The Next Pope

The struggle for power has already begun.
From the May 2000 Trumpet Print Edition

Outside the Vatican, things have never looked better. Over the past two decades, John Paul ii has become the most visible and celebrated pope in Vatican history. He has logged more miles of travel than all other popes combined (262 of them). Of his nearly 100 trips abroad, the crowning achievement was his tour through the Holy Land in March. Never has a pope been so well received among Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

Inside the Vatican, however, there is a different story. The pope, who turns 80 this month and suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has lost control of the Vatican, according to the London Times.

Senior Vatican officials told the Times that the pontiff spends much of the day resting and is in bed by 6 p.m. According to these inside sources, the pope’s ailing physical condition has “left a power vacuum in the Vatican in which affairs are dominated by Opus Dei, the hardline right-wing faction that has seized control of at least three key Vatican departments: the section responsible for making saints, the congregation that appoints bishops, and the powerful press office” (March 12). Because of the pope’s frail condition, the Times says the Roman Catholic Church is “facing a period of unprecedented danger as reformers attempt to seize the initiative back from the conservatives at the top of the Catholic hierarchy.”

The article accompanied a more in-depth story submitted to the Sunday Times Magazine by author John Cornwell, also on March 12. Cornwell, a Catholic who teaches at Jesus College in Cambridge, England, authored Hitler’s Pope last year, a best-selling book that exposes the Vatican’s complicity with Hitler during the Holocaust.

Cornwell describes life inside the Vatican today as “an unhappy community of seething tensions” where right-wing conservatives appear to be gaining the upper hand. “Many who look forward to better days with the prospect of a younger, more vigorous pope,” Cornwell writes, “fear that ultra-conservatives are intriguing to ensure the election of a reactionary pontiff to continue the current policies and to take the church even further to the right.”

What is happening inside the Vatican is very prophetic. We do not doubt John Paul’s desire for peace in the Middle East. Nor do we necessarily criticize the pope’s apologies for Christianity’s sins throughout the ages (although he should have been more specific).

But what happens when the next pope is elected? Considering John Paul’s physical breakdown, a new pontiff might be here sooner than you think. And despite the noble intentions of the present pope, history teaches us that the Vatican has also produced its share of bad popes. To say it cannot happen again is to be hopelessly naïve—and ignorant of even the most recent history.

Pope Pius XII

The most recent bad pope was Pius xii, the central figure discussed in Hitler’s Pope. Cornwell was first inspired to write a book about Pius because he was upset by what he considered to be “unwarranted” criticism against the man. That prompted the Vatican to give Cornwell unlimited access to its treasured (and well-protected) archives. But once Cornwell gained access to the archives, he discovered the darker side of Pius. His research led him into what he called a state of “moral shock.” The book accuses Pius of appeasing Hitler, ignoring the Jewish plight and turning a blind eye toward other Nazi atrocities.

One example Cornwell uses to prove his point is particularly telling. It happened toward the end of the war. Pius had been receiving information about Hitler’s Final Solution throughout 1942. Jewish groups and Allied officials had repeatedly urged him to publicly condemn Nazi savagery. Under increasing pressure, Pius used a December 1942 radio address to refer to the many thousands who “sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race are marked down for death or gradual extinction.” That was his strongest objection to Hitler’s genocidal rampage! Yet he failed to even mention the Führer by name and made no mention of Nazis or Jews.

In October 1943, ten months after Pius’s radio address, 365 of Hitler’s SS troops entered Rome’s old ghetto and started arresting Italian Jews. They rounded up 1060 and transported them to a building called Collegio Militare—located less than half a mile from the Vatican. According to Cornwell, Pope Pius was one of the first to be made aware of the Jewish arrests. (German trucks carrying the prisoners even drove by St. Peter’s Square so drivers could see the famous church.) The Jews were kept at the holding center for two days—right under the pope’s nose—before boarding cattle cars to Auschwitz where 80 percent of them were gassed within a week (the rest became slave laborers).

During the Jews’ two-night confinement down the street from the Vatican, Pope Pius xii did nothing. The most powerful religious man in the world, commanding the allegiance of more than a half-billion Christians at that time, remained silent when a simple protest probably would have saved 1045 lives. Only 15 of the 1060 survived the war.

Television journalist Ed Bradley recounted these events during a 60 Minutes episode on March 19. Bradley interviewed one of the Jewish survivors, who asked, “Didn’t the pope know where they were taking us? Didn’t he ask himself where those railroad tracks ended up? We were right under his window, but his voice wasn’t lifted. Nobody came, not even to save a child.”

