|The Absoluteness of the Church
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Declaration: "Dominus Iesus"
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". 
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. 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. 
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".  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".  Inter-religious dialogue, which is part of the Church's
evangelizing mission,  requires an attitude of understanding and a
relationship of mutual knowledge and reciprocal enrichment, in obedience
to the truth and with respect for freedom. 
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"; 
- 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.
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".  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
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".  Only the revelation of Jesus
Christ, therefore, "introduces into our history a universal and ultimate
truth which stirs the human mind to ceaseless effort". 
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
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"  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,  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".  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". 
The obedience of faith implies acceptance of the truth of
Christ's revelation, guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself:  "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".  Faith, therefore, as "a gift of God"
and as "a supernatural virtue infused by him",  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". 
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",  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. 
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 all men". 
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.  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".  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'".  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.
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
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".  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 humanity". 
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)". 
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". 
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.
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 faith. 
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"
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".  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 Pet 1:10-12).
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.  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
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
Hence, the connection is clear between the salvific mystery of the
Incarnate Word and that of the Spirit, who actualises 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".  While recognizing the historical-salvific function of the
Spirit in the whole universe and in the entire history of humanity, 
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 things'".
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, actualised with the co-operation 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 Holy Spirit". 
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 Church's faith.
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: 36,42,43).
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". 
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 co-operation which is but a
participation in this one source".  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".  Hence, those solutions that propose a
salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be
contrary to Christian and Catholic faith.
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)". 
The 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).
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".  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. 
The Catholic faithful are required to profess
that there is an historical continuity ... rooted in the apostolic
succession  - 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". 
With the expression subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought
to harmonise 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",  that is, in those Churches and ecclesial communities
which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church.  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
Catholic Church". 
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.  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.
 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. 
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, by Baptism, incorporated
in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the
Church.  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. 
"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".  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".  "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
Catholic Church". 
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". 
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".  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".  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";  she is therefore "the kingdom of Christ already
present in mystery"  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. 
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". 
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. 
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
its fullness". 
In considering the relationship between the kingdom of God, the kingdom
of Christ, and the Church, it is necessary to avoid one-sided
accentuation, 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 'theo-centrically' 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".  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.
The Church and 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".  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",  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.  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";  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".
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".  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"  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 God.
Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and 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".  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.  One cannot attribute to these, however,
a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is
proper to the Christian sacraments.  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.
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).  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'".  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.  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".
 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". 
In inter-religious dialogue as well, the mission ad gentes
"today as always retains its full force and necessity".  "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".  Inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of
her evangelizing mission, is just one of the actions of the Church in her
mission ad gentes.  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,  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 Christ.
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 effective.
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". 
The revelation of Christ will continue to be "the true lodestar" 
in history for all humanity: "The truth, which is Christ, imposes itself
as an all-embracing authority".  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
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 publication.
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
(2) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 1: AAS 83
(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, 22.
(6) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55: AAS 83
(7) Cf. Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and
Proclamation, 9: AAS 84 (1992), 417ff.
(8) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 5: AAS 91 (1999),
(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 Gospel.
(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 (1993), 848.
(60) Cf. First Vatican Council, Constitution Pastor aeternus: DS
3053-3064; Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium,
(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.