In traditionalist form Pope Benedict XVI blamed liberal interpretation of Vatican II for the misguided belief that all Christian denominations were representative of true churches. To further reassert the Roman Catholic Church as the one true corner stone of the Christian faith Benedict approved a document that labeled Orthodox churches as erroneous and said other Christian denominations were not true churches.
The document states that “Christ ‘established here on earth’ only one church,” and goes on to say other denominations “cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense” because they lack apostolic succession. Apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church maintains the unbroken linage of today’s bishops down to the original apostles of Christ.
As for Orthodox churches, Pope Benedict recognized them as true churches in the sense that they had apostolic succession but called them flawed because they did not recognize the authority of the pope.
The document was not intended to break away from the Pope’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue but rather underscored the belief that “it is fundamental to any kind of dialogue that the participants are clear about their own identity. That is, dialogue cannot be an occasion to accommodate or soften what you actually understand yourself to be,” according to Father Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.