VATICAN CITY, Feb. 27 (AP) -- A Jesuit theologian said Tuesday he was forced to suffer in silence for 2 1/2 years while the Vatican attacked his book on religious pluralism and made "false accusations" to which he could not subscribe.

The Rev. Jacques Dupuis said he agreed to a compromise announced Monday by the Vatican so he could continue his theological work and remain loyal to the church.

The long investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was evidence that the Vatican intends to be vigilant that theologians correctly describe Catholic beliefs. Last September, it complained about theolgians who suggest one religion is as good as another, although at the time it did not identify any theologian by name.

"I'm happy because I can finally speak after 2 1/2 years of imposed silence during which I suffered a lot," Dupuis said, meeting reporters in a lecture hall at the Gregorian University here, where he teaches.

With the Vatican's announcement that the case was closed, the 77-year-old Belgian said he can speak publicly on the case even if the Vatican's text of the compromise "doesn't really please me."

The Congregation, the Vatican's watchdog agency, declared that Dupuis' book contained "notable ambiguities" that could lead a reader to "erroneous or harmful positions."

But the Vatican did not censure or silence him and the Belgian agreed to incorporate the Vatican criticisms into any new editions of his book, first published in 1997 and titled "Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism."

The congregation began its investigation in September 1998.

Dupuis said he was summoned to a meeting with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the congregation head, on Sept. 4, 2000 and was asked to sign a 15-page statement about the book that made no reference to pages or quotes.

"At the end of a tense two hours it became clear that the text submitted for my approval contained false accusations against my book, to which I could not subscribe," the Belgian said.

A revised text was drafted in December, and Dupuis said he consulted with his superiors.

"They convinced me that it was what I had to do to continue my theological work and be loyal to the church and so with some reluctance I signed."

Dupuis said that while he was initially accused of "very grave errors against the faith," that was later amended to his book "contained ambiguities that may lead others to make errors."

The case is likely to fuel a debate over attempts by some in the church to find common ground with other denominations and religions.

When the Vatican in September reaffirmed the primacy of the Roman Catholic church over other religions, leaders of several denominations expressed dismay that the Vatican was changing course on efforts for dialogue with non-Catholics.

Pope John Paul II has since stressed such efforts will continue, but he has not disowned the September document.

Asked what his ideas were, Dupuis said, "For me Jesus Christ is the universal savior but at the same time I believe that in the divine plan the other religious traditions of the world have a positive contribution to make to humanity."

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