VATICAN FEUDS, FIEFDOMS, BETRAYALS AWAIT NEXT POPE / THE 'HOLY' IN THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE
VATICAN CITY, FEBRUARY 25, 2013 (PHILSTAR) (AP) — If evidence was ever needed that the next pope must urgently overhaul the powerful Vatican bureaucracy called the Curia, the scandal over Pope Benedict XVI's private papers is Exhibit A.
The pope's own butler stole sensitive internal letters to the pontiff and passed them off to a journalist, who then published them in a blockbuster book. The butler did it, he admitted himself, to expose the "evil and corruption" in the Vatican's frescoed halls that he believed was hidden from Benedict by those who were supposed to serve him.
And if that original sin weren't enough, the content of the leaks confirmed that the next pope has a very messy house to clean up. The letters and memos exposed petty wrangling, corruption and cronyism at the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The dirt ranged from the awarding of Vatican contracts to a plot, purportedly orchestrated by senior Vatican officials, to out a prominent Catholic newspaper editor as gay.
Ordinary Catholics might not think that dysfunction in the Apostolic Palace has any effect on their lives, but it does: The Curia makes decisions on everything from church closings to marriage annulments to the disciplining of pedophile priests. Papal politics plays into the prayers the faithful say at Mass since missal translations are decided by committee in Rome. Donations the faithful make each year for the pope are held by a Vatican bank whose lack of financial transparency fueled bitter internal debate.
And so after 35 years under two "scholar" popes who paid scant attention to the internal governance of the Catholic Church, a chorus is growing that the next pontiff must have a solid track record managing a complicated bureaucracy. Cardinals who will vote in next month's conclave are openly talking about the need for reform, particularly given the dysfunction exposed by the scandal.
"It has to be attended to," said Chicago Cardinal Francis George. With typical understatement, he called the leaks scandal "a novel event for us."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German who retired in 2010 as the head of the Vatican's ecumenical office, said the Curia must adapt itself to the 21st century.
"There needs to be more coordination between the offices, more collegiality and communication," he told Corriere della Sera. "Often the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing."
Sandro Magister, the Vatican analyst who most closely follows the comings, goings and internecine feuds of Vatican officials, said the "disaster" of governance began unfolding in the 1980s, in the early years of Pope John Paul II's pontificate.
"John Paul II was completely disinterested in the Curia; his vision was completely directed to the outside," Magister said in an interview. "He allowed a proliferation of feuds, small centers of power that fought among themselves with much ambition, careerism and betrayals."
"This accumulated and ruined it for the next pope," he said.
Benedict was well aware of the problems, having spent nearly a quarter-century in the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But he never entered into the Vatican's political fray as a cardinal — and as pope left it to his No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to do the job.
"Some of his choices were shown to be counterproductive," Magister said. "Cardinal Bertone didn't produce the results that Benedict XVI had hoped for."
Bertone himself became a lightning rod for division within the Curia. A canonist, he had no diplomatic experience coming into the job, and the main battle lines drawn in the Curia today come down to his loyalists and those still loyal to his predecessor Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Taken as a whole, the leaked documents seemed aimed at undermining Bertone.
[TE DEUM LAUDAMUS: Michelangelo's masterpiece in the Vatican inspires us to contemplate the mysteries of our faith]
To be fair, the Vatican under Benedict made great strides on some internal governance fronts: the pope insisted on greater financial transparency, and the Vatican passed a key European anti-money laundering test last summer. He insisted on a Vatican trial, open to journalists, for the butler who betrayed him. And as cardinal, after priestly sex abuse cases bounced for years among Vatican offices, the former Joseph Ratzinger took them over himself in 2001.
But some analysts speculate that the revelations from the leaks at the very least accelerated Benedict's decision to resign. In early 2012, he appointed three trusted cardinals to investigate beyond the criminal case involving his butler. They interviewed widely inside the Curia and out and delivered their final report in December. Its contents are sealed, though speculation is rife that the cardinals minced no words in revealing the true nature of the Curia.
