>Pope Declares: Other Christians Are Not the True Church

>Pope Benedict XVI has declared in a document issued by the Vatican, that other Christians communities are not the true church. According to the Pope, Christ established only one church, the Catholic Church. The Pope said that Orthodox churches are “defective” and that Protestants and other Christian denominations are “not true churches but merely ecclesial communities” and for this reason, they do not have the “means of salvation.”

Below is the news release published by the Associated Press:

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.

The whole issue for the Catholic church is the issue of “apostolic succession.” If a church is unable to “trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles,” then that church cannot be considered a true church. The fact is, that it is only through some manipulation of historical facts that the Catholic church can trace itself back to Peter.

The Pope said that the Catholic church is still “committed to ecumenical dialogue.” But ecumenical dialogue must be under the Pope’s terms: “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.”

To the Pope and to the Catholic church, the Protestant and other Christian “ecclesial communities” reinterate Luther’s words:

“Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

And then, those words that made Luther famous, if he indeed spoke them:

“Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me, Amen!”

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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16 Responses to >Pope Declares: Other Christians Are Not the True Church

  1. Anonymous says:

    >Professor are you Baptist or are you Lutheran?

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  2. >Dear Friend,I am a Baptist but on this issue, the words of Martin Luther speak for all of us. Remember, if it were not for Luther and the Protestant Reformation, probably Baptists would not be here today.Claude Mariottini

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  3. Anonymous says:

    >I used to be a Catholic but for obvious reasons I am not anymore.I refuse to go back to the days of the “Holy Roman Empire” and the Latin Masses newly sanctioned is a direct affront to Pope John 23rd.How absolutely arrogant for any faith to say “we are the one true faith.” One only has to look at the incredible persecutions, political corruption, pograms on the Jews,the Inquistions, etc., to absolutely dismiss this claim by a Church based on myth, bizzare interpretation of “divine inspiration” and a total self serving agenda to its long-time conservative clergy.Dream on Rome, while the rest of the world deals with life as it really occurs.

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  4. >Dear Friend,I understand your sentiments perfectly. I know many former Catholics who think the way you do. We believe that salvation is in Christ, not in the church. This is what the New Testament teaches.Claude Mariottini

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  5. vynette says:

    >Papal Primacy proceeds from the following three claims for Apostolic Succession, all of which are demonstrably false:(1)Peter was the first to preach the gospel in Rome;(2)Peter founded the Roman Church;(3) As a result of his residence in Rome, Peter passed on his primacy to his successors the Popes, as Bishops of Rome.Amongst the “Fathers of the Church” the Greeks far outnumber the Latins, and antedate them considerably. The only intellectual leaders of any consequence in the Roman Church up to 400 CE –Hippolytus and Novatian – were both anti-popes. The true fathers of Latin Christendom came from Carthage, not Rome. Far from Rome being the “mother church” she was herself the offspring of the mating of the Greek fathers with the Carthaginian form of Latin Christianity.The Roman Church may lay claim to have had a continual line of “popes,” but the indisputable testimony of history is that in the formative phases of Christianity (50-350 CE) there is not a single Roman Father.As regarding the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, all ecumenical Councils before 900 AD were held in the Greek East and all were convened by the Emperor from Constantinople. At these Councils, where the ‘Nature of God’ was defined and determined for all generations, Latin bishops were numerically insignificant and made an insignificant contribution. For example, out of a total attendance of 318 at the Council of Nicea, the Latins could boast of only 7 representatives.No prelate, priest or church in the East ever entertained any Roman claim to pre-dominance, and it was rejected by every bishop in the West until the “barbarians” destroyed the empire and Rome alone could maintain a bishop of any importance.

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  6. Matt says:

    >”Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come (the return of Christ), except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”Along with many other references it can be easily proved that the early apostles knew that Christianity would become corrupted and be replaced by an apostasy headed by one who would sit as if he were God at its head.The churches history is steeped in un-christ-like behaviour and is forever changing its doctrines (take the recent limbo example).Yes the church can trace its steps back, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t changed and corrupted itself along the way. A true Christian (follower of Christ – not the church or the Pope) forgets institution, tradition and man made falsehoods and opens his Bible. That is the only source of Gods word and purpose. If approached with an open mind you will find many of the churches doctrines (and therefore many of the groups who have split off from the catholic church but maintained these key catholic doctrines), to be false.I submit that the church’s claim to be able to trace its origin is irrelevant. As the apostle Paul said to Timothy:”and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The church has nothing to do with it and its history actually proves that it has changed and twisted its “Christianity” so that it is so far away from the original beliefs of the early Christians as to be unrecognisable.Further reading for those who would like to know more:Do you agree with early Christian Teaching?Only TrueGod

