Ratzinger clarifies meaning of term 'sister churches'
Cardinal Ratzinger has clarified that the term 'Sister churches' refers to 'ecclesial communities that have preserved the episcopal succession and a valid Eucharist'.
Catholic World News reports that the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano has this week published an advisory note from the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The note was originally circulated in July among church officials, but its publication now takes on special significance in the wake of publication of Dominus Iesus, the document dealing with the unique role of the Catholic Church in God's plan of salvation.
The Congregation's advisory note, which is 12 paragraphs long, is divided into two sections. The first section, of 8 paragraphs, examines the origin and development of the use of the term "sister churches." The phrase was originally used in the modern era by the Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople, in his letters to Pope John XXIII. The term was then employed in the works of the Second Vatican Council to refer to 'fraternal relations among the particular churches.'