An Outline of Evagrian Mysticism CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
ON THE UNICITY AND SALVIFIC UNIVERSALITY
OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE CHURCH
1. The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to
proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations: "Go into the
whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is
baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk
16:15-16); "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore
and teach 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.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Mt 28:18-20; cf.
Lk 24:46-48; Jn 17:18,20,21; Acts 1:8).
The Church's universal mission is born from the command of Jesus Christ and is
fulfilled in the course of the centuries in the proclamation of the mystery of
God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the mystery of the incarnation of the
Son, as saving event for all humanity. The fundamental contents of the
profession of the Christian faith are expressed thus: "I believe in one God, the
Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I
believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of
the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten,
not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us
men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy
Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he
was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the
third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into
heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in
glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I
believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the
Father. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has
spoken through the prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic
Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the
resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come".1
2. In the course of the centuries, the Church has proclaimed and witnessed with
fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus. At the close of the second millennium, however,
this mission is still far from complete.2 For that reason, Saint Paul's words
are now more relevant than ever: "Preaching the Gospel is not a reason for me to
boast; it is a necessity laid on me: woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!"
(1 Cor 9:16). This explains the Magisterium's particular attention to giving
reasons for and supporting the evangelizing mission of the Church, above all in
connection with the religious traditions of the world.3
In considering the values which these religions witness to and offer humanity,
with an open and positive approach, the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on
the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions states: "The Catholic
Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a
high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and teachings,
which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often
reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men".4 Continuing in this line
of thought, the Church's proclamation of Jesus Christ, "the way, the truth, and
the life" (Jn 14:6), today also makes use of the practice of inter-religious
dialogue. Such dialogue certainly does not replace, but rather accompanies the
missio ad gentes, directed toward that "mystery of unity", from which "it
follows that all men and women who are saved share, though differently, in the
same mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ through his Spirit".5 Inter-religious
dialogue, which is part of the Church's evangelizing mission,6 requires an
attitude of understanding and a relationship of mutual knowledge and reciprocal
enrichment, in obedience to the truth and with respect for freedom.7
3. In the practice of dialogue between the Christian faith and other religious
traditions, as well as in seeking to understand its theoretical basis more
deeply, new questions arise that need to be addressed through pursuing new paths
of research, advancing proposals, and suggesting ways of acting that call for
attentive discernment. In this task, the present Declaration seeks to recall to
Bishops, theologians, and all the Catholic faithful, certain indispensable
elements of Christian doctrine, which may help theological reflection in
developing solutions consistent with the contents of the faith and responsive to
the pressing needs of contemporary culture.
The expository language of the Declaration corresponds to its purpose, which is
not to treat in a systematic manner the question of the unicity and salvific
universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church, nor to propose
solutions to questions that are matters of free theological debate, but rather
to set forth again the doctrine of the Catholic faith in these areas, pointing
out some fundamental questions that remain open to further development, and
refuting specific positions that are erroneous or ambiguous. For this reason,
the Declaration takes up what has been taught in previous Magisterial documents,
in order to reiterate certain truths that are part of the Church's faith.
4. The Church's constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by
relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de
facto but also de iure (or in principle). As a consequence, it is held that
certain truths have been superseded; for example, the definitive and complete
character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christian faith as
compared with that of belief in other religions, the inspired nature of the
books of Sacred Scripture, the personal unity between the Eternal Word and Jesus
of Nazareth, the unity of the economy of the Incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit,
the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the
universal salvific mediation of the Church, the inseparability — while
recognizing the distinction — of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and
the Church, and the subsistence of the one Church of Christ in the Catholic
The roots of these problems are to be found in certain presuppositions of both a
philosophical and theological nature, which hinder the understanding and
acceptance of the revealed truth. Some of these can be mentioned: the conviction
of the elusiveness and inexpressibility of divine truth, even by Christian
revelation; relativistic attitudes toward truth itself, according to which 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, by regarding reason as the only source of
knowledge, becomes incapable of raising its "gaze to the heights, not daring to
rise to the truth of being";8 the difficulty in understanding and accepting the
presence of definitive and eschatological events in history; the metaphysical
emptying of the historical incarnation of the Eternal Logos, reduced to a mere
appearing of God in history; the eclecticism of those who, in theological
research, uncritically absorb ideas from a variety of philosophical and
theological 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.
On the basis of such presuppositions, which may evince different nuances,
certain theological proposals are developed — at times presented as assertions,
and at times as hypotheses — in which Christian revelation and the mystery of
Jesus Christ and the Church lose their character of absolute truth and salvific
universality, or at least shadows of doubt and uncertainty are cast upon them.
I. THE FULLNESS AND DEFINITIVENESS
OF THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
5. As a remedy for this relativistic mentality, which is becoming ever more
common, it is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete
character of the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, it must be firmly believed
that, in the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is "the way,
the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), the full revelation of divine truth is
given: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father
except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11:27); "No
one has ever seen God; God the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has
revealed him" (Jn 1:18); "For in Christ the whole fullness of divinity dwells in
bodily form" (Col 2:9-10).