Benedict's biographer, Peter Seewald, asked Benedict in August how badly the scandal had affected him. He replied that he was not falling into "desperation or world-weariness," yet admitted the leaks scandal "is simply incomprehensible to me," according to a recent article Seewald penned for the German magazine Focus.
The Holy See's bureaucracy is organized as any government, though it most closely resembles a medieval court — given that the pope is an absolute monarch, with full executive, legal and judicial powers.
There's a legal office, an economic affairs office and an office dedicated to the world's 400,000 priests. Three tribunals tend to ecclesiastical cases and a host of departments take up spiritual matters: making saints, keeping watch on doctrine and the newest office created by Benedict, spreading the faith.
John Paul's 1988 apostolic constitution "Pastor Bonus" sets out the competencies of the various congregations and councils, and they function more or less as independent fiefdoms, albeit in consultation with one another when the subject matter requires. In the end, though, the real power lies with two departments: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the secretariat of state, which can block virtually any initiative of another office.
"Who is influential isn't so much dependent on what your office is or your title but whether you have access to the king, or in this case the pope," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of "Inside the Vatican," a bible of sorts for understanding the Vatican Curia.
The same could be said for any executive branch. But in the case of the Vatican, there's a difference.
"Obama can fire anybody he wants from his cabinet," Reese said. "When you make someone a bishop, you make him a bishop for life. When you make him a cardinal you make him a prince of the church. What do you do with a cardinal (who doesn't work out)? He can't go to K Street and get a job as a lobbyist."
Though increasingly international, the Curia is also a very Italian creature, which affects its priorities, weaknesses and style of governance. "Genealogy is important, who begat whom," noted one recently departed Vatican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as to not antagonize former colleagues.
The typical Italian way of getting things done via personal stamps of approval, or "raccomandanzione," guides introductions. The Italian way of persuasion, less overt power play than Machiavellian machinations, governs consensus-building and decision-making.
Italian commentator Massimo Franco recently concluded on the pages of Corriere della Sera that the Vatican bureaucracy today is simply "ungovernable."
Though it's open to interpretation, Benedict's final homily as pope could be read as a clear message to the cardinals who will choose his successor.
Two days after announcing he would resign, a weary Benedict told his flock gathered in St. Peter's Basilica for Ash Wednesday Mass to live their lives as Christians in order to show the true face of the church — a church, he said, which is often "defiled."
"I think in particular about the attacks against the unity of the church, the divisions in the ecclesial body," he said. He told those gathered that "moving beyond individualisms and rivalries is a humble and precious sign for those who are far from the faith or indifferent to it."
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was wrong to interpret the pope's words as being directed at the Vatican Curia, saying the pope's message was intended as a call for unity among all Christians, a priority of his as pontiff.
"Differences and diversity of opinion are part of the normal dynamic of any institution or community," Lombardi said. He said the way the Vatican's governance problems are often described "do not correspond to reality."
["Monsignors' mutiny" revealed by Vatican leaks:
(Reuters) - Call it Conspiracy City. Call it Scandal City.
Call it Leak City. These days the holy city has been in
the news for anything but holy reasons.]
FROM HERBERT ARMSTRONG PROPHECY (THE PLAIN TRUTH, ETC;
The ‘Holy’ in the Holy Roman Empire From the booklet He Was Right Copyright © 2010, 2012 Philadelphia Church of God
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Many historians and analysts underestimate the role of the Roman Catholic Church in European history. Many also underestimate the extent of the Vatican’s involvement in the affairs of Europe and European countries today.
Herbert Armstrong never made this mistake.
We have seen how Mr. Armstrong for decades prophesied of the emergence in this end time of the seventh and final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. And though this globe-controlling “United States of Europe,” he warned, would be ruled by Germany, biblical prophecy points to the necessity of some additional power to glue the fractious nations of Europe together. After all, Daniel’s prophecy likened the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire to a brittle mix of iron and clay (Daniel 2:41-43). Matching Daniel 7 with Revelation 13 and 17, Mr. Armstrong understood that glue would be religion. Under God’s guidance, he linked these prophecies with history and came to see clearly that the deadly spiritual force guiding this European superstate would be the Vatican.
