STATEMENT on The DECLARATION
On the Unicity and Salvific Universality
Jesus Christ and the Church”
Cardinal Roger Mahony
Archbishop of Los Angeles
September 8, 2000
In the greater Los Angeles area, Roman Catholics have enjoyed a longstanding and valued relationship with Christians of other churches and peoples of other religious traditions. The fruits of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in the Southland have been rich and rewarding for people in this region, throughout the nation, and well beyond.
In light of the great progress made in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in the greater Los Angeles area, it is discouraging to read the headline “Vatican Declares Catholicism Sole Path to Salvation” (Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2000). While clarifying the Roman Catholic Church’s position, the declaration does in fact affirm that those who are not formally part of the Roman Catholic Church can, indeed, be saved (Dominus Iesus, 20).
I would like to take this opportunity to reassure our partners in dialogue that our mutually beneficial conversations and joint pursuit of the truth will continue. I pledge my unyielding support for these efforts.
The declaration “Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church,” is best understood within the context of this ongoing dialogue. The purpose of the declaration is to clarify the Roman Catholic Church’s own position in view of disagreements within the Roman Catholic Church, offering firm critique of those theological views that appear to revitalize the Christian faith and the Roman Catholic Church. Nowhere in the Declaration is there criticism of the fruits of bilateral agreements or of new initiatives taken in interreligious dialogue. Nor is there any indication that such dialogues or initiatives are to be halted.
The actions of Pope John Paul II himself have demonstrated his own profound respect for peoples and traditions other than Roman Catholic. His recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, his invitation to religious leaders to join him at Assisi in praying for world peace on October 27, 1986, and his meeting on September 16, 1987 here in Los Angeles with local Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders, are just three instances of his respect for the integrity of others and their religious traditions.
The tone of Dominus Iesus may not fully reflect the deeper understanding that has been achieved through ecumenical and interreligious dialogues over these last thirty years or more. This deeper understanding has been prompted, in no small measure, by the initiatives of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The Council clearly affirmed the importance of religious freedom and called for deep and mutual respect among people of different religious traditions. The declaration can only be properly understood in light of these conciliar orientations and affirmations.
It is my sincere hope that our ongoing dialogue and partnership will proceed unabated. The Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles remains fully committed to ongoing dialogue and partnership. Only in this way can we continue to move beyond the tragic estrangement which has characterized so much of our past.
(Cardinal Roger Mahony is Archbishop of Los Angeles, California. This statement was released on September 8, 2000)