Faithful to God's word, the Second Vatican Council teaches: "By this revelation
then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines forth in
Christ, who is at the same time the mediator and the fullness of all
revelation".9 Furthermore, "Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh, sent
‘as a man to men', ‘speaks the words of God' (Jn 3:34), and completes the work
of salvation which his Father gave him to do (cf. Jn 5:36; 17:4). To see Jesus
is to see his Father (cf. Jn 14:9). For this reason, Jesus perfected revelation
by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and
manifesting himself: through his words and deeds, his signs and wonders, but
especially through his death and glorious resurrection from the dead and finally
with the sending of the Spirit of truth, he completed and perfected revelation
and confirmed it with divine testimony... The Christian dispensation, therefore,
as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and we now await no
further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord
Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Tim 6:14 and Tit 2:13)".10
Thus, the Encyclical Redemptoris missio calls the Church once again to the task
of announcing the Gospel as the fullness of truth: "In this definitive Word of
his revelation, God has made himself known in the fullest possible way. He has
revealed to mankind who he is. This definitive self-revelation of God is the
fundamental reason why the Church is missionary by her very nature. She cannot
do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is, the fullness of the truth which God
has enabled us to know about himself".11 Only the revelation of Jesus Christ,
therefore, "introduces into our history a universal and ultimate truth which
stirs the human mind to ceaseless effort".12
6. Therefore, the theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of
the revelation of Jesus Christ, which would be complementary to that found in
other religions, is contrary to the Church's faith. Such a position would claim
to be based on the notion that the truth about God cannot be grasped and
manifested in its globality and completeness by any historical religion, neither
by Christianity nor by Jesus Christ.
Such a position is in radical contradiction with the foregoing statements of
Catholic faith according to which the full and complete revelation of the
salvific mystery of God is given in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the words, deeds,
and entire historical event of Jesus, though limited as human realities, have
nevertheless the divine Person of the Incarnate Word, "true God and true man"13
as their subject. For this reason, they possess in themselves the definitiveness
and completeness of the revelation of God's salvific ways, even if the depth of
the divine mystery in itself remains transcendent and inexhaustible. The truth
about God is not abolished or reduced because it is spoken in human language;
rather, it is unique, full, and complete, because he who speaks and acts is the
Incarnate Son of God. Thus, faith requires us to profess that the Word made
flesh, in his entire mystery, who moves from incarnation to glorification, is
the source, participated but real, as well as the fulfilment of every salvific
revelation of God to humanity,14 and that the Holy Spirit, who is Christ's
Spirit, will teach this "entire truth" (Jn 16:13) to the Apostles and, through
them, to the whole Church.
7. The proper response to God's revelation is "the obedience of faith (Rom
16:26; cf. Rom 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) by which man freely entrusts his entire self
to God, offering ‘the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals'
and freely assenting to the revelation given by him".15 Faith is a gift of
grace: "in order to have faith, the grace of God must come first and give
assistance; there must also be the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves
the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and gives ‘to
everyone joy and ease in assenting to and believing in the truth'".16
The obedience of faith implies acceptance of the truth of Christ's revelation,
guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself:17 "Faith is first of all a personal
adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent
to the whole truth that God has revealed".18 Faith, therefore, as "a gift of
God" and as "a supernatural virtue infused by him",19 involves a dual adherence:
to God who reveals and to the truth which he reveals, out of the trust which one
has in him who speaks. Thus, "we must believe in no one but God: the Father, the
Son and the Holy Spirit".20
For this reason, the distinction between theological faith and belief in the
other religions, must be firmly held. If faith is the acceptance in grace of
revealed truth, which "makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that
allows us to understand it coherently",21 then belief, in the other religions,
is that sum of experience and thought that constitutes the human treasury of
wisdom and religious aspiration, which man in his search for truth has conceived
and acted upon in his relationship to God and the Absolute.22
This distinction is not always borne in mind in current theological reflection.
Thus, theological faith (the acceptance of the truth revealed by the One and
Triune God) is often identified with belief in other religions, which is
religious experience still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking
assent to God who reveals himself. This is one of the reasons why the
differences between Christianity and the other religions tend to be reduced at
times to the point of disappearance.
8. The hypothesis of the inspired value of the sacred writings of other
religions is also put forward. Certainly, it must be recognized that there are
some elements in these texts which may be de facto instruments by which
countless people throughout the centuries have been and still are able today to
nourish and maintain their life-relationship with God. Thus, as noted above, the
Second Vatican Council, in considering the customs, precepts, and teachings of
the other religions, teaches that "although differing in many ways from her own
teaching, these nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens
The Church's tradition, however, reserves the designation of inspired texts to
the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, since these are inspired by
the Holy Spirit.24 Taking up this tradition, the Dogmatic Constitution on
Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council states: "For Holy Mother Church,
relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the
books of the Old and New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on
the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn
20:31; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21; 3:15-16), they have God as their author, and
have been handed on as such to the Church herself".25 These books "firmly,
faithfully, and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our
salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures".26
Nevertheless, God, who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and to
communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, "does not fail to
make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire
peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main
and essential expression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and
errors'".27 Therefore, the sacred books of other religions, which in actual fact
direct and nourish the existence of their followers, receive from the mystery of
Christ the elements of goodness and grace which they contain.
