By David Willey
BBC News, Rome
Pope Benedict has approved a new text asserting that Christian denominations outside Roman Catholicism are not true Churches in the full sense of the word.
The Pope has just begun his annual three-week break in the Italian Alps
The document, issued by a Vatican watchdog, has been criticised as offensive by some Protestants.
The text was written by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Pope Benedict before his election as Pope.
It states that Christ established only one Church here on earth.
Other Christian denominations, it argues, cannot be called Churches in the proper sense because they cannot trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.
True to tradition
The new text is basically a re-statement of another document known as Domine Jesus, published in the year 2000 under the signature of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope.
That document set off a storm of criticism from Protestant and Anglican leaders who felt that the Vatican was failing to take into account progress made towards re-establishing Christian unity in talks with Rome over a period of many years.
It remains unclear why Pope Benedict chose to publish this document just as he begins a three-week holiday in the Italian Alps.
Admittedly, the document does stress that Pope Benedict remains seriously committed to dialogue with the other Christian Churches, but first reactions from Protestant Church leaders appear negative.
This is the second document issued by the Pope in recent days which re-evaluates the work of the Second Vatican Council, the reforming council held in Rome during the 1960s.
The Pope's point is that although this was a council of reform, the Church fathers meeting at that time remained true to Catholic traditions.
Pope Benedict is, in effect, attacking what he regards as later erroneous interpretations of what the council actually decided.