After weeks of speculation and commentary over the Vatican's action on the Latin Mass, media attention has now turned to two documents on Christian unity issued by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The documents, which say that "ecclesial communities originating from the Reformation [i.e. Protestant congregations] are not churches in the proper sense of the word," has drawn criticism from Protestants.
"It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity," said the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
The Church Society, an evangelical Anglican group in the United Kingdom, says it clarifies "the way in which the Vatican has torn apart Christianity because of its lust for power."
Still, everyone agrees that the Vatican is restating its long-held beliefs. In fact, the new document draws heavily upon the wording of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 2000 declaration, Dominus Iesus. At that time, the Vatican's doctrine office was led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Bendedict XVI.
"The Vatican's recent statement on the nature of the church is a step forward, not backward, for Christian unity," Christianity Today said in an editorial about that 2000 document.
Since this new document simply restates the views of Dominus Iesus, we have little need for further comment, but we do encourage you to read what we said then.
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Media coverage of the new statement includes:
Pope, restating 2000 document, cites 'defects' of other faiths | A document released Tuesday prompted anger from Protestants who questioned the Vatican's respect for other beliefs (The New York Times)
Pope: Other Christians not true churches | Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation (Associated Press)
Pope: Protestant faith is 'not a proper Church' | Anglican leaders react with dismay after the Protestant and Orthodox faiths are dismissed as 'defective' in a Vatican document (The Times, London)
Vatican says other Christian churches "wounded" | The Vatican on Tuesday said Christian denominations outside the Roman Catholic Church were not full churches of Jesus Christ (Reuters)
See also Christian History & Biography's 2002 article, "From Swamped Creatures to Separated Brethren | Non-Catholics' spiritual status improved dramatically from Unam Sanctam to Vatican II, but where are we now?"