A Vatican representative, Father Peter Gumpel, attempted to answer the victim’s questions, saying the pope couldn’t leave the Vatican because it was surrounded by German troops. He might have been arrested, Gumpel said. In quick reply, Bradley asked, “But wouldn’t that be the kind of action that a true saint would have taken? Wouldn’t that have been what Christ would have done?” Understandably, Father Gumpel stuttered in his response, saying he did not know what Christ would have done.

But this matter goes far beyond just defending Pius xii in the face of harsh criticism. Father Gumpel is one of the Vatican’s senior saint-makers who happens to be in charge of Pope Pius xii’s beatification process (the final hurdle to being named a saint). For 30 years he has been researching Pius’s life to see if he’s worthy of sainthood. Put another way, his job is to find damning evidence, if any, that would preclude Pius from beatification. He hasn’t found any! Near the end of his research, Gumpel told 60 Minutes he is “totally convinced that [Pius] did what he could [to help Jews during World War ii], that he was a holy person and that he should be beatified.” Asked if Cornwell’s research in Hitler’s Pope would have any bearing on the Vatican’s final decision, he said it would “have no effect whatsoever because it’s totally worthless from a historical point of view.”

To cast aside Cornwell’s book as totally worthless is remarkable, considering the depth of his research and the unprecedented access he had to the Vatican’s own documents!

Is this the kind of ultra-conservatism that is believed to be gaining control of the Vatican? Father Gumpel, who has publicly blamed the Jews for killing Christ, declared the Vatican’s resolute stance on Pius’s impending sainthood just two days before Pope John Paul ii arrived in the Holy Land for his much-celebrated tour. Doesn’t Gumpel’s statement cast a dark cloud over the pope’s apologies?

Only five popes in the past thousand years have been declared saints by the Vatican. The church now stands at the beginning of the new millennium prepared to beatify three more, one of whom is Pius xii—a fascist sympathizer who did nothing to help Jews during the Holocaust and who helped Nazi criminals escape justice through Vatican “Ratlines” after the war.

One wonders how these condemning facts escape most media outlets today.

John Paul II

The Second Vatican Council (1963-1965), initiated by Pope John xxiii and completed by Pope Paul vi, helped foster a new spirit of reform and openness within the Catholic Church during the 1960s. The Vatican sought to find common ground with Protestants and revised its attitude toward Jews, condemning anti-Semitism and absolving the Jewish race of blame for murdering the Messiah.

But while these developments encouraged church liberals to pursue further reforms, they also gave rise to an increasingly sharp conservative backlash.

Thirteen years after Vatican ii ended, the College of Cardinals elected Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul ii in 1978. Embracing a more traditionalist role as pontiff, many critics have argued that John Paul has rejected the sweeping changes the church initiated in the 1960s. Indeed, the Vatican’s current positions on papal infallibility and authority, celibacy among priests, birth control, abortion, divorce and not allowing women in the clergy have all remained staunchly conservative throughout John Paul’s papacy, despite liberal protests.

One Vatican journalist noted in 1986 that “anyone who believes this pope is anything but a traditionalist, believing in orthodoxy and discipline, simply has failed to understand the man. He is a liberal only in his understanding, mastery and exploitation of the modern means of communication. When it comes to doctrine, there is simply no room for argument or dissent.” John Paul has lived up to his “infallibility” tag. London’s Financial Times says “no pope before him has ever been as infallible as the present” (Oct. 16, 1998).

This awesome power, combined with the length of John Paul’s papacy, has brought about sweeping changes to a more conservative orthodoxy. Historically, the average pontifical reign has been 7.3 years. John Paul will complete 22 years of rule in August. During his papacy, he has named more saints than any of his predecessors. And when he elevates more than 20 bishops to the College of Cardinals in June of this year, the pope will have personally appointed all 120 cardinal electors.

In that way, the pope has already left his mark on the Holy See’s next ruler. When John Paul dies, the College of Cardinals will meet inside the Vatican and remain there until a two-thirds majority can agree upon a new pontiff. Traditionally, the college has been divided into three ideological blocs—conservative, liberal and moderate. In times past, a two-thirds majority forced the college to compromise on a consensus candidate—one that all sides, for the most part, can agree upon.

This process, however, has changed significantly in recent years.

The New Rules

The fact that a conservative John Paul will have appointed all 120 cardinal electors by the time they vote for the next pope increases the possibility of an even more conservative successor.

