The Vatican issued a document Tuesday reasserting that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ. It describes Orthodox Churches as wounded because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope and says "it is difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could be possibly be attributed" to Protestant denominations. Sabina Castelfranco has this VOA report from Rome.
The document was issued by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Benedict XVI used to head before being elected pope. It says the Roman Catholic Church is the one church of Jesus Christ.
Formulated as five questions and answers, the document's objective is to clarify the Vatican's ecumenical doctrine. It restates a controversial document issued by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger seven years ago. Raphaela Schmid, director of Becket Institute for Religious Freedom, explains what the document issued Tuesday is meant to do.
"It answers questions that have been raised by theologians in the aftermath of Dominus Iesus that came out in the year 2000, which was a document about the nature of the church," explained Schmid. "What was controversial about this document was that it insisted, as the Second Vatican Council did and the church always has, that the church founded by Christ today is a historical reality that subsists in the Catholic Church. This of course is problematic for other Christian communities who see themselves as the church founded by Christ."
The document says only Catholicism has all the elements to be fully Christ's church. It says that although Orthodox Churches are true churches they are defective because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope. It adds that Protestant denominations are not true churches but just ecclesial communities.
However, the document stresses that dialogue with other Christians remains one of the priorities of the Catholic Church. And a top Vatican official said that for ecumenical dialogue to move forward it is necessary for those involved to be clear about their own identity.
Tuesday's document was the second time in a week the pope made an effort to correct what he believes are mistaken interpretations of the Second Vatican Council which modernized the Catholic Church in the 1960s. On Saturday, to the approval of traditional Catholics, Benedict revived the old Latin mass.