VATICAN CITY, Dec. 6 (RNS)--Tempering a controversial Vatican declaration onsalvation, Pope John Paul II said Wednesday that all who live ajust life will be saved even if they do not believe in Jesus Christ andthe Roman Catholic Church.

The pontiff, addressing some 30,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter'sSquare for his weekly general audience, strongly reasserted the liberalinterpretation of the Bible's teaching on salvation that emerged fromthe Second Vatican Council.

"The gospel teaches us that those who live in accordance with theBeatitudes--the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bearlovingly the sufferings of life--will enter God's kingdom," John Paulsaid.

"All who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do notknow Christ and his church, contribute under the influence of grace tothe building of this kingdom," he said.

The pope appeared to take a far more inclusive approach to salvationthan the declaration "Dominus Iesus" issued Sept. 5 by the Congregationfor the Doctrine of the Faith, which serves as the Vatican's guardian ofdoctrinal orthodoxy.

"Dominus Ieusus" caused dismay among non-Catholics involved inecumenical and interfaith dialogue by asserting that their rituals,"insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors, constitute anobstacle to salvation."

"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receivedivine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking, they are ina gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in thechurch, have the fullness of the means of salvation," the document said.

While giving his full support to the declaration, John Paul has beenat pains since it was issued to reiterate his commitment to dialogue andhis respect for members of other religions.

Meanwhile, in an official response to "Dominus Iesus," the(Anglican) Church of Ireland said that, though it might be "strictlycorrect" to say the new statement changes nothing in the Roman CatholicChurch's official stance, it does nevertheless raise the question of"the adequacy of the use of doctrinal statements as effective tools forecumenical relations."

The Anglican statement said churches with confessional statementsand historical formularies dating from the Reformation often find theterminology and the tone of their own statements "unhelpful" to moderntheological dialogue.

Thus, the Anglicans said, it should be asked whether the documentsof Vatican II, framed in the "very early days" of the Roman Catholicentry into the modern ecumenical movement, really provide an adequatebasis for dialogue 30 years later "in the light of the way that theRoman Catholic Church has moved in its relationships with all majorChristian traditions, especially at the local level."

It said another disturbing element was the way in which the term"church" was denied to some Christian communions and given to others.

"Ecumenical study in ecclesiology [church structure] involving allour churches approaches ecclesiology from an understanding of the wholepeople of God rather than with definitions of hierarchy," the Irishstatement said.

"The basis for this work is the sacrament of baptism rather than thevalidity of ordained ministry," it added. "'Dominus Iesus' reverses thisprocess by its negative conclusions based entirely on issues of holyorders and the eucharistic theology of one tradition."

In conclusion, the Irish statement said the tone of "DominusIesus" reflected little of the journey on which Anglicans believe God isbringing the two churches together. "Though we can understand it from amerely academic point of view, we would wonder what it will achieve forthe healing of the divisions of the church," it said.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus