Second Vatican Council

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Vatican II was an official Ecumenical council of the Catholic Church opened under Pope John XXIII in 1962 and closed under Pope Paul VI in 1965.

It redefined church sacraments, permitted the use of vernacular languages for the Mass, and appointed a commission to implement such a transition. It has been widely accepted by Catholics worldwide, but not without some opposition. The complete text of its 16 documents are available online.

[Vatican II

Catholicism traditionally taught that "there is no salvation outside the Church", which thus denied salvation to non-Catholic Christians as well as non-Christians; Catholicism revisited this position in Vatican II, which said that "the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator", thus potentially extending salvation to other monotheistic faiths. Vatican II further affirmed that salvation was available to people who had not even heard of Christ.

However, later official Vatican position papers have led some to question the Church's commitment to ecumenism. The current Pope has personally endorsed a document called "Dominus Iesus", published in August 2000, by Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It has been ratified and confirmed by Pope John Paul II "with sure knowledge and by his apostolic authority." This document states that people outside of Christianity are "gravely deficient" in their relationship to God, and that non-Catholic Christian communities had "defects". Jewish and Muslim groups have expressed distress at this disparagement of their faiths.

In response to these criticisms, Pope John Paul II on October 2 of that year emphasized that this document did not say that non-Christians were denied salvation: "this confession does not deny salvation to non-Christians, but points to its ultimate source in Christ, in whom man and God are united". The pope then, on December 6, issued a statement to further emphasize that the Church continued to support the position of Vatican II that salvation was available to believers of other faiths: "The gospel teaches us that those who live in accordance with the Beatitudes--the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bear lovingly the sufferings of life--will enter God's kingdom." He further added, "All who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do not know Christ and his church, contribute under the influence of grace to the building of this kingdom," he said.

Roman Catholic Church's views on other faiths