PRESENTATION OF DECLARATION "DOMINUS
| VATICAN CITY, SEP 5, 2000 (VIS) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's
"Declaration 'Dominus Iesus' on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church"
was made public today in the Holy See Press Office.
The 36-page document was published in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian,
Polish and Latin. It bears the signatures of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio
Bertone S.D.B., respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith.
It comprises an introduction, six sections and a conclusion.
Extracts from a synthesis of the document are given below:
"In the lively contemporary debate on the relationship between Christianity and the other religions,
some Catholic theologians have argued that all religions may be equally valid ways of salvation."
"Such theories are based on philosophical and theological presuppositions which have become quite
common. The Declaration highlights some of these; for example, the conviction of the total
elusiveness and inexpressibility of divine truth, even by Christian revelation; relativistic attitudes
toward truth itself, which would hold that 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 regards reason as the only source of knowledge; the metaphysical
emptying of the mystery of the incarnation; the eclecticism of those who, in theological research,
uncritically absorb ideas from a variety of philosophical and religious 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."
"The International Theological Commission published a document in 1997 entitled 'Christianity and
the World Religions,' which illustrated ... the lack of foundation of pluralistic theologies of religions,
and which reasserted the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Christ and the Church, as
the source of all salvation both inside and outside Christianity. Given, however, the rapid spread of
the relativistic and pluralistic mentality, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has intervened
with the present Declaration in order to set forth and clarify certain truths of the faith."
"The Declaration is structured in six sections, which summarize the essential elements of the doctrine
of the Catholic faith on the meaning and salvific value of the other religions."
"I. The fullness and definitiveness of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
"Against the theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus
Christ, ... the Declaration reiterates the teaching of the Catholic faith regarding the full and complete
revelation of the salvific mystery of God in Jesus Christ. ... Consequently, while admitting that other
religions not infrequently reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men, the Declaration reaffirms
that the designation of 'inspired texts' is reserved for the canonical books of the Old and New
Testaments, because these are inspired by the Holy Spirit, have God as their author, and teach
firmly, faithfully, and without error the truth about God and human salvation. The Declaration also
states that the distinction must be firmly held between 'theological faith, which is adherence to the
truth revealed by the One and Triune God, and 'belief' in the other religions, which is religious
experience still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking assent to God who reveals himself."
"II. The Incarnate Logos and the Holy Spirit in the work of salvation.
"Against the thesis of a twofold salvific economy, that of the eternal Word, which would be universal
and valid also outside the Church, and that of the incarnate Word, which would be limited to
Christians, the Declaration reasserts the unicity of the of the salvific economy of the one incarnate
Word, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father. ... Indeed, the mystery of Christ has its
own intrinsic unity, which extends from the eternal choice in God to the 'parousia:' ... Jesus is the
mediator and the universal redeemer. Thus, the theory of a salvific economy of the Holy Spirit with a
more universal character than that of the incarnate Word, crucified and risen, is erroneous. The Holy
Spirit is the Spirit of the risen Christ, and his action cannot be placed outside or alongside that of
"III. The Unicity and universality of the salvific mystery of Jesus Christ.
"The Declaration reasserts the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ. ... At
the same time, however, Christ's unique mediation does not exclude participated forms of mediation
of various types and degrees; these, however, receive meaning and value only from that of Christ
and cannot be understood as parallel or complementary."
"IV. Unicity and unity of the Church.
"The Lord Jesus continues His presence and His work of salvation in the Church and by means of
the Church, which is His body. ... Therefore, ... the unicity of the Church founded by Him must be
firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is
an historical continuity between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church. ... With
regard to the 'many elements of sanctification and truth' which exist outside the structure of the
Church, that is to say, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full
communion with the Catholic Church, it must be stated that 'they derive their efficacy from the very
fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.'
"Those Churches which do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome
remain united to the Catholic Church by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession
and a valid Eucharist. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these
Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic 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 in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Catholic
"V. The Church: kingdom of God and kingdom of Christ.
"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 the 'sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the entire human
race.' ... On the other hand, the Church is the 'people gathered by the unity of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.' ... There can be various theological explanations of these questions. However,
the intimate connection between Christ, the kingdom, and the Church cannot be denied or emptied
in any way."
"However, the kingdom of God is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality.
Indeed, 'the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church's visible boundaries' must not be
excluded. In considering the relationship between the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and
the Church, it is necessary to avoid one-sided emphases, as is the case of those who, in speaking
about the kingdom of God, are silent about Christ, or put great stress on the mystery of creation,
but remain silent about the mystery of redemption, because C they say C 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."
"VI. The Church and the other religions in relation to salvation.
"Above all, 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.' This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God; rather,
'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.' For those who are not formally
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'."
"Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements that are part of what
'the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions.' One
cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an 'ex opere operato' salvific efficacy, which is
proper to the Christian sacraments. ... With the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, God has willed
that the Church founded by Him be the instrument of salvation for all humanity. 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'."
"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'."