WHAT is the Pope up to? Just when we were all beginning to think that he was living down his reputation as an enforcer of strict Catholic dogma and had inherited some of Pope Paul John's simple humanity, he has authorised a statement about the Catholic Church's supremacy that will be deeply upsetting to other Christian faiths which set great store in ecumenical co-operation. The statement came from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office which the Pope directed for many years when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. It described the Protestant and Orthodox faiths as “not proper Churches” which suffer from a “wound” because they do not recognise the primacy of the Pope.

This is not the first time that Pope Benedict has spoken about the inability of Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox Chrisians to belong to “proper” churches because Roman Catholicism is “the one true Church of Christ”. This criticism surfaced from the Vatican in “Dominus Jesus” in 2000 and it was known then that Cardianl Ratzinger was its principal author. There had been hope, however, that in his wider role as Pope he would see the advantages of co-operation on equal terms with other faiths. Yesterday, a Vatican statement emphasized that ecumenical dialoge remained “one of the priorities of the Catholic Church” but there will be few who any longer think that meaningful progress is possible while Pope Benedict remains in the Vatican.


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