This Vatican is the “holy” in the term Holy Roman Empire.
“Europeans want their own united military power!” Mr. Armstrong wrote in August 1978. “They know that a political union of Europe would produce a third major world power, as strong as either the United States or the ussr—possibly stronger. … But they well know there is but one possibility of union in Europe—and that is through the Vatican” (Good News, Aug. 28, 1978; emphasis added throughout).
To members and co-workers he wrote on January 23, 1980: “What Russia is doing will be the spark to bring the heads of nations in Europe together with the Vatican to form a ‘United Nations of Europe.’ The politicians cannot do this by themselves. Only with the collaboration of the pope can they do it.”
“I have been proclaiming and writing ever since 1935 that the final one of the seven eras of the Holy Roman Empire is coming in our generation—a ‘United States of Europe,’ combining 10 nations or groups of nations in Europe—with a union of church and state!” he wrote in the January 1979 edition of the Plain Truth. “The nations of Europe have been striving to become reunited. They desire a common currency, a single combined military force, a single united government. They have made a start in the Common Market. They are now working toward a common currency. Yet, on a purely political basis, they have been totally unable to unite.
“In only one way can this resurrected Holy Roman Empire be brought to fruition—by the ‘good offices’ of the Vatican, uniting church and state once again, with the Vatican astride and ruling (Revelation 17:1-5).”
Herbert Armstrong and the Plain Truth continually made reference to Europe forming a church-state union under the auspices of the Vatican.
Drawing in Eastern Europe
During the Soviet era, the Plain Truth continued to encourage its readers to “Look for the Vatican to exert more influence in European affairs. Yugoslavia and the Vatican have resumed full diplomatic relations—a move that could lead to further ties between the Vatican and Eastern Europe. … The pope, encouraging European political unity, stated, ‘We note with pleasure that the German government contributes actively to the achievement of this aim.’ Vatican influence over European affairs is destined to grow in the months ahead” (August/September 1970).
Perhaps the most impressive prophecy about the Vatican’s impact on European union related to the persistent forecasts of the pope’s influence in drawing the Eastern European nations out of the old Soviet Union and into mother Europe’s lap.
Consider: “[W]e need to understand that the one great, overall, ultimate goal is the reuniting of all Christianity into one cohesive unit under one head—the Roman pontiff—in an attempt to bring to the world the Catholic concept of peace. This plan envisions the full use of the new Europe!” (ibid, January 1963).
In respect of Eastern Europe, the Plain Truth declared that the papacy had its mind set on leading the diplomacy that would create the rapport between East and West Europe: “One of the biggest roles desired by the Vatican is that of mediator between East and West. … The Vatican, you can be sure, will continue to do its part in courting the Eastern European countries. Its Ostpolitik has been to bring them back into the ‘fold’ for a long time. And that is certainly the path it must continue to travel” (February 1972).
When Pope John Paul ii appeared on the scene, Mr. Armstrong made a far-sighted prediction: “The character, personality and actions of the Polish Pope, John Paul ii, indicate more than possibly that he may be the pope to offer his good services to unite the nations of Europe once again. European nations want, seriously, to be united. Of themselves they are unable. John Paul ii could make it possible” (Good News, January 1980).
Throughout his papacy, Pope John Paul’s cry was for the whole of Europe to return to its roots.
On November 9, 1982, Pope John Paul ii, speaking on his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, issued the following declaration to Europe: “I, bishop of Rome and shepherd of the universal church, from Santiago, utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love: Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots. Return to those authentic values which made your history a glorious one and your presence so beneficent in the other continents. Rebuild your spiritual unity. … You can still be the guiding light of civilization.”
