Pope Benedict XVI was elected Pope in April 2005.The 16-page document was prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a doctrinal watchdog that Pope Benedict used to head.
(Plinio Lepri/Associated Press)
It says although Orthodox churches are true churches, they are defective because they do not recognize the primacy of the Pope.
The document adds that Protestant denominations — called Christian Communities born out of the Reformation — are not true churches, but ecclesial communities.
"These ecclesial communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood … cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'churches' in the proper sense," it said.
The document is similar to one written in 2000 by the Pope — who was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the time — that sparked an angry reaction from Protestant groups.