II. THE INCARNATE LOGOS
AND THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE WORK OF SALVATION
9. In contemporary theological reflection there often emerges an approach to
Jesus of Nazareth that considers him a particular, finite, historical figure,
who reveals the divine not in an exclusive way, but in a way complementary with
other revelatory and salvific figures. The Infinite, the Absolute, the Ultimate
Mystery of God would thus manifest itself to humanity in many ways and in many
historical figures: Jesus of Nazareth would be one of these. More concretely,
for some, Jesus would be one of the many faces which the Logos has assumed in
the course of time to communicate with humanity in a salvific way.
Furthermore, to justify the universality of Christian salvation as well as the
fact of religious pluralism, it has been proposed that there is an economy of
the eternal Word that is valid also outside the Church and is unrelated to her,
in addition to an economy of the incarnate Word. The first would have a greater
universal value than the second, which is limited to Christians, though God's
presence would be more full in the second.
10. These theses are in profound conflict with the Christian faith. The
doctrine of faith must be firmly believed which proclaims that Jesus of
Nazareth, son of Mary, and he alone, is the Son and the Word of the Father. The
Word, which "was in the beginning with God" (Jn 1:2) is the same as he who
"became flesh" (Jn 1:14). In Jesus, "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt
16:16), "the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form" (Col 2:9). He is
the "only begotten Son of the Father, who is in the bosom of the Father" (Jn
1:18), his "beloved Son, in whom we have redemption... In him the fullness of
God was pleased to dwell, and through him, God was pleased to reconcile all
things to himself, on earth and in the heavens, making peace by the blood of his
Cross" (Col 1:13-14; 19-20).
Faithful to Sacred Scripture and refuting erroneous and reductive
interpretations, the First Council of Nicaea solemnly defined its faith in:
"Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten generated from the Father, that
is, from the being of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from
true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father, through whom all
things were made, those in heaven and those on earth. For us men and for our
salvation, he came down and became incarnate, was made man, suffered, and rose
again on the third day. He ascended to the heavens and shall come again to judge
the living and the dead".28 Following the teachings of the Fathers of the
Church, the Council of Chalcedon also professed: "the one and the same Son, our
Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the
same truly God and truly man..., one in being with the Father according to the
divinity and one in being with us according to the humanity..., begotten of the
Father before the ages according to the divinity and, in these last days, for us
and our salvation, of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, according to the
For this reason, the Second Vatican Council states that Christ "the new
Adam...‘image of the invisible God' (Col 1:15) is himself the perfect man who
has restored that likeness to God in the children of Adam which had been
disfigured since the first sin... As an innocent lamb he merited life for us by
his blood which he freely shed. In him God reconciled us to himself and to one
another, freeing us from the bondage of the devil and of sin, so that each one
of us could say with the apostle: the Son of God ‘loved me and gave himself up
for me' (Gal 2:20)".30
In this regard, John Paul II has explicitly declared: "To introduce any sort of
separation between the Word and Jesus Christ is contrary to the Christian
faith... Jesus is the Incarnate Word — a single and indivisible person... Christ
is none other than Jesus of Nazareth; he is the Word of God made man for the
salvation of all... In the process of discovering and appreciating the manifold
gifts — especially the spiritual treasures — that God has bestowed on every
people, we cannot separate those gifts from Jesus Christ, who is at the centre
of God's plan of salvation".31
It is likewise contrary to the Catholic faith to introduce a separation between
the salvific action of the Word as such and that of the Word made man. With the
incarnation, all the salvific actions of the Word of God are always done in
unity with the human nature that he has assumed for the salvation of all people.
The one subject which operates in the two natures, human and divine, is the
single person of the Word.32
Therefore, the theory which would attribute, after the incarnation as well, a
salvific activity to the Logos as such in his divinity, exercised "in addition
to" or "beyond" the humanity of Christ, is not compatible with the Catholic
11. Similarly, the doctrine of faith regarding the unicity of the salvific
economy willed by the One and Triune God must be firmly believed, at the source
and centre of which is the mystery of the incarnation of the Word, mediator of
divine grace on the level of creation and redemption (cf. Col 1:15-20), he who
recapitulates all things (cf. Eph 1:10), he "whom God has made our wisdom, our
righteousness, and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30). In fact, the
mystery of Christ has its own intrinsic unity, which extends from the eternal
choice in God to the parousia: "he [the Father] chose us in Christ before the
foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love" (Eph 1:4);
"In Christ we are heirs, having been destined according to the purpose of him
who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will" (Eph 1:11); "For
those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his
Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers; those whom he
predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and
those whom he justified he also glorified" (Rom 8:29-30).