Remember Mr. Armstrong’s remarkable foresight in indicating that the EU would break across the Soviet divide to build the eastern leg of the European Union, and that “John Paul ii could make it possible.” This prediction was borne out in an event involving the pope’s homeland, Poland. On January 9, 1998, the Associated Press reported how that nation’s Communist leader capitulated to the will of Rome: “Martial law had crushed the church-backed Solidarity labor movement, and Poland’s Communist rulers expected a chastened Pope John Paul ii ready for compromise when he visited his homeland in 1983.
“Instead, his voice rising, the pontiff lectured a surprised party chief, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, as the nation watched on television. History would be his judge, the pope warned, demanding that union rights be restored for the Soviet bloc’s first free trade union [Solidarity].” In the face of this demand, Jaruzelski capitulated. The Vatican-funded Catholic Solidarity movement triumphed, and Poland broke the Communist yoke and then sought attachment to the European Union! The Vatican had driven a wedge underneath the Iron Curtain that was destined to crack it asunder and cause its total collapse!
The power of this papal diplomacy was recognized in a news release by abc correspondent Bill Blakemore: “Not only had John Paul ii ignited a nonviolent revolution when he first returned as pope in 1979, but by 1989 he had guided it with patient force till it won—the Polish Solidarity movement spread until the Berlin Wall came down and the Communists went away.
“Soviet Premier Gorbachev himself wrote later that John Paul’s philosophy and approach had ‘made a new kind of thinking possible for us all’” (June 18, 1999).
The Trumpet documented the continuing thrust of papal politics through the last decade of the 20th century on to the end of the first decade of the 21st as we witnessed the combined forces of Rome and Brussels/Berlin work to finally build the eastern leg of the resurrecting Holy Roman Empire. By the beginning of the next decade, that project was all but accomplished. Yet another of the powerful prophecies broadcast and published throughout the previous five decades by Herbert Armstrong had been fulfilled!
But an even more powerful endorsement of Herbert Armstrong’s forecast that a “strong spiritual binding force” would emerge soon in Europe leaped into perspective after the death of John Paul ii.
A New Cultural Unity
From the mid-1990s, the Trumpet had been watching and reporting on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, eyeing him as a likely candidate to replace an ailing John Paul ii. In April 2004 that became a reality. Ratzinger took to the papal throne under the name Benedict xvi.
Why that name? It has everything to do with the prophecy declared by Herbert Armstrong regarding a “strong spiritual force” binding together a uniting Europe! The papacy of Benedict xvi has provided ample evidence of his zeal to reassert Roman Catholic relevance in the 21st century.
Inside the church, the pope has continued his decades-long campaign to expel liberals and stack the deck with conservatives. He has resurrected use of the ultra-conservative Tridentine prayer book. He has called on believers to evangelize—to “relaunch missionary activity to meet the many grave challenges of our time.”
In Europe, Benedict is working to reestablish a Catholic continent. We reported in our June 2005 edition, “In his first weekly papal audience, on April 27, Ratzinger used the occasion ‘to express what may become a central theme of his papacy: the Christian roots of Europe’ (International Herald Tribune, April 28).” Among non-Catholic Christians, he seeks to draw worshipers under papal authority. In the world, he is leveling a strong attack against secularism and godlessness. His Vatican has put pressure on politicians to change policy, rallied voters to swing elections, and forced leaders from office. These are but echoes of the Vatican’s past as Europe’s kingmaker.
Benedict xvi has worked to re-energize Catholicism not only in Europe, but around the world. He has been particularly active in Latin America, where he has challenged bishops to galvanize a continent-wide crusade against competing non-Catholic religions. To Islam, he has unmistakably shown a resistance, a toughness, that promises to grow stronger.
Remarkably, this sequence of provocative moves seems to have helped rather than hurt the pope’s popularity. What Benedict has done, in fact, is position the Vatican to fulfill its prophesied role in European and world events. He has been active, determined and aggressive in positioning Rome to play a larger role in the time ahead.
