The head of a global body of Reformed churches has challenged the Vatican's claim that the Catholic Church is the only true church of Jesus Christ.
In a letter addressed to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity, the Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) questioned the Vatican's statement at a time where society as well as the Christian body is struggling with division and placing great emphasis on unity.
"We are puzzled by the release of a statement of this kind at this time in the history of the church," wrote the WARC's general secretary in the letter Tuesday. "An exclusive claim that identifies the Roman Catholic Church as the one church of Jesus Christ … goes against the spirit of our Christian calling toward oneness in Christ.
"It makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the Reformed family and other families of the church," the letter read. "It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity."
The Vatican reaffirmed that only the Roman Catholic Church is "the one true Church of Christ" in a corrective document released Tuesday and ratified by Pope Benedict XVI, according to Agence France-Presse.
In addition to clarifying confusion on the Catholic Church's identify, the text claims to also aid in holding effective ecumenical dialogue in the future.
"However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants, but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith," the document said.
The 16-page text had also explicitly declared "communities emerging from the Reformation" – the Protestant and Anglican churches – are "not Churches in the proper sense of the word," but rather "ecclesial communities."
In response, Nyomi said, "For now, we are thankful to God that our calling to be part of the church of Jesus Christ is not dependent on the interpretation of the Vatican.
"It is a gift of God," the WARC head wrote in his letter. "Receiving this gift, we appreciate the Roman Catholic Church as a part of this family."
The WARC head speaking for his organization said it hopes the Roman Catholic Church moves beyond "exclusivist claims" in order to further the cause of Christian unity.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches represents 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries. The Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi, whose home church is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ghana, is the first non-European to be installed as the WARC general secretary. Nyomi has held the position since 2000.