The Church's Magisterium, faithful to divine revelation, reasserts that Jesus
Christ is the mediator and the universal redeemer: "The Word of God, through
whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save
all men and sum up all things in himself. The Lord...is he whom the Father
raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting him
judge of the living and the dead".34 This salvific mediation implies also the
unicity of the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, eternal high priest (cf. Heb
6:20; 9:11; 10:12-14).
12. There are also those who propose the hypothesis of an economy of the Holy
Spirit with a more universal breadth than that of the Incarnate Word, crucified
and risen. This position also is contrary to the Catholic faith, which, on the
contrary, considers the salvific incarnation of the Word as a trinitarian event.
In the New Testament, the mystery of Jesus, the Incarnate Word, constitutes the
place of the Holy Spirit's presence as well as the principle of the Spirit's
effusion on humanity, not only in messianic times (cf. Acts 2:32-36; Jn 7:39,
20:22; 1 Cor 15:45), but also prior to his coming in history (cf. 1 Cor 10:4; 1
The Second Vatican Council has recalled to the consciousness of the Church's
faith this fundamental truth. In presenting the Father's salvific plan for all
humanity, the Council closely links the mystery of Christ from its very
beginnings with that of the Spirit.35 The entire work of building the Church by
Jesus Christ the Head, in the course of the centuries, is seen as an action
which he does in communion with his Spirit.36
Furthermore, the salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through his Spirit,
extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity. Speaking of
the paschal mystery, in which Christ even now associates the believer to himself
in a living manner in the Spirit and gives him the hope of resurrection, the
Council states: "All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all
men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ
died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny,
which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility
of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery".37
Hence, the connection is clear between the salvific mystery of the Incarnate
Word and that of the Spirit, who actualizes the salvific efficacy of the Son
made man in the lives of all people, called by God to a single goal, both those
who historically preceded the Word made man, and those who live after his coming
in history: the Spirit of the Father, bestowed abundantly by the Son, is the
animator of all (cf. Jn 3:34).
Thus, the recent Magisterium of the Church has firmly and clearly recalled the
truth of a single divine economy: "The Spirit's presence and activity affect not
only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and
religions... The Risen Christ ‘is now at work in human hearts through the
strength of his Spirit'... Again, it is the Spirit who sows the ‘seeds of the
word' present in various customs and cultures, preparing them for full maturity
in Christ".38 While recognizing the historical-salvific function of the Spirit
in the whole universe and in the entire history of humanity,39 the Magisterium
states: "This is the same Spirit who was at work in the incarnation and in the
life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and who is at work in the Church. He is
therefore not an alternative to Christ nor does he fill a sort of void which is
sometimes suggested as existing between Christ and the Logos. Whatever the
Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures
and religions, serves as a preparation for the Gospel and can only be understood
in reference to Christ, the Word who took flesh by the power of the Spirit ‘so
that as perfectly human he would save all human beings and sum up all
In conclusion, the action of the Spirit is not outside or parallel to the action
of Christ. There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God,
realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son
of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its
salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: "No one, therefore,
can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the
III. UNICITY AND UNIVERSALITY
OF THE SALVIFIC MYSTERY OF JESUS CHRIST
13. The thesis which denies the unicity and salvific universality of the
mystery of Jesus Christ is also put forward. Such a position has no biblical
foundation. In fact, the truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord and only
Saviour, who through the event of his incarnation, death and resurrection has
brought the history of salvation to fulfilment, and which has in him its
fullness and centre, must be firmly believed as a constant element of the
The New Testament attests to this fact with clarity: "The Father has sent his
Son as the Saviour of the world" (1 Jn 4:14); "Behold the Lamb of God who takes
away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). In his discourse before the Sanhedrin,
Peter, in order to justify the healing of a man who was crippled from birth,
which was done in the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 3:1-8), proclaims: "There is
salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among
men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). St. Paul adds, moreover, that Jesus
Christ "is Lord of all", "judge of the living and the dead", and thus "whoever
believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:
Paul, addressing himself to the community of Corinth, writes: "Indeed, even
though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as in fact there are
many gods and many lords — yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom
are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom
are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Cor 8:5-6). Furthermore, John the
Apostle states: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that
everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. God did
not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the
world might be saved through him" (Jn 3:16-17). In the New Testament, the
universal salvific will of God is closely connected to the sole mediation of
Christ: "[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and men, the
man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim 2:4-6).
It was in the awareness of the one universal gift of salvation offered by the
Father through Jesus Christ in the Spirit (cf. Eph 1:3-14), that the first
Christians encountered the Jewish people, showing them the fulfilment of
salvation that went beyond the Law and, in the same awareness, they confronted
the pagan world of their time, which aspired to salvation through a plurality of
saviours. This inheritance of faith has been recalled recently by the Church's
Magisterium: "The Church believes that Christ, who died and was raised for the
sake of all (cf. 2 Cor 5:15) can, through his Spirit, give man the light and the
strength to be able to respond to his highest calling, nor is there any other
name under heaven given among men by which they can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12).
