APOSTOLIC SEE. Since the apostolic age, all episcopal seats have been considered equal in honor and rank, as all bishops were "equal legates of Jesus Christ" (Ignatius of Antioch, A.D. 35-107). Saint Cyprian, who presided over the Council of Carthage in 256, stressed the parity of episcopal rank, contending that since all churches were equal members of one catholic (universal) church, so were all bishops equal members of one episcopacy, with Christ their Head, and to Whom they were all answerable.
Following the expansion of Christianity and the proliferation of the Christian population, episcopal seats multiplied in number. Some of them acquired more prominence than others, in view of their greater civic responsibilities.
One factor, however, is of particular importance in distinguishing one episcopal see from another: certain sees were founded by the apostles themselves and enjoyed an unbroken apostolic succession. Hence they are designated as apostolic sees, the most important of which are Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch in the East, and Rome in the West.
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