Vatican Representative Plays Down 'One True Church' Statement

|PIC1|The Vatican's President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, has played down concerns among Europe's Protestant Church leaders following the Vatican's recent statement asserting that the Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ.

The 16-page July document, ratified by Pope Benedict XVI, stated that the Roman Catholic Church is "the one true Church of Christ".

It also claimed that "communities emerging from the Reformation" - the Protestant and Anglican Churches - are "not Churches in the proper sense of the word".

Cardinal Kasper attempted to qualify the assertion at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly, currently taking place in Sibiu, Romania.

In reiterating that other communities "were not churches in the proper sense, we did not mean that these others were somehow false churches", he told reporters. "We meant that the EKD (Evangelical Church in Germany) or the Church of England, for example, have a different understanding of what the church is."

Bishop Wolfgang Huber, chair of the council of the EKD, said he regretted the negative phrasing of the Vatican's statement in deeming some churches to be "not churches in the proper sense". He added, however, that he was encouraged to hear Cardinal Kasper's more positive description of communities having their own understanding of what it means to be the church.

"We continue on our journey together," said Huber, "with the Holy Spirit leading us."

The President of the Conference of European Churches, the Rev Jean-Arnold de Clermont, also dismissed fears over the Vatican statement.

While noting that the statement did not reflect a Protestant view of the church or of Protestantism, De Clermont said the Vatican's assertions were "nothing new" and should not be given too much weight.

"Ecumenical life does not issue from the summit, but from the base of the church," he said.