A Catholic dogma, Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (literally "no salvation outside the Church") has sometimes been interpreted as denying salvation to non-Catholic Christians as well as non-Christians, though constant Catholic teaching has stressed the possibility of salvation for persons invincibly ignorant (through no fault of their own) of the Catholic Church's necessity and thus not culpable for lacking communion with the Church. In the 20th century this inclusive approach was expressed in the condemnation of Feeneyism and in the declaration of the Second Vatican Council, which said that "the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator," thus potentially extending salvation to other monotheistic faiths. Vatican II further affirmed that salvation was available to people who had not even heard of Christ (cf. Acts 17:23) - but that all who gain salvation do so only by membership in the Catholic Church, whether that membership is explicit or implicit.
Such Vatican documents have led some to question the Church's commitment to ecumenism. Pope John Paul II personally endorsed Dominus Iesus, and ratified and confirmed it "with sure knowledge and by his apostolic authority" (a formal sentence used at the beginning or at the point of signature of an official document).
This document states that people outside of Christianity are "in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation", and that non-Catholic Christian communities had "defects." Some non-Catholic groups have interpreted this as disparagement of their faiths while others have appreciated that the Church position does not deny the salvation of those officially separated from the Catholic Church.
In response to these criticisms, Pope John Paul II on October 2 of that year emphasized that this document did not say that non-Christians were denied salvation: "This confession does not deny salvation to non-Christians, but points to its ultimate source in Christ, in whom man and God are united." John Paul II then issued on December 6 a statement to emphasize further that the Church continued in the position of Vatican II that salvation was available to believers of other faiths: "The Gospel teaches us that those who live in accordance with the Beatitudes - the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bear lovingly the sufferings of life - will enter God's kingdom." He further added, "All who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do not know Christ and his Church, contribute under the influence of grace to the building of this kingdom."
A remarkable but unappreciated "reaching out" can be found in the actual official Latin text of this document. Here, in the Latin text, the famous "filioque clause," ("and the Son") is left out without comment. The filioque clause remains a highly controversial change to what is called The Nicene Creed. The clause was added by the Third Council of Toledo in 589. In Latin, the changed sentence is "Credo in Spiritum Sanctum qui ex patre filioque procedit ("I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.") One external site summarizes the significance of the Filioque clause, saying, the filioque clause was probably devised in response to Arianism, which denied the full divinity of the Son ... The insertion of filioque clause to the Nicene Creed was one of the reasons behind the great schism of 1054 which led to the split in Chalcedonian Christianity. The Eastern and Western churches have remained separate, and the doctrine represented by the term filioque stands as one of the primary points of difference between them.