Theological Academy Secretary: Christ Is Humanity's Only Savior

Father Amato Speaks on Eve of Summit in Spain

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ROME, NOV. 24, 2002 ( Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will preside this week over a Christological congress “Christ, Way, Truth and Life” at the Catholic University of San Antonio of Murcia, Spain.

Among the scheduled speakers is Salesian Father Angelo Amato, professor of dogmatic theology and secretary of the Pontifical Theological Academy. He shared with ZENIT some of the insights he will develop in his talk, “Jesus Christ in History in General and in the Particular History of Salvation.”

ZENIT: How is it possible to explain the value of salvation to a world that does not feel the need to be saved?

Father Amato: Today, also, humanity longs for joy, happiness, life, truth. The salvation offered by Jesus is the answer to these eternal needs. His birth is a joy for the whole of humanity.

His word, his revelation is the light of truth that has illuminated the centuries and still continues to illuminate history today. The mystery of his death and resurrection offers the first fruits of his eternal life. Man’s most profound desire is fulfilled: to live eternally.

However, Christian salvation also touches upon concrete and practical aspects of daily life, which today are very important.

Jesus says: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you came to see me.” And he added that every time that this is done to one of his least brothers, it is done to him. Hospitality, welcome, care of the needy are concrete acts of salvation, valid for today.

Q: What is the meaning of the fact that Jesus is the only mediator of salvation?

Father Amato: The answer to this question was given by the “Dominus Iesus” declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, the root of the answer is found in the New Testament, especially in the first preaching of the apostles.

For example, in his address to the Sanhedrin, to justify the healing in the name of Jesus of the man lame from birth [Acts 3:1-8], Peter proclaims: “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].

The same apostle, in the house of the centurion Cornelius in Caesarea, confirms: “God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” [Acts 10:34-35]. However, he adds that Jesus Christ is “Lord of all … ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead”; because of this, “every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” [see Acts 10:36, 42, 43].

The Apostle John also affirms: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” [John 3:16-17].

In the New Testament, the universal salvific will of God is intimately linked to the unique mediation of Christ: God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” [1 Timothy 2:4-6].

By this unequivocal biblical fact, the Church, yesterday and today, reaffirms the saving universality of the mystery of the Incarnation and of the mystery of the Church herself, mystical body of Christ and of his universal sacrament of salvation.

Q: Why are there so many religions if in the end there is only one way for salvation?

Father Amato: It is a fact that there are so many religions. Humanity is fundamentally religious and, in consequence, wants to have God as interlocutor or as a sacred beyond that answers its questions on the meaning and the value of its existence.

The other religions, with their eventual values, can be considered as evangelical preparation.

However, by the will of the trinitarian God, humanity is saved by the mystery of Jesus Christ, incarnate Son of God, Way, Truth,and Life, as we see in John’s Gospel.

Q: Why was the “Dominus Iesus” declaration, to which you alluded, so badly received in some realms within and outside the Catholic Church?

Father Amato: In the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Irish Cardinal Cahal Brendan Daly has described very well the mechanism of present social communication, which is immediate but, as in this case, not very truthful.

I have published a summary in the journal Path on reactions to “Dominus Iesus” and I would like to mention three basic points that I wrote: in the first place, the media did not address the central nucleus of “Dominus Iesus.”

In the second place, a tone of alarm was cultivated about the purpose of ecumenical dialogue, using the usual linguistic stereotypes of “narrow-mindedness” and “return to the past.”

In the third place, the media forgot that the affirmations in “Dominus Iesus” do no more than repeat the same thing that Vatican Council II did. The Sept. 9, 2000 Boston Globe went so far as to affirm not only that “Dominus Iesus” excluded Protestants, [not only from Christianity], but from the kingdom of heaven!

But the inaccuracy of the media in religious questions is quite well known, especially in problems of Catholic theology. However, in the case of “Dominus Iesus,” the summit of the grotesque has been reached. I don’t think this fact is merely accidental.

Q: What do you think of the proposal for the Catholic Church to pronounce a dogmatic declaration on Mary as co-redemptrix?

Father Amato: More important than my opinion is that of the magisterium of the Church and, in this case, that of the ecumenical council Vatican II, which took this hypothesis into consideration but discarded it.

In fact, the titles of cooperation that Vatican II attributed to Mary were the following: advocate, assistant, helper, mediator (“Lumen Gentium,” n. 62).
In the encyclical “Redemptoris Mater,” the Holy Father, John Paul II, fully developed the title of mediator.

In its first document, Vatican Council II does not see in Mary a co-redemptrix but rather “the most sublime fruit of the Redemption” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium,” No. 103). It is what is affirmed in the liturgical constitution.

Q: Does the abundance of congresses on Christology today denote that the debate on the salvific unicity of Jesus Christ is up for discussion?

Father Amato: There is no lack in theological debate of those who affirm that all religions are equally valid. Nor is there a lack of those who, to counter this relativism, affirm that all non-Christian religions are idolatrous (this position is not Catholic; it comes from the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth).

Today, the theological debate is centered precisely on the direction of Vatican II, which affirms that the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude, but inspires in creatures a genuine cooperation, which is participation in the only source.

The present theological congresses attempt to study in greater depth the contents of this shared mediation, which must always be regulated by the principle of the unique mediation of Christ: If shared mediations of different natures and orders are not excluded, they, nevertheless, acquire meaning and value only by that of Christ, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary.

Proposals that posit a salvific action of God outside of the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian faith.

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