Were the first apostles priests?

The twelve men that Jesus chose to accompany him were certainly priests, but they were not called that. They were simply called apostles. It is clear from Scripture, however, that the next generation of ‘apostles’ were called ‘priests’. They were not called apostles as this designation reserved for ‘the twelve apostles’.

All priests, from the very beginning, therefore, are the successors of the apostles. They are ordained to continue Christ’s mission of apostolic service. This is not a role one takes upon oneself nor is it one conferred by the community, but is, rather, a gift of the Holy Spirit and a sacrament.

Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) writes:

It is the Holy Spirit who introduces one into this ministry which in no way comes from the delegation of the community, but is rather the gift of God, who through His Spirit “sets up bishops”. Because this gift is conferred by the Spirit it has the dignity of “sacrament”. The duty of the Apostles to feed the flock of Christ, is thus continued.

Osservatore Romano, 1 Oct 1990.
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