31 – Enrichment for Christians within the sacred expressions of other religions

The delicate topic of interreligious dialogue certainly implies important nuances. A partially presented truth, or a truth presented in a somewhat distorted manner may easily lead to indifferentism, according to which all religions would be considered as paths leading toward God, mutually complementing one another. Within this perspective, what necessity would we have of Jesus Christ and the Church for salvation? Is something lacking to the Spouse of Christ that she needs to receive from other religions? Let us take a look at what Francis and the Magisterium say about this.


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Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live ‘justified by the grace of God’, (and thus be ‘associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’). But due to the sacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying towards God. While these lack the meaning and efficacy of the sacraments instituted by Christ, they can be channels which the Holy Spirit raises up in order to liberate non-Christians from atheistic immanentism or from purely individual religious experiences. The same Spirit everywhere brings forth various forms of practical wisdom which help people to bear suffering and to live in greater peace and harmony. As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over many centuries, whichcan help us better to live our own beliefs. (Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 254, November 24, 2013)
Nor can we forget that the phenomenon of monasticism and of other expressions of religious fraternity is present in all the great religions. There are instances, some long-standing, of inter-monastic dialogue involving the Catholic Church and certain of the great religious traditions. I trust that the Year of Consecrated Life will be an opportunity to review the progress made, to make consecrated persons aware of this dialogue, and to consider what further steps can be taken towards greater mutual understanding and greater cooperation in the many common areas of service to human life. Journeying together always brings enrichment, and can open new paths to relationships between peoples and cultures, which nowadays appear so difficult. (Apostolic letter to all Consecrated people on the occasion of the year of Consecrated Life, November 21, 2014)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


Sacred Scripture

Come to the Father through Jesus

No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jn 14:6)

Pius X

Modernists admit that all religions are true: what is to prevent religious experience from being met within every religion?

In the religious sentiment one must recognise a kind of intuition of the heart which puts man in immediate contact with the very reality of God […]. It is this experience which, when a person acquires it, makes him properly and truly a believer. How far off we are here from Catholic teaching we have already seen in the decree of the Vatican Council. […] Here it is well to note at once that, given this doctrine of experience united with the other doctrine of symbolism, every religion, even that of paganism, must be held to be true. What is to prevent such experiences from being met within every religion? In fact that they are to be found is asserted by not a few. And with what right will Modernists deny the truth of an experience affirmed by a follower of Islam? With what right can they claim true experiences for Catholics alone? Indeed Modernists do not deny but actually admit, some confusedly, others in the most open manner, that all religions are true. That they cannot feel otherwise is clear. For on what ground, according to their theories, could falsity be predicated of any religion whatsoever? (Pius X. Encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis, no. 14, September 8, 1907)

John Paul II

No one can enter into communion with God except through Christ

Christ is the one Savior of all, the only one able to reveal God and lead to God. […] No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s one, universal mediation, far from being an obstacle on the journey toward God, is the way established by God himself, a fact of which Christ is fully aware. Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value only from Christ’s own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 5, December 7, 1990)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

We cannot accept ‘revelations’ of non-Christian religions

Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment, as is the case in certain nonChristian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such ‘revelations’. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 67)


To have God as Father, one must accept Christ Jesus as Brother

And with the same yearning Our soul goes out to those whom the foul breath of irreligion has not entirely corrupted, and who at least seek to have the true God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, as their Father. Let such as these take counsel with themselves, and realize that they can in no wise be counted among the children of God, unless they take Christ Jesus as their Brother, and at the same time the Church as their mother. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Satis cognitum, June 29, 1896)

Differing modes of divine worship cannot all be equally acceptable to God

To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, understand that differing modes of divine worship involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Immortale Dei, no. 33, November 1, 1885)

Paul VI

Other religions do not establish an authentic relationship with God

…the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ (cf. Eph 3:8) – riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth. […] In other words, our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship which the other religions do not succeed in doing, even though they have, as it were, their arms stretched out towards heaven. (Paul VI. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 53, December 8, 1975)

We cannot agree with various forms of religion nor be uncritical toward them

Obviously we cannot agree with these various forms of religion [Judaism, Moslem religion, or Afro-asiatic religion], nor can we adopt an indifferent or uncritical attitude toward them on the assumption that they are all to be regarded as on an equal footing, and that there is no need for those who profess them to enquire whether or not God has Himself revealed definitively and infallibly how He wishes to be known, loved, and served. Indeed, honesty compels us to declare openly our conviction that the Christian religion is the one and only true religion, and it is our hope that it will be acknowledged as such by all who look for God and worship Him. (Paul VI. Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, no. 40, August 6, 1964)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Theological faith must be differentiated from belief in the other religions

For this reason, the distinction between theological faith and belief in the other religions, must be firmly held. […] This distinction is not always borne in mind in current theological reflection. Thus, theological faith (the acceptance of the truth revealed by the One and Triune God) is often identified with belief in other religions, which is religious experience still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking assent to God who reveals himself. This is one of the reasons why the differences between Christianity and the other religions tend to be reduced at times to the point of disappearance. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, no. 7, August 6, 2000)