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  7. >Fortunately, we aren’t saved by church, doctrine, or set of beliefs, but by the blood of Christ. So we are still free to worship in the manner and style that suits each of us, protestant, Catholic, subdued, liturgical, holy roller, quiet, loud, modern music, ancient music, etc.Praise God!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    >why should anyone follow a the Catholic church when it calls men Father. The is what Jesus said don’t do. In Matthew 23:9 jesus says, And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. We have only one spiritual father who is God. Anyone who takes his place has the spirit of antichrist. Any time men lift themseleves up to do only what God can do, like forgive sins, they have the spirit of antichrist. If any church goes aganst the words of Christ they have the spirit of antichrist.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    >Matt,2 Thessalonians 2:15 “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter. “

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  10. Anonymous says:

    >The Roman Catholic Church – if it were the true church, they wouldn’t be pedofiles, money-hungry, nor would they hide the truth from the world (re: unrevealed scriptures that they modify & provide us with falsities). With the money they have, they could feed the world, put an end to suffering. If they are so close to God, their prayers could bring peace to the world.With a Nazi as our Pope, how can they proclaim such a thing? Jesus came here to purify the Jewish religion & the Roman Catholic Church pillaged and murdered people of other beliefs in order to be the “world order” religion. Jesus wouldn’t murder or FORCE people to believe in the true Word of God. Remember, “the meek shall inherit the earth.”

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  11. Anonymous says:

    >Your ignorant nonsense is exceeded only by your ignorant nonsense!

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  12. >My Anonymous friend,Thank you for your comment.This ignorant nonsense that you talk about is not ignorance and it is not nonsense. If you read an unbiased history of the church, you will discover that there is much truth to what I have written.Claude Mariottini

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  13. Matt says:

    >@ P.S. an after thought Clever name – I hope you didn’t add that to make out that it was me speaking!Didn’t you read what THE BIBLE SAYS in my comment: “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”Listen to this:”But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of DOCTRINE which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness… But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”Romans 6″Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the DOCTRINE of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the DOCTRINE of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”1 John 1I can quote more but DOCTRINE is very important. Yes we are saved through Christ’s sacrifice but there are other requirements as these verses demonstrate. How can we obey Christs commands if we are unaware of them and just think that “Fortunately, we aren’t saved by church, doctrine, or set of beliefs, but by the blood of Christ”. All of these things have to be thought about and adhered to if we are to find mercy when Jesus returns to the earth…”If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15

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  14. >Matt,Thank you for your comment. Let me make two corrections to your statement. First, the quote listed as 1 John 1 is in reality 2 John 1:9-10. Second, the word the King James translates as “doctrine” in English, in Greek it means “teaching.”No one denies that the true believers in Christ are those who also obey his teachings. I also agree that there have been many deviations from the true teachings of Christ and the apostles. The history of Christianity gives evidence that many people developed their own personal interpretation of the text and that these interpretations have corrupted the true teachings of the Bible.The web page that you listed in your previous comment is related to the teachings of the Christadelphians (the followers of John Thomas). Many Christians believe that Christadelphians is a Christian cult that deviates from orthodox Christianity.Claude Mariottini

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  15. Zena says:

    >I am a Greek Orthodox and our truefaith ( as you know Katholikos is a Greek Word meaning Universal( inteneted to include all peoples of the world ) The original Septuagiant Bible also stated in many place that there is no Jew or Greek among you as we are to be one in Christ and follow God and Christ and the teachings Christianity be being baptized when we are become ( born from above) I get my faith from the Bible and The Bible Teachings and Doctrine where all should. I did not find any mention of anytype of Limbo or Purgatory there neither. If the Roman Catholics find these teachings there, it is because, they were added to the original Biblical content by the RCThank youand there is no Limbo or Purgatory in the Bible ( unless RCs put it there in their own translationThank youWe are All in ChristZena Ezechiels

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  16. >Zena,Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comments.I agree with you that the Roman Catholic Church has added the doctrine of limbo and purgatory to their list of doctrines. However, did you know that the Pope has declared that the doctrine of limbo would no longer be a doctrine of the Catholic Church? Click here and read my article on Limbo.In Christ we are one people. If a person truly believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior, then we are following the true teachings of the Apostles.Claude Mariottini

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