Benedict views his actions in their historical context—facilitating yet another revival of that ancient church-state union, the Holy Roman Empire. That is why he chose the name Benedict, as he explained in that first papal audience in 2005. There he praised the role Europe’s patron, “Benedict of Norcia, the fifth-century founder of the Benedictine order of monks, had on spreading Christianity in Europe,” according to the International Herald Tribune (ibid) Pope Benedict stated, “He represents a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a strong reminder of the unrenounceable Christian roots of its culture and civilization.”
In April 2008, the pope said that Benedict “exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture.” He praised Benedict for helping the Continent emerge from the “dark night of history” that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.
This pope identifies strongly with his namesake, whose monastic system galvanized Europe during Justinian’s revival of the Roman Empire. Clearly, he is trying to spark a similar revival today. By alluding to the period between the fall of the Roman Empire in a.d. 476 and its revival under Justinian in a.d. 554 as the “dark night of history,” Benedict xvi seemed to imply that modern Europe has endured a similar “dark night” from which it is now emerging under his influence.
The pope also said Benedict had sparked “a new cultural unity based on Christian faith” within Europe—which united an otherwise fractious European populace into a mighty empire. Ever since, the “cultural unity” created by Roman Catholicism has helped Europe to unify time and time again as the Holy Roman Empire.
The pope is working to sway Europe to embrace the religion of Rome today—to become that “spiritual binding force” prophesied by Herbert Armstrong to ultimately bind Europe together—to once again serve as the cultural glue enabling the restoration of the ancient Holy Roman Empire.
The Bible informs us that he is destined to succeed.
ABOUT HERBERT ARMSTRONG--FROM WIKIPEDIA
[Herbert W. Armstrong (31 July 1892 - 16 January 1986) founded the Worldwide Church of God in the late 1930s, as well as Ambassador College (later Ambassador University) in 1946, and was an early pioneer of radio and tele-evangelism, originally taking to the airwaves in the 1930s from Eugene, Oregon. Armstrong preached an eclectic set of theological doctrines and teachings that he claimed came directly from the Bible. These theological doctrines and teachings have been referred to as Armstrongism. His teachings included the interpretation of biblical prophecy in light of British Israelism, and required observance of parts of the covenant Law including seventh-day Sabbath, dietary prohibitions, and the covenant law "Holy Days"......READ MORE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_W._Armstrong]
“Don't believe me – BELIEVE YOUR BIBLE – BELIEVE GOD!” Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth magazine, Sept. 1963, Personal pg.1
Returning to the Fold From the booklet He Was Right Copyright © 2010, 2012 Philadelphia Church of God
“Protestant churches everywhere are gravitating toward union with the Roman Catholic Church. These religious movements are speeding the fulfillment of the prophecies of the resurrected Roman Empire. For 30 years I have been proclaiming this tremendous event over the air and in print.” —Herbert W. Armstrong, 1963
From the early 1930s, Herbert Armstrong spoke out about a coming unity between Catholics and Protestants. Notice this excerpt from the Plain Truth in 1961: “The pope will step in as the supreme unifying authority—the only one that can finally unite the differing nations of Europe. The iron jurisdiction over both schools and religion will be turned over to the Roman Catholic Church. Europe will go Roman Catholic! Protestantism will be absorbed into the ‘mother’ church—and totally abolished” (October 1961).
At that time, any kind of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants seemed impossible to most. But look at the situation today. In October 2009 the Catholic Church offered membership in the Church of Rome to any Anglicans who would choose to convert, with the historic concessions that they could keep their Anglican practices and that married clergy would be accepted as priests in a newly established Catholic/Anglican community.
In recent years, many Anglicans have been angered by their church’s liberal stance on issues such as the ordination of female clergy and homosexual priests. Now, thanks to the pope’s directive, they may flock to the Catholic Church. Defections began immediately.
This process has not been limited to the Anglicans. The Vatican is making great strides toward bringing every major Christian denomination, especially in Europe, under the authority of Rome.