The Church likewise believes that the key, the centre, and the purpose of the
whole of man's history is to be found in its Lord and Master".42
14. It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the
universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished
once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the
Son of God.
Bearing in mind this article of faith, theology today, in its reflection on the
existence of other religious experiences and on their meaning in God's salvific
plan, is invited to explore if and in what way the historical figures and
positive elements of these religions may fall within the divine plan of
salvation. In this undertaking, theological research has a vast field of work
under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium. The Second Vatican Council, in
fact, has stated that: "the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude,
but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a participation in
this one source".43 The content of this participated mediation should be
explored more deeply, but must remain always consistent with the principle of
Christ's unique mediation: "Although participated forms of mediation of
different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value
only from Christ's own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or
complementary to his".44 Hence, those solutions that propose a salvific action
of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian and
15. Not infrequently it is proposed that theology should avoid the use of terms
like "unicity", "universality", and "absoluteness", which give the impression of
excessive emphasis on the significance and value of the salvific event of Jesus
Christ in relation to other religions. In reality, however, such language is
simply being faithful to revelation, since it represents a development of the
sources of the faith themselves. From the beginning, the community of believers
has recognized in Jesus a salvific value such that he alone, as Son of God made
man, crucified and risen, by the mission received from the Father and in the
power of the Holy Spirit, bestows revelation (cf. Mt 11:27) and divine life (cf.
Jn 1:12; 5:25-26; 17:2) to all humanity and to every person.
In this sense, one can and must say that Jesus Christ has a significance and a
value for the human race and its history, which are unique and singular, proper
to him alone, exclusive, universal, and absolute. Jesus is, in fact, the Word of
God made man for the salvation of all. In expressing this consciousness of
faith, the Second Vatican Council teaches: "The Word of God, through whom all
things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save all men
and sum up all things in himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the
focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the centre of mankind,
the joy of all hearts, and the fulfilment of all aspirations. It is he whom the
Father raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting
him judge of the living and the dead".45 "It is precisely this uniqueness of
Christ which gives him an absolute and universal significance whereby, while
belonging to history, he remains history's centre and goal: ‘I am the Alpha and
the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end' (Rev 22:13)".46
IV. UNICITY AND UNITY OF THE CHURCH
16. The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community
of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in
the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts
9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ's salvific mystery belongs also to the
Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his
presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf.
Col 1:24-27),47 which is his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27; Col 1:18).48 And
thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are
inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated,
and constitute a single "whole Christ".49 This same inseparability is also
expressed in the New Testament by the analogy of the Church as the Bride of
Christ (cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-29; Rev 21:2,9).50
Therefore, in connection with the unicity and universality of the salvific
mediation of Jesus Christ, the unicity of the Church founded by him must be
firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. Just as there is one Christ, so
there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: "a single
Catholic and apostolic Church".51 Furthermore, the promises of the Lord that he
would not abandon his Church (cf. Mt 16:18; 28:20) and that he would guide her
by his Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) mean, according to Catholic faith, that the unicity
and the unity of the Church — like everything that belongs to the Church's
integrity — will never be lacking.52
The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical
continuity — rooted in the apostolic succession53 — between the Church founded
by Christ and the Catholic Church: "This is the single Church of Christ... which
our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care (cf. Jn
21:17), commissioning him and the other Apostles to extend and rule her (cf. Mt
28:18ff.), erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth' (1 Tim
3:15). This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world,
subsists in [subsistit in] the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of
Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him".54 With the expression
subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought to harmonize two doctrinal
statements: on the one hand, that the Church of Christ, despite the divisions
which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic
Church, and on the other hand, that "outside of her structure, many elements can
be found of sanctification and truth",55 that is, in those Churches and
ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic
Church.56 But with respect to these, it needs to be stated that "they derive
their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the
17. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the
Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in
communion with him.58 The Churches which, while not existing in perfect
communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest
bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true
particular Churches.59 Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative
also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic
Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which,
according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises
over the entire Church.60
On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid
Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery,61
are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these
communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain
communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church.62 Baptism in fact tends per se
toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession
of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.63
"The Christian faithful are therefore not permitted to imagine that the Church
of Christ is nothing more than a collection — divided, yet in some way one — of
Churches and ecclesial communities; nor are they free to hold that today the
Church of Christ nowhere really exists, and must be considered only as a goal
which all Churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach".64 In fact,
"the elements of this already-given Church exist, joined together in their
fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other
communities".65 "Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such,
though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of
significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of
Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive
their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the
The lack of unity among Christians is certainly a wound for the Church; not in
the sense that she is deprived of her unity, but "in that it hinders the
complete fulfilment of her universality in history".67
V. THE CHURCH: KINGDOM OF GOD
AND KINGDOM OF CHRIST
18. 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".68 On the one hand, the Church is "a sacrament — that
is, sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of unity of the entire
human race".69 She is therefore the sign and instrument of the kingdom; she is
called to announce and to establish the kingdom. On the other hand, the Church
is the "people gathered by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy
Spirit";70 she is therefore "the kingdom of Christ already present in mystery"71
and constitutes its seed and beginning. The kingdom of God, in fact, has an
eschatological dimension: it is a reality present in time, but its full
realization will arrive only with the completion or fulfilment of history.72
The meaning of the expressions kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God, and kingdom of
Christ in Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, as well as in the
documents of the Magisterium, is not always exactly the same, nor is their
relationship to the Church, which is a mystery that cannot be totally contained
by a human concept. Therefore, there can be various theological explanations of
these terms. However, none of these possible explanations can deny or empty in
any way the intimate connection between Christ, the kingdom, and the Church. In
fact, the kingdom of God which we know from revelation, "cannot be detached
either from Christ or from the Church... If the kingdom is separated from Jesus,
it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a
distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being
transformed into a purely human or ideological goal and a distortion of the
identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must
one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor 15:27). Likewise, one may not separate the
kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself,
since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God, of which she is the seed, sign
and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the
Church is indissolubly united to both".73
19. To state the inseparable relationship between Christ and the kingdom is not
to overlook the fact that the kingdom of God — even if considered in its
historical phase — is not identified with the Church in her visible and social
reality. In fact, "the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church's
visible boundaries" must not be excluded.74 Therefore, one must also bear in
mind that "the kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society and the
world. Working for the kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God's activity,
which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the kingdom means
working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the kingdom of
God is the manifestation and the realization of God's plan of salvation in all
In considering the relationship between the kingdom of God, the kingdom of
Christ, and the Church, it is necessary to avoid one-sided accentuations, as is
the case with those "conceptions which deliberately emphasize the kingdom and
which describe themselves as ‘kingdom centred.' They stress the image of a
Church which is not concerned about herself, but which is totally concerned with
bearing witness to and serving the kingdom. It is a ‘Church for others,' just as
Christ is the ‘man for others'... Together with positive aspects, these
conceptions often reveal negative aspects as well. First, they are silent about
Christ: the kingdom of which they speak is ‘theocentrically' based, since,
according to them, 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. For the
same reason, they put great stress on the mystery of creation, which is
reflected in the diversity of cultures and beliefs, but they keep silent about
the mystery of redemption. Furthermore, the kingdom, as they understand it, ends
up either leaving very little room for the Church or undervaluing the Church in
reaction to a presumed ‘ecclesiocentrism' of the past and because they consider
the Church herself only a sign, for that matter a sign not without ambiguity".76
These theses are contrary to Catholic faith because they deny the unicity of the
relationship which Christ and the Church have with the kingdom of God.
VI. THE CHURCH AND THE OTHER RELIGIONS
IN RELATION TO SALVATION
20. From what has been stated above, some points follow that are necessary for
theological reflection as it explores the relationship of the Church and the
other religions to salvation.
Above all else, 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. He himself
explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5),
and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men
enter through baptism as through a door".77 This doctrine must not be set
against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); "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".78
The Church is the "universal sacrament of salvation",79 since, united always in
a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him,
she has, in God's plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of
every human being.80 For those who are not formally and visibly 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";81 it has a
relationship with the Church, which "according to the plan of the Father, has
her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit".82
21. With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is
always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship
to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council
limited itself to the statement that God bestows it "in ways known to
himself".83 Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully.
Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding
better God's salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished. However,
from what has been stated above about the mediation of Jesus Christ and the
"unique and special relationship"84 which the Church has with the kingdom of God
among men — which in substance is the universal kingdom of Christ the Saviour —
it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one
way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as
complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these
are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of
Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements
which come from God,85 and which are part of what "the Spirit brings about in
human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions".86
Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of
preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in
which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God.87 One cannot
attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific
efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments.88 Furthermore, it cannot
be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or
other errors (cf. 1 Cor 10:20-21), constitute an obstacle to salvation.89
22. With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church
founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts
17:30-31).90 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'".91 If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive
divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely
deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the
fullness of the means of salvation.92 However, "all the children of the Church
should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from
their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in
thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but
they shall be more severely judged".93 One understands then that, following the
Lord's command (cf. Mt 28:19-20) and as a requirement of her love for all
people, the Church "proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail,
Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). In him, in whom God
reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19), men find the fullness of
their religious life".94
In inter-religious dialogue as well, the mission ad gentes "today as always
retains its full force and necessity".95 "Indeed, God ‘desires all men to be
saved and come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4); that is, God wills
the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found
in the truth. Those who obey the promptings of the Spirit of truth are already
on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted,
must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she
believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary".96
Inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of her evangelizing mission, is
just one of the actions of the Church in her mission ad gentes.97 Equality,
which is a presupposition of inter-religious dialogue, refers to the equal
personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even
less to the position of Jesus Christ — who is God himself made man — in relation
to the founders of the other religions. Indeed, the Church, guided by charity
and respect for freedom,98 must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all
people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the
necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through
Baptism and the other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion
with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, the certainty of the universal
salvific will of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and
urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus
23. The intention of the present Declaration, in reiterating and clarifying
certain truths of the faith, has been to follow the example of the Apostle Paul,
who wrote to the faithful of Corinth: "I handed on to you as of first importance
what I myself received" (1 Cor 15:3). Faced with certain problematic and even
erroneous propositions, theological reflection is called to reconfirm the
Church's faith and to give reasons for her hope in a way that is convincing and
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' (Mt 28: 19-20). Especially in those things that concern God and
his Church, all persons are required to seek the truth, and when they come to
know it, to embrace it and hold fast to it".99
The revelation of Christ will continue to be "the true lodestar" 100 in history
for all humanity: "The truth, which is Christ, imposes itself as an
all-embracing authority". 101 The Christian mystery, in fact, overcomes all
barriers of time and space, and accomplishes the unity of the human family:
"From their different locations and traditions all are called in Christ to share
in the unity of the family of God's children... Jesus destroys the walls of
division and creates unity in a new and unsurpassed way through our sharing in
his mystery. This unity is so deep that the Church can say with Saint Paul: ‘You
are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are saints and members of the
household of God' (Eph 2:19)". 102
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience of June 16, 2000, granted to
the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, with sure knowledge and by his apostolic authority, ratified and
confirmed this Declaration, adopted in Plenary Session and ordered its
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, August
6, 2000, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli
(1) First Council of Constantinople, Symbolum Constantinopolitanum: DS 150.
(2) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 1: AAS 83 (1991),
(3) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes and Declaration Nostra aetate;
cf. also Paul VI Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi: AAS 68 (1976), 5-76;
John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio.
(4) Second Vatican Council, Declaration Nostra aetate, 2.
(5) Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the Congregation for the
Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 29: AAS 84
(1992), 424; cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes,
(6) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55: AAS 83 (1991),
(7) Cf. Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the Congregation for
the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 9: AAS 84
(8) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 5: AAS 91 (1999), 5-88.
(9) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, 2.
(10) Ibid., 4.
(11) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 5.
(12) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 14.
(13) Council of Chalcedon, Symbolum Chalcedonense: DS 301; cf. St. Athanasius,
De Incarnatione, 54, 3: SC 199, 458.
(14) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, 4.
(15) Ibid., 5.
(17) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 144.
(18) Ibid., 150.
(19) Ibid., 153.
(20) Ibid., 178.
(21) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 13.
(22) Cf. ibid., 31-32.
(23) Second Vatican Council, Declaration Nostra aetate, 2; cf. Second Vatican
Council, Decree Ad gentes, 9, where it speaks of the elements of good present
"in the particular customs and cultures of peoples"; Dogmatic Constitution Lumen
gentium, 16, where it mentions the elements of good and of truth present among
non-Christians, which can be considered a preparation for the reception of the
(24) Cf. Council of Trent, Decretum de libris sacris et de traditionibus
recipiendis: DS 1501; First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius,
cap. 2: DS 3006.
(25) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, 11.
(27) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55; cf. 56 and Paul VI,
Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 53.
(28) First Council of Nicaea, Symbolum Nicaenum: DS 125.
(29) Council of Chalcedon, Symbolum Chalcedonense: DS 301.
(30) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 22.
(31) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 6.
(32) Cf. St. Leo the Great, Tomus ad Flavianum: DS 294.
(33) Cf. St. Leo the Great, Letter to the Emperor Leo I Promisisse me memini: DS
318: "...in tantam unitatem ab ipso conceptu Virginis deitate et humanitate
conserta, ut nec sine homine divina, nec sine Deo agerentur humana". Cf. also
ibid. DS 317.
(34) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 45; cf. also
Council of Trent, Decretum de peccato originali, 3: DS 1513.
(35) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 3-4.
(36) Cf. ibid., 7; cf. St. Irenaeus, who wrote that it is in the Church "that
communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit"
(Adversus haereses III, 24, 1: SC 211, 472).
(37) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 22.
(38) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 28. For the "seeds of
the Word" cf. also St. Justin Martyr, Second Apology 8, 1-2; 10, 1-3; 13, 3-6:
ed. E.J. Goodspeed, 84; 85; 88-89.
(39) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris missio, 28-29.
(40) Ibid., 29.
(41) Ibid., 5.
(42) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 10. Cf. St.
Augustine, who wrote that Christ is the way, which "has never been lacking to
mankind... and apart from this way no one has been set free, no one is being set
free, no one will be set free" De civitate Dei 10, 32, 2: CCSL 47, 312.
