A week after publishing a document which casts doubt on the validity of Protestant Christianity and asserts Roman Catholic superiority over all other churches, the Vatican continues to draw criticism both from other churches and from within its own ranks.

The general secretaries of two organizations representing major wings of Protestantism have publicly lamented the harm done to ecumenism by Dominus Iesus, on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, published on September 5 by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document declares that churches that do not have a "valid Episcopate [bishops] and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery are not Churches in the proper sense". Another document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published in an Italian magazine this month orders Catholic bishops not to use the term "sister church" in reference to Protestant churches. This too has also caused dismay in ecumenical circles.

Although many theologians pointed out that there is nothing new in the Vatican documents, the reaffirmation that the Vatican does not consider Protestant churches to be authentic churches has provoked widespread irritation, especially within those organizations involved in long-standing dialogue with the Vatican.

Commenting on the two documents, Dr Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, which represents 59 million of the world's 63 million Lutherans, pointed out that on October 31 last year the Vatican and the LWF signed the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" which uses the word "church" in reference to Lutherans and Catholics "to reflect the self-understanding of the particular ...

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