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The Pope taking radical steps to bring
all sheep back into fold.
Pope: Other Christians not true
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer
LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the
universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document
released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that
other Christian denominations were not true churches.
Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations
with other Christians. It was the second time in a week the pope has
corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second
Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the church.
On Saturday, Benedict revisited another key aspect of Vatican II by
reviving the old Latin Mass. Traditional Catholics cheered the move, but
more liberal ones called it a step back from Vatican II.
Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long
complained about what he considers the erroneous interpretation of the
council by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather
a renewal of church tradition.
In the latest document — formulated as five questions and answers — the
Vatican seeks to set the record straight on Vatican II's ecumenical
intent, saying some contemporary theological interpretation had been
"erroneous or ambiguous" and had prompted confusion and doubt.
It restates key sections of a 2000 document the pope wrote when he was
prefect of the congregation, "Dominus Iesus," which set off a firestorm
of criticism among Protestant and other Christian denominations because
it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and
therefore did not have the "means of salvation."
In the new document and an accompanying commentary, which were released
as the pope vacations here in Italy's Dolomite mountains, the Vatican
repeated that position.
"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," the document said.
The other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense"
because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace
their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.
The Rev. Sara MacVane of the Anglican Centre in Rome, said there was
nothing new in the document.
"I don't know what motivated it at this time," she said. "But it's
important always to point out that there's the official position and
there's the huge amount of friendship and fellowship and worshipping
together that goes on at all levels, certainly between Anglican and
Catholics and all the other groups and Catholics."
The document said Orthodox churches were indeed "churches" because they
have apostolic succession and that they enjoyed "many elements of
sanctification and of truth." But it said they lack something because
they do not recognize the primacy of the pope — a defect, or a "wound"
that harmed them, it said.
"This is obviously not compatible with the doctrine of primacy which,
according to the Catholic faith, is an 'internal constitutive principle'
of the very existence of a particular church," the commentary said.
Despite the harsh tone of the document, it stresses that Benedict
remains committed to ecumenical dialogue.
"However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive, it must involve
not just the mutual openness of the participants but also fidelity to
the identity of the Catholic faith," the commentary said.
The document, signed by the congregation prefect, U.S. Cardinal William
Levada, was approved by Benedict on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and
Paul — a major ecumenical feast day.
There was no indication about why the pope felt it necessary to release
the document, particularly since his 2000 document summed up the same
principles. Some analysts suggested it could be a question of internal
church politics, or that it could simply be an indication of Benedict
using his office as pope to again stress key doctrinal issues from his
time at the congregation.