CHURCH ROW LOOMING
By David Willey in Rome
BBC ONLINE NEWS - September 2, 2000
The Vatican has decreed that Catholic theologians and commentators must
stop calling Protestant churches sister churches.
The phrase is already in wide general use, but the Vatican says it
cannot be properly used in future because the Anglican and other
Protestant churches are not "churches in the proper sense". Two new
documents recently approved by the Pope are expected to arouse
strong criticism among churchmen, both Catholic and Protestant working
for Christian unity.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope's chief theological adviser, is
angry about what he considers sloppy terminology. No 'sisters'
He has banned the use of the term "sister churches" to describe
Christian communities that are not in actual communion with Rome.
He argues that there is only one mother church which is the Catholic
church so it is terminologically incorrect to call say the Anglican and
Roman Catholic churches sister churches as it places them on a level of
The cardinal's ban, which has the Pope's approval, is contained in a
document marked confidential and sent to the heads of
catholic bishops conferences around the world.
In another document, to be published in Rome next Tuesday, the cardinal
says that the word "church" can correctly be applied to the Orthodox
churches which broke away from Rome nearly 1,000 years ago, but not to
those which broke away at the time of the Protestant Reformation.
In this document he says that the Reform Churches are not churches at
all in the strict sense of the word.
The new documents are bound to be regarded by Christians of other
denominations working for the re-establishment of
Christian unity as a significant step backwards by the Vatican in
their ongoing dialogue.