This week as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) holds a plenary session at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI received its members in an audience to reaffirm the beliefs that the Catholic Church is the “one and only Church of Christ” and that no one is exempt from the need to evangelize.
The Pope recalled how last year the congregation published “two important documents presenting ... certain clarifications necessary for the correct functioning of ecumenical dialogue, and of dialogue with the religions and cultures of the world.”
Pope Benedict first spoke about the document titled, “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church”, which reiterated the constant teaching of the Church on salvation.
He recalled the teaching which says, “the one and only Church of Christ has subsistence, permanence and stability in the Catholic Church and, consequently, that the unity, indivisibility and indestructibility of the Church of Christ is not invalidated by separations and divisions among Christians.”
This understanding of what the Church is differs markedly from other Christian churches’ concepts of ‘Church’. The Holy Father noted this difference and then said, “This, far from impeding true ecumenical commitment, will be a stimulus to ensuring that discussion of doctrinal questions is always carried out with realism, and with complete awareness of the aspects that still divide Christian confessions,” he said.
The Pope then moved on to the other document published by the congregation last year, the “Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelization”, issued in December.
“Faced with the risk of persistent religious and cultural relativism,” he said, this document “stresses that the Church, in a time of dialogue between religions and cultures, is not dispensed from the need to evangelize and undertake missionary activity among peoples, nor does she cease asking mankind to accept the salvation that is offered to everyone.
“The recognition of elements of truth and goodness in other religions of the world, ... collaboration with them in the defense and promotion of the dignity of the human person and of universal moral values, cannot be understood as a limitation to the Church's missionary task, which involves her in the constant announcement of Christ as the way, the truth and the life,” the Pope explained.