Non-Christian rituals contain superstitions and constitute an obstacle to salvation

Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 843.) One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments (cf. Council of Trent, Decretum de sacramentis, can. 8, de sacramentis in genere). Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors (cf. 1Cor 10:20-21), constitute an obstacle to salvation (cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, 55). (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, no. 21 August 6, 2000)

Relativistic theories deny the salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church

The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle). As a consequence, it is held that certain truths have been superseded; for example, the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christian faith as compared with that of belief in other religions, […] the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the universal salvific mediation of the Church, […] On the basis of such presuppositions, which may evince different nuances, certain theological proposals are developed — at times presented as assertions, and at times as hypotheses — in which Christian revelation and the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church lose their character of absolute truth and salvific universality, or at least shadows of doubt and uncertainty are cast upon them. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, no. 4, August 6, 2000)

Pius IX

To accept religious indifference is to attempt an agreement between Christ and Belial

Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial. (Pius IX. Encyclical Qui pluribus, no. 9 November 9, 1946)

Those separated from the true faith cannot obtain eternal salvation

We should mention again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are unhappily engaged, who believe that men living in error, and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life [see n. 1717]. Indeed, this is certainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. It is known to Us and to you that they who labor in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion and who, zealously keeping the natural law and its precepts engraved in the hearts of all by God, and being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, by the operating power of divine light and grace […] But, the Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church is well-known; and also that those who are obstinate toward the authority and definitions of the same Church, and who persistently separate themselves from the unity of the Church, and from the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, to whom ‘the guardianship of the vine has been entrusted by the Savior,’ cannot obtain eternal salvation. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2865-2867. Pius IX, Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863)

John Paul II

There is no way of salvation in a religion other than that founded in the faith in Christ

There are no lack of those who wish to interpret the missionary action [of the Church] as an attempt to impose on others one’s own convictions and options, in contrast with a certain modern spirit, which boasts, as though it was a definitive conquest, of an absolute liberty of thought and personal conscience. According to this perspective, evangelizing activity should be substituted with an interreligious dialogue, which would consist in an exchange of opinions and information, whereby each party would expose his own ‘creed’ and be enriched by the thoughts of others, without any preoccupation of arriving at conclusions. […] Consequently the path that each one wishes to follow according to one’s own education and religious tradition would be respected. But this conception is irreconcilable with the commandment of Christ to the Apostles (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15), transmitted by the Church […] [The Council] confirmed at the same time the role of the Church, in which it is necessary that man enter and persevere, if he wishes to be saved (Ad gentes, n. 7) […] This traditional doctrine of the Church exposes the inconsistency and superficiality of a relativistic and irenic attitude, regarding the way of salvation in a religion other than that founded in the faith in Christ. (John Paul II. General Audience, nos. 1-2, May 10, 1995)

The Church is necessary for all mankind for salvation

The Council makes frequent reference to the Church’s role in the salvation of mankind. While acknowledging that God loves all people and grants them the possibility of being saved (cf. lTim 2:4), the Church believes that God has established Christ as the one mediator and that she herself has been established as the universal sacrament of salvation. ‘To this catholic unity of the people of God, therefore,…all are called, and they belong to it or are ordered to it in various ways, whether they be Catholic faithful or others who believe in Christ or finally all people everywhere who by the grace of God are called to salvation’ (Lumen Gentium, 13). It is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for salvation. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, no. 9, December 7, 1990)

Vatican Council II  (Ecumenical XXI)

The Catholic Church is necessary for salvation

This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3.5) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, no. 14, November 21, 1964)

It is only through Christ’s Catholic Church that one can benefit fully from the means of salvation

For it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is ‘the all-embracing means of salvation,’ that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God. (Vatican Council II, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, no. 3, November 21, 1964)

Gregory XVI

Those who think that salvation is open to persons of any religion: ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever’

Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. […] With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph 4:5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him’ (Lk 11:23), and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate.’ (Symbol s. Athanasius). (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Mirari vos, no. 13, August 15, 1832)

Pius XI

In error: those who hold the false opinion that all religions lead to God

For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life. […] Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mortalium animos, no. 2, January 6, 1928)

IV Lateran Council (Ecumenical XII)

Outside of the Church no one is saved

One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved. (Denzinger-Hünermann 802. IV Lateran Council, 1215, Ch. 1, the Catholic Faith)

Council of Florence (XVII Ecumenical)

Regardless of good deeds no one can be saved unless united to the Catholic Church

[The sacrosanct Roman Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart ‘into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Mt 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (Denzinger-Hünermann 1351. Council of Florence, Bull Cantate Domino, February 4, 1442)

Saint Cyprian of Carthage

He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother

He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church (Saint Cyprian of Carthage. De Unitate Ecclesiae, 6: ML 4, 503)

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

Not at all equal: those who adhere to the Catholic truth and those who follow a false religion

For, the most benign God both excites the erring by His grace and aids them so that they can ‘come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1Tim 2:4), and also confirms in His grace those whom ‘He has called out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (1Pet 2:9), so that they may persevere in this same light, not deserting if He be not deserted [see n. 804 ]. Wherefore, not at all equal is the condition of those, who, through the heavenly gift of faith, have adhered to the Catholic truth, and of those, who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3014. Vatican Council I, Session III, Dogmatic Constitutio Dei Filius, April 24, 1870)

