WASHINGTON (September 5, 2000) -- Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement welcoming the presentation of "Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ" and the Church by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The declaration was presented this morning in Rome.
The text of Bishop Fiorenza's statement follows:
Statement of Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza on the issuance of "Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church".
September 5, 2000
"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has once again performed a valuable service in summarizing and clarifying the teaching of the Church. In its declaration, "On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," the Congregation reiterates, mainly by recalling the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II, that Jesus Christ -- the Word made flesh and Son of the Father -- has an absolutely unique role in the salvation of the world.
"Similarly the Church of Christ uniquely contains the means of continuing Christ's saving mission. The Church of Christ is one, and subsists, or is found, in the Catholic Church where the fullness of the means of grace and salvation are present.
"Beyond the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, Christ's Church is also operative in those Churches which have maintained a valid episcopate, in succession to the apostles, and sacraments, above all, the Eucharist. Elements which go together to build up the life of the Church -- such as Baptism, the Word of God, the virtues of faith, hope, charity -- are present as well in other churches and ecclesial communities of Christians. These endowments form bonds which inspire in us a deep love and respect for them and a commitment to work with them to overcome what separates us and to achieve full communion.
"The salvation offered through Jesus Christ and his Church is a gift to all humanity. We believe that Christ invites every human being to find in him "the way, the truth, and the life." Having been blessed with faith in Christ through no merit of our own, the members of the Church humbly seek to give as a gift the faith we received as a gift. Our belief in this regard in no way diminishes the sincere respect we have for the religions of the human family or our conviction that their followers can receive divine grace.
"This respect -- and love -- goes in a special way to the Jewish community to which Christians are closely related through Christ himself and the revealed word of God in the Old Testament. Pope John Paul has witnessed to this special relationship over and over again, especially during his recent visit to the State of Israel.
"The Holy Father has witnessed to the Church's respect for the other great religions during his various encounters with their leaders on his pastoral visits around the world. In his 1986 call for a Day of Prayer in Assisi, he inspired the leaders of most major religions to come together to put the power of prayer and belief behind the search for peace.
"This document will be of special assistance to our theologians and theology professors, to those doing missionary work, and to all engaged in ecumenical and interfaith dialogues. We count it a blessing to live in a time marked by extensive encounters between the peoples of the world, their cultures and their religions. One can scarcely doubt the importance of these contacts and exchanges at the religious level as they unfold in the decades ahead.
"As these contacts deepen, it is not surprising that they present searching questions about how a Christian regards the relationship with other religions in light of faith in Jesus Christ as the unique and universal Savior. The answers of past centuries do not always come to terms with the reality before us. As the Congregation points out, today, facile answers do not do justice to the truth of our relationship with other religious traditions. At the same time, little good would come from contacts with other religions, if those speaking on behalf of the Church were to offer an inadequate or very selective picture of the Christian faith.
"Respecting the seriousness of the questions surfaced by the interreligious encounters of our time, the Congregation does not rest with pointing out the faulty answers sometimes proposed. It also invites Catholic theologians to a continuing exploration in depth and reflection on the existence of other religious experiences, on other religious traditions which also contain elements that come from God, and on their meaning in God's salvific plan."
Full Text of Statement.