(43) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 62.
(44) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 5.
(45) Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 45. The
necessary and absolute singularity of Christ in human history is well expressed
by St. Irenaeus in contemplating the preeminence of Jesus as firstborn Son: "In
the heavens, as firstborn of the Father's counsel, the perfect Word governs and
legislates all things; on the earth, as firstborn of the Virgin, a man just and
holy, reverencing God and pleasing to God, good and perfect in every way, he
saves from hell all those who follow him since he is the firstborn from the dead
and Author of the life of God" (Demonstratio apostolica, 39: SC 406, 138).
(46) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 6.
(47) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 14.
(48) Cf. ibid., 7.
(49) Cf. St. Augustine, Enarratio in Psalmos, Ps. 90, Sermo 2,1: CCSL 39, 1266;
St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Iob, Praefatio, 6, 14: PL 75, 525; St. Thomas
Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 48, a. 2 ad 1.
(50) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 6.
(51) Symbolum maius Ecclesiae Armeniacae: DS 48. Cf. Boniface VIII, Unam
sanctam: DS 870-872; Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen
(52) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 4; John Paul II,
Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 11: AAS 87 (1995), 927.
(53) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 20; cf.
also St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, III, 3, 1-3: SC 211, 20-44; St. Cyprian,
Epist. 33, 1: CCSL 3B, 164-165; St. Augustine, Contra adver. legis et prophet.,
1, 20, 39: CCSL 49, 70.
(54) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.
(55) Ibid.; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 13. Cf. also
Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 15 and the Decree
Unitatis redintegratio, 3.
(56) The interpretation of those who would derive from the formula subsistit in
the thesis that the one Church of Christ could subsist also in non-Catholic
Churches and ecclesial communities is therefore contrary to the authentic
meaning of Lumen gentium. "The Council instead chose the word subsistit
precisely to clarify that there exists only one ‘subsistence' of the true
Church, while outside her visible structure there only exist elementa Ecclesiae,
which — being elements of that same Church — tend and lead toward the Catholic
Church" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notification on the Book
"Church: Charism and Power" by Father Leonardo Boff: AAS 77 , 756-762).
(57) Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.
(58) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium
Ecclesiae, 1: AAS 65 (1973), 396-398.
(59) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14 and 15;
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 17: AAS 85
(60) Cf. First Vatican Council, Constitution Pastor aeternus: DS 3053-3064;
Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 22.
(61) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 22.
(62) Cf. ibid., 3.
(63) Cf. ibid., 22.
(64) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium
(65) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 14.
(66) Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.
(67) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 17;
cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 4.
(68) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 5.
(69) Ibid., 1.
(70) Ibid., 4. Cf. St. Cyprian, De Dominica oratione 23: CCSL 3A, 105.
(71) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 3.
(72) Cf. ibid., 9; cf. also the prayer addressed to God found in the Didache
9,4: SC 248, 176: "May the Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into
your kingdom" and ibid. 10, 5: SC 248, 180: "Remember, Lord, your Church... and,
made holy, gather her together from the four winds into your kingdom which you
have prepared for her".
(73) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 18; cf. Apostolic
Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, 17: L'Osservatore Romano (November 7, 1999). The
kingdom is so inseparable from Christ that, in a certain sense, it is identified
with him (cf. Origen, In Mt. Hom., 14, 7: PG 13, 1197; Tertullian, Adversus
Marcionem, IV, 33,8: CCSL 1, 634.
(74) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 18.
(75) Ibid., 15.
(76) Ibid., 17.
(77) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 14; cf. Decree
Ad gentes, 7; Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.
(78) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 9; cf. Catechism of the
Catholic Church, 846-847.
(79) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 48.
(80) Cf. St. Cyprian, De catholicae ecclesiae unitate, 6: CCSL 3, 253-254; St.
Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, III, 24, 1: SC 211, 472-474.
(81) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 10.
(82) Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes, 2. The famous formula extra
Ecclesiam nullus omnino salvatur is to be interpreted in this sense (cf. Fourth
Lateran Council, Cap. 1. De fide catholica: DS 802). Cf. also the Letter of the
Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: DS 3866-3872.
(83) Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes, 7.
(84) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 18.
(85) These are the seeds of the divine Word (semina Verbi), which the Church
recognizes with joy and respect (cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes,
11; Declaration Nostra aetate, 2).
(86) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 29.
(87) Cf. ibid.; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 843.
(88) Cf. Council of Trent, Decretum de sacramentis, can. 8, de sacramentis in
genere: DS 1608.
(89) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55.
(90) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 17; John
Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 11.
(91) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 36.
(92) Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mystici corporis: DS 3821.
(93) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 14.
(94) Second Vatican Council, Declaration Nostra aetate, 2.
(95) Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes, 7.
(96) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 851; cf. also 849-856.
(97) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55; Apostolic
Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, 31.
(98) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Declaration Dignitatis humanae, 1.
(100) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 15.
(101) Ibid., 92.
(102) Ibid., 70.