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Non-Christians are in a gravely deficient situation regarding salvation

This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism ‘characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another’ (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 36). If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation (cf. Pius XII. Encyclical Letter Mystici corporis). (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, no. 22, August 6, 2000)

Men are not saved equally in every religion

Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth. […] [Pius XII] mentions those who ‘are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire,’ and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition ‘in which they cannot be sure of their salvation’ since ‘they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church’ With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion (cf. Pius IX, Allocution Singulari quadam, in Denzinger, n.1641 ff.; also Pius IX in the encyclical letter Quanto conficiamur moerore, in Denzinger n.1677). (Denzinger-Hünermann 3867.3871-3872. Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston, August 8, 1949)

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

The Church is where the Spirit of God is; and the Spirit of God is where the Church is

‘For in the Church,’ it is said, ‘God hath set […] and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. Those, therefore, who do not partake of Him, are neither nourished into life from the mother’s breasts, nor do they enjoy that most limpid fountain which issues from the body of Christ; but they dig for themselves broken cisterns (Jer 2:13) out of earthly trenches, and drink putrid water out of the mire, fleeing from the faith of the Church lest they be convicted; and rejecting the Spirit, that they may not be instructed. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies, Bk. 3 ch. 24)

Saint John of the Cross

To seek any vision or revelation foreign to Christ is an offence against God

For, in giving us, as He did, His Son, which is His Word — and He has no other — He spake to us all together, once and for all, in this single Word, and He has no occasion to speak further. […] Herein the Apostle declares that God has become, as it were, dumb, and has no more to say, since that which He spake aforetime, in part to the prophets, He has now spoken altogether in Him, giving us the All, which is His Son. Wherefore he that would now enquire of God, or seek any vision or revelation, would not only be acting foolishly, but would be committing an offence against God, by setting his eyes altogether upon Christ, and seeking no new thing or aught beside. (Saint John of the Cross. Ascent of Mount Carmel 2, Ch. 22, no. 3-4)

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18 thoughts on “31 – Enrichment for Christians within the sacred expressions of other religions

  1. There will be no other God…nor was there from eternity any other existing …but He who made and disposed all this universe. Nor do we think that there is one God for us [Christians], another for you [Jews], but that He alone is God who led your fathers out from Egypt with a strong hand and a high arm. Nor have we trusted in any other (for there is no other), but in Him in whom you also have trusted, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.
    — Justin Martyr

  2. I don’t see Truth placed more clearly before us than done by the priests who contribute to Denzinger-Bergoglio. It is a truly an eye-opener! I pray for and encourage these priests.

  3. How can you presume to attack the Holy Father? Do you not know that the Pope is infallible? I am a simple layman and do not know theology, but I know that no Catholic can find fault with the Holy Father. You attack Pope Francis and still pretend to be catholic! He is the Pope – so what he says must be followed by all. As simple as that! People like you must be thrown out of the Church so that your pestilent example does not contaminate others.

    • 1. We simply place Pope Francis’ statements alongside the Magisterium. The conclusions…
      2. Infallibility has been well defined by the Catholic Church. Let’s not change its meaning.
      3. Please, don’t be so intolerant: “People like you must be thrown out of the Church so that your pestilent example does not contaminate others”.

    • WF – Heard the line ‘Who am I to judge’? Guess who said it…
      Try to follow him – don’t judge those who don’t agree with Francis. At least that way you’ll seem less fanatic. No?

    • Yes, they should be thrown out, impaled and burnt at the stake. Long live the Inquisition!!! Death to all who disagree with Francis!!!

      • Alice, perhaps you did not note the irony, but your comment reflects exactly what is happening in the Church. Why doesn’t anyone say a word about Francis? Because anyone who opposes him or who he dislikes is promptly beheaded. The list is long: the Bishop from Paraguay, the Franciscans of the Immaculate, etc. We are facing an Inquisition that is worse than ever before!

    • Duh…”He is the Pope – so what he says must be followed by all”…right, and what about the earlier Popes? Don’t need to follow them?

          • He is definitely not catholic. Which also makes him definitely not the pope. I don’t need Socci’s long arguments about the validity of the conclave – Francis’ statements on this site are enough for me to conclude that he cannot be assisted by the Holy Spirit.

    • Hey WF – you try to play the nice goody,goody catholic who obeys everything from the Pope… Who do you think you are fooling? You are probably one of those […] who never stopped attacking our poor Holy Father Benedict 16. And now you play the great defender of ortodoxy! You […]

    • @WF. Are his words to the two adulterous women, that basically encouraged them to go and sin some more “infallible? Compared to what Christ Himself told the adulterous woman in Sacred Scripture? You are either with CHRIST or you’re not. You cant have it both ways.

  4. Dear Fathers, you cannot imagine the good that you are doing. It is very consoling to know that there are faithful and good ministers who are neither lefebrists nor visionaries. Here in […] you are always in our prayers. […]

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