This is exactly what Herbert Armstrong said would happen. Through the pages of the Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong prophesied of this coming church unity. Notice, again: “The final—albeit short-lived—triumph of Catholicism is recorded in literally dozens of Bible prophecies. Right now—whether we want to believe it or not—the stage is being set for the greatest revolution in religion the world has witnessed. … The mighty problem of achieving unity is twofold. First, it involves reconciliation of the Orthodox Schism that officially commenced in 1054 and divided the churches in the East. … Second, it involves restoration to the Roman Communion all Protestantism which developed from 1517 onward” (November 1963).
The Vatican has broadcast the importance of its aim for unity for well over a century. Pope Leo xiii stated it in the opening comment of his June 29, 1896, encyclical to the church: “It is sufficiently well known unto you that no small share of our thoughts and of our care is devoted to our endeavor to bring back to the fold, placed under the guardianship of Jesus Christ, the chief Pastor of souls, sheep that have strayed. Bent upon this, we have thought it most conducive to this salutary end and purpose to describe the exemplar and, as it were, the lineaments of the church. Amongst these the most worthy of our chief consideration is unity. We earnestly pray that He (‘the Father of Lights’) will graciously grant us the power of bringing conviction home to the minds of men” (“Satis Cognitum” [On the Unity of the Church]; emphasis added).
In the 1930s, when a future church unity was being prophesied, nothing was further from the minds of Protestants. They would have said, “Unity? Never!” But what do we see today, over 70 years after Mr. Armstrong first broke that news to the world? We see the Anglican Church and Rome’s other Protestant daughters returning to the fold!
Steps Toward Unity
The Catholic Church and its Christian daughters began taking steps toward unity some decades ago. By the end of the 1960s, interfaith ecumenical prayer services had been held in practically every major city of the United States, and “pulpit switches” by priests and ministers were becoming widespread.
Anglicans and Catholics carried on private meetings with Lutherans throughout 1966. The Methodist Church also encouraged holding study groups together with Catholics. In 1967, a precedent-shattering Roman Catholic-Anglican service was held in Madrid at the British Embassy’s Church of St. George. As the Plain Truth reported at the time, it was evident that leading Protestant theologians had begun to seriously question any need for a future Protestant movement. Lutheran Bishop of Berlin Otto Dibelius said, “If the Catholic Church of 450 years ago had looked as it does today, there never would have been a Reformation.” Dr. Carl E. Braaten of Chicago’s Lutheran Theological Seminary concluded that it was becoming increasingly difficult to justify “a need for Protestantism as an independent movement.”
A decade later, a pope visited the White House for the first time in history. “Over 200 years of estrangement between the Vatican and the government of the United States came to an unofficial end,” the Plain Truth reported, calling it “an event unthinkable just two decades ago” (December 1979). During that visit, Pope John Paul ii asked “all Christians—Catholic, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox—to transcend our present and past differences on this occasion, and to mark the papal visit as a sign and stimulus for reconciliation … and to pray for the unity we seek.”
In November of that year, the pope made a historic three-day visit to Turkey. There he held a religious summit with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Demetrios i, stating a determination to bring to a close what he called the “intolerable scandal” of the divisions within the Christian-professing world.
In 1982, Pope John Paul traveled to Britain, Scotland and Wales. There he declared in London’s Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral, “Today, for the first time in history, a bishop of Rome sets foot on English soil”—and said he prayed his visit would ” serve the cause of Christian unity.” He conducted a service with the archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral, headquarters of the Church of England. In his sermon, he appealed to his audience, which included millions watching on television, to be “praying and working for reconciliation and ecclesiastical unity.”
In 1998, the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation—which represents a majority of Lutherans worldwide, some 7.6 million believers—affirmed that Roman Catholics and Lutherans share a basic understanding. The New York Times called the event “a triumph for supporters of the ecumenical movement, which has urged closer cooperation among churches” (June 26, 1998).
Pope John Paul ii undertook enormous effort to promote unity. He was the most traveled pope in history. From March 1983 to July 1998, he visited no fewer than 116 separate nations, many of them multiple times. It was one visible sign of the pope’s tremendous effort to offer the olive branch to Catholicism’s protesting, or Protestant, daughter churches.
