Pope John Paul II has declared that Jesus Christ is the "unique Savior" of the universe, and the church is the "royal road" to salvation, unlike the "incomplete" religions of non-Christians.

The Pope's declaration on the supremacy of the Christian faith is being interpreted as a warning to liberal Catholic theologians who in recent decades have written of the validity of other mainstream faiths.

The Pope was speaking January 28 to the cardinals, bishops and theologians who make up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Vatican's guardian of dogma) at the end of a major meeting in Rome about "the uniqueness of Christ."

Pope John Paul, speaking in Italian, told the members of the congregation: "In recent years a mentality has emerged in theological and ecclesial circles which tends to relativize Christ's revelation and his unique and universal mediation in the order of salvation.

"In order to remedy this relativistic attitude, we must insist on the definitive and complete character of Christ's revelation … Therefore the theory of the limited character of the revelation of Christ, which can be complemented by other religions, is contrary to the faith of the church."

Those who believed that "the truth about God cannot be grasped and manifested entirely and completely by any one historical religion, not even Christianity" were at odds with the core teachings of the church, the Pope said.

"This position contradicts the affirmations of faith according to which there is full and complete revelation of God's salvation in Jesus Christ," he said.
"It is wrong to consider the church as a path to salvation equal to those of other religions," the Pope added. "It is true that non-Christians—as was pointed out by the Second Vatican Council—can 'earn' eternal life if they seek God with a sincere heart. But in their sincere search for the truth of God they are, in fact, 'called' to Christ and his body, the church. Nevertheless, they find themselves in a deficient situation, compared to those who have the complete means of salvation within the church."

The Pope avoided directly mentioning individuals in his speech, but Carlo Molari, an Italian theologian who teaches at the Pontifical University in Rome, told Ecumenical News International (ENI) that the Pope might have been making a "firm but friendly" comment on the theories of a Jesuit theologian, Jacques Dupuis, whose work had disturbed the Vatican.

A Belgian who spent 36 years in India, Dupuis lectured at the Gregorian University in Rome in the 1990s and is now retired. Dupuis summed up his theories in a book published in 1997, Vers une theologie chretienne du pluralisme religieux (published in 1999 in English as Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism), in which he explores the links between Christ's teachings and other religions.

While stressing the importance of Christ and the church's mission, Dupuis suggested that in his ministry Christ did not "exhaust" the truth of the "Word"—a biblical reference to divine revelation—which extended beyond the teachings of the church.

"I believe that the Pope's remarks can be interpreted as the means chosen by the Vatican to explain doubts about theories such as those put forward by Jacques Dupuis, but without attacking anyone in particular," Molari told ENI.