Benedict XIII, who ordained at least 159 bishops during his episcopate and pontificate, including many cardinals, papal diplomats, and bishops of important dioceses who, in turn, ordained many other bishops. The bishop who ordained Benedict XIII gives us the direct link to Scipione Rebiba. It is widely believed that Rebiba was ordained bishop by Gian Pietro Cardinal Carafa, who became Pope Paul IV. However, no documentary evidence has been found to verify this hypothesis.

The lack of documentation of the episcopal ordination for the last bishop in any episcopal lineage should not be considered as evidence that the lineage ends with that bishop or that the bishop in question never received episcopal ordination.  It simply means that the details of that bishop's episcopal ordination have not yet been found and that the bishop in question is the last known bishop in that lineage.

A word of caution regarding episcopal lineages: until 1965 the lineages prepared for many bishops showed Pope Alexander VII as the ordaining bishop of Cardinal Paluzzo Altieri in 1666, and those lineages went back to the early 1400`s. In the mid 1960`s, a contemporary account of Cardinal Altieri`s episcopal ordination was found in the Gazette de France. This account revealed that Pope Alexander VII became ill shortly before the ceremony and was replaced by Cardinal Ulderico Carpegna. Any episcopal lineage which gives Pope Alexander VII as the consecrator of Cardinal Altieri is incorrect.


The other active lineages include the d'Estouteville line, ending in 1440; the von Bodman lineage, which ends in 1686; the Ravizza line (1667); and the de Bovet line (1789).

The d'Estouteville line was previously called the della Rovere line, ending between 1479 and 1483, and prior to that it was called the Gesualdo line which ended in 1564 with Alfonso Gesualdo. The identity of Cardinal Gesualdo`s consecrator was discovered and that discovery allowed the extension of this lineage back to Pope Julius II. Now the consecrator of Giuliano della Rovere has been discovered and the line extends to 1440 and Cardinal Guillaume d'Estouteville, O.S.B.

Recently the consecrator of Cardinal Verissimo de Lencastre has been discovered and the name of his line has been changed to the Ravizza line which ends, for the moment, in 1667.  The identity of Cardinal de Lencastre's consecrator was found in the papers of the late m. Jean Montier, one of the first of the modern episcopologists.  

The Maronite, Greek Melkite, Chaldean, and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches account for the majority of Eastern Catholic lineages. However, there are several Eastern Catholic bishops who belong to the Rebiban succession and there are some Roman-rite bishops who belong to the Maronite and Chaldean lineages. 


The line of succession known as la Chaîne Polonaise - la ligne Rangoni (the Rangoni line), formerly known as la Chaîne Polonaise - the Uchanski line - has become part of the Rebiban line. 
A correspondent on the Italian Catholic forum Cattolici Romani alerted me to an article on the consecration of Bishop Claudio Rangoni of Reggio Emilia and Professor Giuseppe Giovanelli, editor of "Memoria Ecclesiae" provided me with a copy of the article.  My thanks to both of them for their kind assistance.

Father Roberto Fornaciari, OSB Cam, is the author of "Notizie sulla Elezione e Consacrazione del Vescovo Claudio Rangone" which was published in the December 13, 2008 issue of "Memoria Ecclesiae", the historical supplement of the Reggio Emilia diocesan weekly newspaper La Libertà.
Thanks to Father Fornaciari`s research, we now know that Bishop Claudio Rangoni of Reggio Emilia was ordained bishop on 10 January 1593 in Rome, in the chapel of the Palazzo, by his uncle Cardinal Girolamo Bernerio, O.P., Bishop of Ascoli, assisted by the Archbishop of Spalato, Giovanni Domenico Malcoto detto Foconio, O.P., and the Bishop of Como, Feliciano Ninguarda, O.P. 
Father Fornaciari has made his study available on the website of the Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose "Beato Gregorio X" di Arezzo:

Coming from the ranks of the nobility of Modena, Claudio Rangoni was named Bishop of Reggio Emilia on 16 December 1592 and was Apostolic Nuncio to Poland from 1598 to 1607.  He died on 2 September 1621.
Episcopologists had believed that Wawrzyniec Gembicki, Bishop of Chelmno, had received episcopal ordination in 1601 from the hands of Archbishop Stanislaw Karnkowski of Gniezno and we knew that Archbishop Karnkowski had been ordained Bishop of Wloclawek on 25 January 1568 by Archbishop Jakub Uchanski of Gniezno.  

Thanks to the eminent historian of the Polish episcopate, Dr Krzysztof Rafal Prokop, we found that Bishop Wawrzyniec Gembicki was not consecrated by Archbishop Karnkowski, but by Bishop Claudio Rangoni, Bishop of Reggio Emilia and Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, on Laetare Sunday, the first of April 1601.

Dr. Prokop gives a detailed account in his recently published Stan badan nad problematyka sakr biskupich XVI- i XVII-wiecznych metropolitów gnieznienskich, Studia Gnesnensia XXIII (2009) 315-316. 

Interestingly, there was another bishop by the same name, also from the nobility of Modena, who was a contemporary of this bishop of Reggio Emilia. The second Claudio Rangoni was named Bishop of Piacenza on 2 December 1596 and died on 15 September 1619. 

I wish to express my congratulations to Father Fornaciari on the publication of his article.  Likewise, I wish to express my sincere thanks to Father Fornaciari for his diligent research which has provided us with the details of the episcopal ordination of Bishop Claudio Rangoni of Reggio Emilia.

At the same time, my sincere thanks to Dr Krzysztof Rafal Prokop for his diligent research which revealed that Bishop Wawrzyniec Gembicki was consecrated by Bishop Rangoni and for his other excellent research on the Polish episcopate.  I cannot fail to thank two others who are responsible for the research on the line of succession from Pope Pius XI back to the Polish bishops in the seventeenth century:  Hofrat Dr. Manfred Dieter Kierein of Vienna, Austria, and Brother Josef Grünstäudl, S.M., of Tragwein, Austria.


The little known Balkan-Ukrainian-Ruthenian line came to an end on December 6, 2008 with the death of Bishop Ivan Semedi, Bishop emeritus of Mukachevo.  This line has been traced back to Archbishop Athanasius of Achrida who made a profession of faith around the year 1660.  He ordained Archbishop Onofrio Costantini of Derbe in 1665 and this line of succession was passed on first to bishops of Italo-Albanian origin who ministered in the Balkans, eventually counting several bishops of the Eparchies of Presov, Hajdudorog, and Mukachevo, including Blessed Theodore Romzha, the martyred Apostolic Administrator of Mukachevo, and several clandestinely ordained bishops, among them Bishop Semedi.