statement released by the Roman Catholic Church saying Protestant denominations are not true churches is drawing criticism from other faith groups, including Seventh-day Adventists, many who say the sentiments expressed are nothing new.
The document, approved by Pope Benedict XVI July 10, said Protestant communities "cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense," lacking apostolic succession, or the ability to trace leadership back to Christ's original disciples.
Adventist Church leaders said the statement merely clarified the Catholic Church's traditional position. "There's nothing surprising here," said Kwabena Donkor, associate director of the Biblical Research Institute, based at the General Conference.
"Following Vatican II, the modernization meetings of the Catholic Church in the 1960s, some people had the impression that there were some significant changes in the Catholic Church," Donkor said. "But there hasn't been.
"As Seventh-day Adventists, our understanding of the church is completely different," Donkor said. "We don't identify the church as being Christ with the pope as the head."
"Such statements from the Vatican do not disappoint or affect Adventists," said John Graz, director of the Adventist Church's Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department.
Graz said the Adventist Church has always been reluctant to join in the ecumenical movement but believes in "unity of spirit, unity of the scriptures and unity in love. "Adventists favor good relations and religious freedom for all," he said.