Catholic Church only true church, Vatican says
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | 10:27 AM ET
The Vatican issued a document Tuesday restating
its belief that the Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ.
The 16-page document was prepared by the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a
doctrinal watchdog that Pope Benedict used to head.
Formulated as five questions and answers, the
document is titled "Responses to Some Questions
Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church."
It says although Orthodox churches are true
churches, they are defective because they do not
recognize the primacy of the Pope.
"It follows that these separated churches and
communities, though we believe they suffer from
defects, are deprived neither of significance nor
importance in the mystery of salvation," it said.
The document adds that Protestant denominations
called Christian Communities born out of the
Reformation are not true churches, but ecclesial communities.
"These ecclesial communities which, specifically
because of the absence of the sacramental
cannot, according to Catholic
doctrine, be called 'churches' in the proper sense," it said.
The document is similar to one written in 2000 by
the Pope who was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at
the time that sparked an angry reaction from Protestant groups.
"I suspect there will be some reactions that are
rather passionate," said Raphaela Schmid,
director of the Becket Institute, a group that
advocates religious freedom. "I hope they will
not be angry because we all try to understand about each other."
The document is issued by Benedict's successor in
doctrinal matters, Cardinal William Levada, and
endorsed by the Pope, said Reuters.
The decree comes days after liberal Catholic and
Jewish groups spoke out against the Pope's move
to authorize the wider use of a traditional Latin mass.
The Tridentine mass includes a prayer for the
conversion of Jews. Its use was restricted
following the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965.
Pope Benedict issued a decree last week
authorizing its broader use in an effort to
reconcile with followers of an ultratraditional excommunicated bishop.
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League in New York
called it a "body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations."