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- September 7, 2000
VW's Response to this archive


VATICAN CITY, SEP 5, 2000 (VIS) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church" was made public today in the Holy See Press Office.

The 36-page document was published in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish and Latin. It bears the signatures of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith. It comprises an introduction, six sections and a conclusion.

Extracts from a synthesis of the document are given below:

"In the lively contemporary debate on the relationship between Christianity and the other religions, some Catholic theologians have argued that all religions may be equally valid ways of salvation."

"Such theories are based on philosophical and theological presuppositions which have become quite common. The Declaration highlights some of these; for example, the conviction of the total elusiveness and inexpressibility of divine truth, even by Christian revelation; relativistic attitudes toward truth itself, which would hold that what is true for some would not be true for others; the radical opposition posited between the logical mentality of the West and the symbolic mentality of the East; the subjectivism which regards reason as the only source of knowledge; the metaphysical emptying of the mystery of the incarnation; the eclecticism of those who, in theological research, uncritically absorb ideas from a variety of philosophical and religious contexts without regard for consistency, systematic connection, or compatibility with Christian truth; finally, the tendency to read and to interpret Sacred Scripture outside the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church."

"The International Theological Commission published a document in 1997 entitled 'Christianity and the World Religions,' which illustrated ... the lack of foundation of pluralistic theologies of religions, and which reasserted the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Christ and the Church, as the source of all salvation both inside and outside Christianity. Given, however, the rapid spread of the relativistic and pluralistic mentality, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has intervened with the present Declaration in order to set forth and clarify certain truths of the faith."

"The Declaration is structured in six sections, which summarize the essential elements of the doctrine of the Catholic faith on the meaning and salvific value of the other religions."

"I. The fullness and definitiveness of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    "Against the theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, ... the Declaration reiterates the teaching of the Catholic faith regarding the full and complete revelation of the salvific mystery of God in Jesus Christ. ... Consequently, while admitting that other religions not infrequently reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men, the Declaration reaffirms that the designation of 'inspired texts' is reserved for the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, because these are inspired by the Holy Spirit, have God as their author, and teach firmly, faithfully, and without error the truth about God and human salvation. The Declaration also states that the distinction must be firmly held between 'theological faith, which is adherence to the truth revealed by the One and Triune God, and 'belief' in the other religions, which is religious experience still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking assent to God who reveals himself."
"II. The Incarnate Logos and the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation.
    "Against the thesis of a twofold salvific economy, that of the eternal Word, which would be universal and valid also outside the Church, and that of the incarnate Word, which would be limited to Christians, the Declaration reasserts the unicity of the of the salvific economy of the one incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father. -- Indeed, the mystery of Christ has its own intrinsic unity, which extends from the eternal choice in God to the 'parousia:' -- Jesus is the mediator and the universal redeemer. Thus, the theory of a salvific economy of the Holy Spirit with a more universal character than that of the incarnate Word, crucified and risen, is erroneous. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the risen Christ, and his action cannot be placed outside or alongside that of Christ."
"III. The Unicity and universality of the salvific mystery of Jesus Christ.
    "The Declaration reasserts the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ. ... At the same time, however, Christ's unique mediation does not exclude participated forms of mediation of various types and degrees; these, however, receive meaning and value only from that of Christ and cannot be understood as parallel or complementary."
"IV. Unicity and unity of the Church.
    "The Lord Jesus continues His presence and His work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church, which is His body. ... Therefore, ... the unicity of the Church founded by Him must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuity between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church. ... With regard to the 'many elements of sanctification and truth' which exist outside the structure of the Church, that is to say, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church, it must be stated that 'they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.'

    "Those Churches which do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome remain united to the Catholic Church by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church. On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Catholic Church."

"V. The Church: kingdom of God and kingdom of Christ.
    "The mission of the Church is 'to proclaim and establish among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is, on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom.' On the one hand, the Church is the 'sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the entire human race.' ... On the other hand, the Church is the 'people gathered by the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.' ... There can be various theological explanations of these questions. However, the intimate connection between Christ, the kingdom, and the Church cannot be denied or emptied in any way."

    "However, the kingdom of God is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality. Indeed, 'the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church's visible boundaries' must not be excluded. In considering the relationship between the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the Church, it is necessary to avoid one-sided emphases, as is the case of those who, in speaking about the kingdom of God, are silent about Christ, or put great stress on the mystery of creation, but remain silent about the mystery of redemption, because they say Christ cannot be understood by those who lack Christian faith, whereas different peoples, cultures and religions are capable of finding common ground in the one divine reality, by whatever name it is called."

"VI. The Church and the other religions in relation to salvation.
    "Above all, it must be firmly believed that 'the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; He is present to us in His body which is the Church.' This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God; rather, 'it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation.' For those who are not formally members of the Church, 'salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of His sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit'."

    "Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements that are part of what 'the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions.' One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an 'ex opere operato' salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments. ... With the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by Him be the instrument of salvation for all humanity. This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism 'characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that 'one religion is as good as another'."


"In treating the question of the true religion, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught: 'We believe that this one true religion continues to exist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus entrusted the task of spreading it among all people. Thus, He said to the Apostles: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you'."




VATICAN CITY, SEP 5, 2000 (VIS) - The document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," was presented this morning in the Holy See Press Office.

Taking part in the press conference were Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., Msgr. Fernando Ocariz and Fr. Angelo Amato S.D.B., respectively prefect, secretary and consultors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cardinal Ratzinger stated that "a number of more moderate theologians profess that Christ is true God and true man but hold that, due to the limits of Jesus' human nature, the revelation of God in Him cannot be held to be complete and definitive; rather, it must always be considered in the light of other possible revelations of God, expressed through the religious geniuses of humanity and the founders of the world's religions. Thus, objectively speaking, the erroneous idea is introduced that the world's religions are complementary to Christian revelation."

Speaking of relativism and its consequences, Cardinal Ratzinger said that the fact that it is presented as "the true philosophy of humanity, capable of guaranteeing tolerance and democracy, leads to the further marginalization of those who are determined to defend Christian identity and its claim to spread the universal and salvific truth of the revelation of Jesus Christ."

He continued, affirming that today the "principle of tolerance and respect for liberty is manipulated and unduly exceeded when it extends to an appreciation of contents, almost as if all the contents of the various religions as well as of non-religious concepts of life, could be placed on the same level; and as if universal and objective truth no longer existed since God or the Absolute would reveal Himself under numerous names, and all the names would be true. This false idea of tolerance is connected with the loss and rejection of the problem of the truth that, indeed, is felt to be irrelevant or of secondary importance by many people today."

Cardinal Ratzinger then recalled John Paul II's teaching in the encyclical "'Redemptoris Missio:' What the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions, serves as a preparation for the Gospel." On this subject, he highlighted that "'preparation for the Gospel' must be considered not as what is to be found in religions but only 'what the Spirit brings about' therein. From this, a most important consequence arises: the path to salvation is the good present in religions - as the work of Christ's Spirit - it is not the religions in themselves."

"Esteem and respect towards the world's religions, and towards cultures that have objectively enriched the promotion of human dignity and the development of civilization, does not diminish the originality and unicity of Jesus Christ's revelation nor does it in any way limit the Church's missionary task."

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone then explained the nature of the document. The term "declaration" indicates that the document "does not teach new doctrines ... rather, it reaffirms and summarizes the doctrine of Catholic faith defined and taught in earlier documents on the Church's Magisterium; and it indicates the correct interpretation thereof in the face of doctrinal errors and ambiguities that have become widespread in modern theological and ecclesial circles."

The archbishop continued: "Given that this is a doctrinal document of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, expressly approved by the Supreme Pontiff, it has the status of universal Magisterium." The ratification formula that appears at the end of the document "is of exceptional and elevated authority: 'certa scienta et apostolica Sua auctoritate.' This reflects the importance and essentiality of the doctrine presented in the declaration: What it contains are truths of divine and Catholic faith or truths of Catholic doctrine that must be firmly held. ... Consequently, the assent required from the faithful is definitive and irrevocable."

The secretary of the congregation highlighted that, "if a doctrine is taught as definitive, and consequently unchangeable, this presupposes that it is taught by the Magisterium with an infallible act, though of a particular type."

Fr. Angelo Amato commented on the distinctions the declaration makes between "theological faith and belief." The former, he said, is a "theological virtue that implies free and personal assent to all the truths revealed by God." Belief, on the other hand, exists "without assent to God who reveals."

On the subject of the unity of the salvific economy of the Word, the document considers three erroneous theses: The first of these "regards Jesus of Nazareth as one of many historic-salvific incarnations of the eternal Word. ... In opposition to this idea, the unity between the eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth is highlighted." The second erroneous idea "supposes a double salvific economy, that of the eternal Word as distinct from that of the Incarnate Word. ... The declaration rejects this distinction and reaffirms the Church's faith in the unicity of the salvific economy willed by the One and Triune God." The third erroneous idea "separates the economy of the Holy Spirit from that of the Incarnate Word. ... The declaration also rejects this hypothesis as being contrary the Catholic faith."

Msgr. Fernando Ocariz spoke of the ecclesiological consequences of the doctrine contained in the first three chapters.

"Only in the Catholic Church," he affirmed, "does Christ's Church subsist in all her fullness. Nonetheless, outside the Catholic Church 'elements of truth and sanctification' exist that are of the Church. ... Consequently, there exists only one Church (which subsists in the Catholic Church) and at the same time there exist true particular Churches that are non-Catholic."

"We must believe that all salvation - even of non-Christians - comes from Christ through the Church, but we do not know how this comes about in the case of non-Christians."

"'Dominus Iesus'," he concluded, "rejects an interpretation that today is very widespread - but contrary to the Catholic faith - according to which all religions, in as much as they are religions, of themselves are ways to salvation together with Christianity." He recalled that "other religions 'offer religious elements which come from God, and which are part of what the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions'."

At the end of the press conference, a journalist asked if the document did not constitute an impediment to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. Fr. Angelo Amato replied that, as regards ecumenism, the document does not say anything new but recalls and reiterates Vatican Council II's opinion on the matter. As for inter-religious dialogue, the document proposes a path towards harmony, peace and respect and in no way constitutes an interruption in that dialogue.

Another journalist asked if, in preparing the document, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had consulted Asian bishops, as the text makes reference to the influence of Oriental religions on the salvific nature of the Church. Archbishop Bertone replied that the declaration had been drawn up in consultation with Asian episcopal conferences and that there had been various meetings with Indian bishops.


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