Yet as hard as John Paul ii worked to bring Catholics and Anglicans together, his death in April 2005 only advanced this movement’s cause even further.
Out of the Many—One
Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, became the first Anglican leader in history to attend a pope’s funeral. He called John Paul ii “one of the very greatest” Christian leaders of the 20th century and signaled that “the rift between Anglicans and Catholics stemming from the Reformation could finally be healed …” (Australian, April 12, 2005). A Guardian headline in London read, “It’s as if the Reformation had never happened.”
[Pope John Paul II receives the Holy Communion from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) at the Vatican Photo: EPA]
John Paul ii’s death swept Protestant churches along in the euphoria of papal adulation, and his successor, Pope Benedict xvi, sought to capitalize on these sentiments. From the start of his papacy he stated that his “primary task” was to unify all Christians.
However, the approach toward achieving unity by this pope would prove to be less diplomatic, more forceful and stern, than that of his predecessor.
In July of 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith restated the doctrines of “Dominus Iesus,” a document Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had signed in 2000 to proclaim that non-Catholics were “gravely deficient” and that Protestant churches are “not churches in the proper sense.” The restatement added that Orthodox churches suffer from a “wound” because they do not accept the pope’s authority.
In March 2006, Pope Benedict chose to drop “patriarch of the West” from his list of official titles. Why? The Eastern Orthodox synod said the move implied that the Catholic Church still sought “universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome over the entire church.” The pope retained the titles “vicar of Christ” and “supreme pontiff of the universal church.” He cast off the title “patriarch of the West” not because it gave him too much jurisdiction, but not enough.
In October 2007, Orthodox leaders signed an agreement with Vatican officials that established the primacy of the pope over all Catholic and Orthodox bishops—though there is still disagreement on exactly what authority that status grants the Catholic leader. Another joint meeting on the question of papal primacy occurred in 2009. The pope is also wooing the Orthodox, who split from Rome in 1054, by embracing more tradition and ceremony, something that particularly appeals to the Eastern Orthodox churches.
In December 2008 Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew i met with Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; the two agreed that Catholic-Orthodox union was the only solution to the world’s economic, political and social crises.
After all that, the pope launched his surprise attack on the Anglican Church. On Oct. 20, 2009, came the announcement that the Catholic Church would offer a free ticket to Rome for all Anglicans who chose to reject the policies of their liberalized hierarchy. “Rome has parked its tanks on the archbishop of Canterbury’s lawn,” proclaimed Britain’s Times newspaper (Oct. 21, 2009). The Anglican community, tremendously weakened by the aggressive penetration of its ranks by feminists and homosexuals since the social revolt of the 1960s, was always going to be riper for Vatican takeover than Rome’s eastern daughters; the Vatican simply had to take the moral high ground and hold it.
What is ahead for Christian unity? For now, the Vatican is willing to compromise to draw in its daughters. But that won’t always be so. As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in May 2007, “Indeed, biblical prophecy indicates that full unity will not be achieved purely voluntarily. At a certain point, the mother church will abandon its efforts to woo her daughters back by flatteries and instead revert to the age-old method of preserving ‘Christian’ unity by exerting physical force.”
In the end, this coming reconciliation between the Vatican and its protesting daughters will not usher in the peace mankind so desperately desires: just the opposite! It will bring about the fulfillment of the great prophecies of Revelation 13. These prophecies speak of a universalist religion that imposes its will upon the Earth with crusading power. It will enforce a social contract that dictates not only who will work but who will eat! (Revelation 13:15-16).
For well over 50 years, Herbert Armstrong prophesied of this great religious power and its coming global dominance. But he looked beyond the great time of trial this religious power and the empire it leads will bring to this world. He prophesied of another empire—an empire that will soon overcome all other imperial and religious forces to finally impose justice on all mankind—the very Kingdom of God under the divine rule of the Author of pure religion, the living Jesus Christ! ▪
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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