Pope Moves to Redeem Crusades
Following the great religious wars of Europe that consummated in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, religion as a force in international relations went into exile. It remained so, sacrificed on the altar of secularist state-ism, for nigh on 3½ centuries.
If we were to search for a definitive point when religion began to emerge from exile and once again assert itself in geopolitics, we would do well to consider the year that John Paul ii ascended the papal throne.
This most political of postwar popes turned the world of international politics upside down. His ringing cries for Europe to throw off the shackles of atheistic communism in the East and liberal socialism in the West vibrated across that Continent, striking a chord with the masses in the Soviet Union whose freedom to practice religion had been suppressed for over 60 years.
Solidarity, the federation that formed in 1980 in Pope John’s homeland of Poland, may have been a trades union by name, but it was effectively a politico-religious entity at its heart and in its effect. It became the instrument employed by the Vatican, the cia and the allied leadership of the U.S. and Britain that broke the Soviet chokehold on eastern and southern Europe.
But if it was John Paul’s charismatic religious politicizing that began the resurgence of religion from its centuries-long absence in international relations, it was the horrors of 9/11 that propelled religion to center stage in global politics. Suddenly, a cataclysmic confrontation had occurred between Judeo-Christianism and its old enemy Islam, with devastating results. War was openly declared that day between extremist fundamentalist Islam and the Judeo-Christians. The response from the West was the declaration of a war on terror, a terror that had its roots in jihadist Muslim religion.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that this war will not go away until both sides have fully vented their historic hatred for each other’s religion.
From 2001 to his death in 2005, an aging, ailing John Paul ii continued to make homilies and deliver public messages designed to motivate Europeans to unite under the banner of Rome. At the same time, he publicly declared support for efforts to bring the three Abrahamaic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—together.
After John Paul’s death, in April 2005 the Bavarian Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope. This pope, Benedict xvi, commenced his public political orations in a vein that seemed to reach out to Islam. Very early in his pontificate, he even denied publicly that there was such a thing occurring as a “clash of civilizations.” However, two months after his election, an extremist, populist Islamic leader was elected to the presidency of the nation that seeks to lead the Islamic world, Iran.
Upon gaining office, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wasted no time in challenging the West with his anti-Jew, anti-U.S. and anti-British rhetoric, a rhetoric that was soon to embrace his disdain for all Europe as an enemy of Islam. Careful analysis of Pope Benedict’s published and orally delivered messages since then show a definite change in his public stance on the global disorder that extremist Islam has initiated. In fact, addressing the Vatican diplomatic corps on January 9, Benedict openly acknowledged that “the clash of civilizations” in today’s world “is made more acute by organized terrorism” (CWNews.com). Some few days earlier, addressing an overflow crowd in his first public audience this year, the pope went on the offensive. Using crusading language, he declared that the “moral imperative” of the Roman Catholic Church was to unite mankind in Christ. That’s universalist, Roman Catholic dogma. It says that the Vatican’s goal is to convert mankind to the religion of Rome!
But this pope is a quintessential diplomat.
As he addressed the 174 ambassadors accredited to the Holy See on January 9, he joined the church’s mission to that of all world leaders, stating that the Vatican is “united as in a common mission” with the world’s diplomats. (Considering that Rome’s mission is to catholicize the world, that was some statement!) In carefully worded diplomatic script designed as a hit at extremist Islam, the pope underpinned his reference to a “clash of civilizations” by pointing to the prime cause being terrorism, which he declared was rooted in “political ideology combined with aberrant religious ideas” (ibid., emphasis mine throughout). Only a fool would fail to catch this as a glaring reference to Islamic fundamentalism. This is a religious war of words, couched in the language of diplomacy.
Even more striking was the pope’s declaration to the diplomats gathered before his throne that “the nerve point of the world scene … is the Holy Land“ (ibid.). The pope literally sees a great clash coming between Islam and Judeo-Christianity with its “nerve point” being Jerusalem.
Having these reactions of Pope Benedict in mind, it should then have come as no surprise to hear that last week, Pope Benedict moved to rehabilitate the Vatican’s Crusades of old against Islam. A Vatican-sponsored conference was convened to revisit the history of the Crusades with the object of painting them in a much more acceptable light than history has granted them to this point. As Italian newspaper La Stampa said, “The debate has been reopened.” Rather than cruel and crushing offensives against Islam, the Crusades are now being rewritten as a defense of Rome’s religion.
An Italian historian speaking at the conference declared that the crusaders were “martyrs,” and that the papal decrees which enacted the Crusades were “a response to the Muslim invasion of Christian lands and the Muslim devastation of the holy places” (Times Online, March 20).
Add it all up. The pope declares that the world is caught in a clash of civilizations. He states that this clash results from terrorism borne of aberrant religious ideas. He cites Jerusalem as the nerve center of international relations. He sponsors a forum to redeem the Crusades as worthy actions of the Vatican of old. Can you see where this is going?
Read Gerald Flurry’s article titled “The Last Crusade” in the August 2001 edition of the Trumpet for a reality check on just where this pope is destined to lead the Western world.