Commencing October 11, on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (Vatican ii), Pope Benedict launched what amounts to a new crusade by the Roman Catholic Church.
Called the “Year of Faith,” the next 12 months will showcase a plethora of initiatives designed to revive what the Vatican sees as the key role of the church: its commitment to evangelize the world.
“The church exists to evangelize. … At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in the church’s evangelizing activity.” Thus announced Pope Benedict during his latest homily to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square Sunday, October 7.
Pope Benedict is strongly implying that “divine providence” is, at this moment in history, giving “birth to a renewed dynamism in the Church’s evangelizing activity.” Our question is, with Europe in crisis and the world in the utter turmoil of global disorder, why now?
Believe it or not, your Bible answers that question. The timing of Pope Benedict’s new crusade gels perfectly in sequence with the signs Jesus Christ gave to highlight those world events leading up to his return (Matthew 24:4-5, 24).
The Vatican’s Year of Faith was launched on the 50th anniversary of Vatican ii, called by Pope John xxiii in 1962 to address how the Roman Catholic Church would maintain relevance in the post-war 20th century as communism and its country cousin, liberal socialism, began offering ideological alternatives to a new generation.
Pope Benedict is one of four clerics with an active role in Vatican ii who subsequently became pope.
Vatican ii became the catalyst for an ecumenical drive by Rome to garner back into its fold the Orthodox churches and the wayward Protestant daughters.
Whereas the most well-known doctrine affirmed unanimously by all delegates to Vatican i, convened by Pius ix in 1868, was papal infallibility, the most declarative statement made at Vatican ii relating to Rome’s interpretation of its role was the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. This states that “the sole church of Christ which in the creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth.’ This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” (emphasis mine).
Thus it was reestablished as a binding doctrine of Roman Catholicism at Vatican ii that the Roman Church is the only true church.
Notwithstanding this, for some reason Vatican ii created a set of problems that Rome has contended with to this day. A freer spirit entered the church post-Vatican ii leading to the rapid rise of liberalism within the ranks of the clergy.
This movement festered globally but found particularly fertile ground in Latin America.
On ascending to the papal throne in 1978, one of John Paul ii’s first actions was to appoint his Vatican ii contemporary, Josef Ratzinger, as his prime enforcer with a directive to oust the most influential liberal voices in the church.
Subsequently, both John Paul ii and Ratzinger (as Pope Benedict xvi) stacked the curia with the most conservative of clergy in an effort to swing the pendulum back to Roman Catholic conservative dogma.
Now comes the crusading Year of Faith, launched with deliberate intent on the jubilee of Vatican ii.
One of the pope’s main efforts in the Year of Faith is to garner back into Rome’s fold the wayward who have drifted from the church following its liberalization in the wake of Vatican ii.
Another prime goal is to evangelize globally for new converts. This will accelerate the ecumenical movement of the church—and simultaneously cause deep concern to one of Roman Catholicism’s chief competitors, pan-Islamism.
As the pope declared in last Sunday’s homily, “Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific ‘branches’ developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the new evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life.”
Toward the end of his homily, Pope Benedict declared, “We cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire for conversion.”
Oft repeated is the statement that those who forget history are bound to repeat it. We only have to go back in history 70 years to witness the horror of forced conversions to Rome’s religion at the end of a gun in the Balkans. Search the history of past crusades and conversion to Rome’s religion by force, and violence was integral to them.
In our Anglo-Saxon politically correct societies, it has become most unfashionable to dwell on the atrocities committed under the banner of religion in two world wars. Yet your Bible prophesies that there is coming a crusade of a nature that will far eclipse the devastation wrought by Rome’s past efforts at converting the world.
We would do well to view the Vatican’s Year of Faith, with its drive for a “new evangelism,” with more than a little concern. At its beginning it may all sound as benign as a lamb. But in the end, it will have the bite of a serpent (Revelation 13:11). ▪