VATICAN CITY, Feb. 26 - The Vatican has reined in a Jesuit theologian, declaring that his book on religious pluralism contained ``notable ambiguities'' that could lead a reader to ``erroneous or harmful positions.''

The statement Monday by the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith followed a nearly two-year investigation of the book by the Rev. Jacques Dupuis, a 77-year-old Belgian professor at the Gregorian University in Rome.

It was further evidence that the Vatican will be vigilant that theologians and other Catholics correctly describe orthodox Catholic beliefs, and do not water them down out of their liberalism or to avoid offending non-Catholics.

The Vatican statement said Dupuis had accepted what the church calls a Notification ``intended to safeguard the doctrine of the Catholic faith from errors, ambiguities or harmful interpretations,'' and committed himself to including the it in any future editions of the book. Dupuis, reached at his university office, said he would withhold any comment until Tuesday.

The Vatican's statement 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 dialogue efforts will continue, but he has not disowned the September document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is headed by the conservative German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

Monday's statement said the pope ``confirmed'' the Notification regarding Depuis on Jan. 19 and ordered its publication.

Dupuis' book, published in 1997, is called ``Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism.''

The Vatican statement recognized the author's ``attempt to remain within the limits of orthodoxy,'' his willingness to provide clarifications and his desire to remain faithful to church doctrine.

But it said the congregation ``found that his book contained notable ambiguities and difficulties on important doctrinal points'' on salvation and the Catholic church.

"These points concerned the interpretation of the sole and universal salvific mediation of Christ, the unicity and completeness of Christ's revelation, the universal salvific action of the Holy Spirit, the orientation of all people to the church, and the value and significance of the salvific function of other religions," it said.

In a letter addressed to all the members of the Society of Jesus, the largest Catholic religious order, the Jesuit General, the Rev. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, praised Dupuis for his work in "a terrain that is dogmatically fundamental for the future of interreligious dialogue."

Kolvenbach said the theologian had tried to "remain within the Catholic faith" in his thinking "without always succeeding," and he commended Ratzinger's "long and important" doctrinal examination of Dupuis' book.

With the help of the "doctrinal orientation" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Kolvenbach wrote, "We hope that Father Jacques Dupuis will be able to continue in his pioneering work in the field of interreligious dialogue."

Ratzinger said the Notification "is not meant as a judgment" on Dupuis' subjective thought "but rather as a statement of the church's teaching on certain aspects of the above-mentioned doctrinal truths and a refutation of erroneous or harmful opinions, which, prescinding from the author's intentions, could be derived from reading the ambiguous statements and insufficient explanations found in certain sections of the text."

The Notification opened with the statement that "it must be firmly believed that Jesus Christ, the son of God made man, crucified and risen, is the sole and universal mediator of salvation for all humanity."

"It is consistent with Catholic doctrine to hold that the seeds of truth and goodness that exist in other religions are a certain participation in truths contained in the revelation of or in Jesus Christ," it said.

"However, it is erroneous to hold that such elements of truth and goodness, or some of them, do not derive ultimately from the source-mediation of Jesus Christ."

"It must be firmly believed," the Notification concluded, "that the church is sign and instrument of salvation for all people. It is contrary to Catholic faith to consider the different religions of the world as ways of salvation complementary to the church."

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