The Vatican on the Orthodox
Considerable publicity has been recently given to a statement from the Vatican on the nature of Orthodox and Protestant communities. The following is the text on the Orthodox Churches with the official commentary. Only the footnotes for these sections have been included.
The full text can be found at: <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html">http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congr ... es_en.html</a><!-- m -->
CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS
OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH
Fourth Question: Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term "Church" in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?
Response: The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. "Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all ? because of the apostolic succession ? the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds", they merit the title of "particular or local Churches", and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.
"It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature". However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches.
On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.
 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.3; cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter Communionis notio, 17.2: AAS, 85 [1993-II] 848.
 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1.
 Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14.1; JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 56 f: AAS 87 [1995-II] 954 ff.
 SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 15.1.
 Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter Communionis notio, 17.3: AAS 85 [1993-II] 849.
The fourth question asks why the Second Vatican Council used the word ?Churches? to describe the oriental Churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church.
Notwithstanding the explicit affirmation that the Church of Christ ?subsists? in the Catholic Church, the recognition that even outside her visible boundaries ?many elements of sanctification and of truth? are to be found, implies the ecclesial character - albeit diversified ? of the non-Catholic Churches or ecclesial Communities. Neither are these by any means ?deprived of significance and importance? in the sense that ?the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation.?
The document considers above all the reality of the oriental Churches not in full communion with the Catholic Church and, making reference to various conciliar texts, gives them the title ?particular or local Churches? and calls them sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches because they remain united to the Catholic Church through the apostolic succession and the valid celebration of the Eucharist ?through which the Church of God is built up and grows in stature.? The Declaration Dominus Iesus explicitly calls them ?true particular Churches.?
Despite this unequivocal recognition of their ?being particular Churches? and of their salvific value, the document could not ignore the wound (defectus) which they suffer specifically in their being particular Churches. For it is because of their Eucharistic vision of the Church, which stresses the reality of the particular Church united in the name of Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist and under the guidance of a Bishop, that they consider themselves complete in their particularity. Consequently, given the fundamental equality among all the particular Churches and among the Bishops which preside over them, they each claim a certain internal autonomy. This is obviously not compatible with the doctrine of Primacy which, according to the Catholic faith, is an ?internal constitutive principle? of the very existence of a particular Church. It will, therefore, remain necessary to emphasise that the Primacy of the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, is not seen as something extraneous or merely concurrent with that of Bishops of particular Churches. Rather it must be exercised in service to the unity of the faith and of communion within the limits that proceed from divine law and from the divine and inviolable constitution of the Church contained in revelation.
 Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Unitatis Redintegratio, 15.1..
 CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITHI, Dominus Iesus, 17: AAS 92 (2000) 758.
 Cf. COMITATO MISTO CATTOLICO-ORTODOSSO IN FRANCIA, Il primato romano nella comunione delle Chiese, Conclusioni: in ?Enchiridion oecumenicum? (1991), vol. IV, n. 956.
 Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Communionis notio, n.17: AAS 85 (1993) 849.
 Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Considerations on the Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church, n. 7 and n. 10, in: L?Osservatore Romano, English Edition, 18 November 1998, 5-6.