Another factor that might influence the selection is simply a matter of logistics, as was explained in the May 11, 1998, U.S.News and World Report: “The cardinals attending the next conclave will have much more comfortable accommodations than in the past and may feel less pressed to reach agreement quickly. At previous conclaves, the aging cardinals were stacked and squeezed, cheek by jowl, in tiny, austere rooms called ‘cells’ adjacent to the Sistine Chapel. Some consisted of little more than a cot, a reading lamp, and a slop bucket tucked under a stairwell. Now, however, the cardinals will be housed in the St. Martha guest house, a new 150-room hotel-like lodging just a few hundred yards from the Sistine Chapel.” The newer, more comfortable accommodations might impel a bare majority to hold out for their favorite candidate, despite strong opposition from another bloc.

More important still is the revolutionary change in voting which John Paul made himself in his 1996 apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (God’s Universal Flock). In paragraph 75, the pope wrote, “If the balloting does not result in an election…the cardinal electors shall be invited by the camerlengo [cardinal who manages the pope’s affairs] to express an opinion about the manner of proceeding. The election will then proceed in accordance with what the absolute majority of the electors decides. Nevertheless, there can be no waiving of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by an absolute majority of the votes or else by voting only on the two names which in the ballot immediately preceding have received the greatest number of votes; also in this second case only an absolute majority is required.”

What this means is that if two thirds of the electors cannot agree upon a candidate after 12 days of balloting, a bare majority could change the rules to elect their candidate! (“Absolute majority” means more than half.)

Jesuit scholar Thomas Reese notes the obvious significance of this alarming change in his 1996 book Inside the Vatican: “There is no longer an incentive to compromise and find a consensus candidate. All that is needed is a candidate who can get an absolute majority of the votes after about 30 ballots have taken place. This change increases the likelihood of a more radical and ideological candidate being elected pope. It means that a pope can be elected who was opposed by just under half the cardinals” (p. 95).

Obviously, the College of Cardinals would have to reach an impasse before resorting to the above procedure. But the point is, it can happen. And the result of such action might shock the world.

Element of Surprise

Let’s assume the above factors do not affect the selection of the next pope. That still does not rule out the element of surprise—where a pope turns out to be much different than his electors thought he would be. This too has happened before. God says it will happen again in the future.

In both the Old and New Testaments, God speaks of a great false church to emerge in this end time—one that will hold sway over the combined forces of the European Union. In Isaiah 47:1, God says, “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.” This great church, called “mystery, Babylon the great” in Revelation 17:5, is pictured in Isaiah 47 as having its throne taken away. What worldwide religion has a leader who sits on a throne?

Before God removes that throne upon Babylon’s downfall, He will allow some very evil things to happen so mankind might finally learn its lesson.

Continue in Isaiah 47:7, from the Moffatt translation: “You thought that you would last forever, mistress for all time, you thought nothing of your cruelty, reckless of all it would bring.” During the Crusades and the Inquisition, Vatican leaders “thought nothing” of their cruelty and recklessness. True, John Paul has offered a general apology on behalf of all Christianity’s failings. But the ultra-conservatives surrounding the pope have successfully urged him not to apologize for specific misdeeds—not to label the Vatican itself as guilty.

One wonders why. The Vatican was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims during the Crusades. It was responsible for slaughtering multiple millions during the Inquisition. (It has been said that the reason there are no Protestants in Spain is because the Catholics killed all of them.) It has forced millions more, by the edge of the sword, to convert to Catholicism. And it stood idly by as millions were murdered in World War ii.

Why are Vatican conservatives intent on not bringing guilt upon the Holy See when the evidence of so many abominable acts is there for all to see? Could it be that they “thought nothing” of those cruel acts since they were committed “in the name of God”?

In verse 8 God says, “Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me….” This religious leader will say in his heart that he is like God! He is infallible!

Now read Revelation 12. The chapter describes two churches which will play a prominent role in the events to unfold right before Christ returns to Earth. God is the head of one church. Satan, the great dragon, heads the other.

The one Satan leads is the great church spoken of in Isaiah 47. Revelation 13:11 says it looks like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon. In Revelation 17:6, John says, “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” God says this great church, using the military might of a European beast power, will again institute the practice of forced conversions and mass killings against “heathens.”

We know this will be hard for most people to believe because, as yet, Satan has masked his real intentions by keeping it underground as long as possible. “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder…” (v. 8). Once above ground, everyone will finally see what God is talking about!

Why do most people not understand these verses? (For more explanation, request a free copy of our booklet The Rising Beast.) God says in Revelation 12:9 and II Corinthians 4:4 that Satan rules this present evil world! In II Corinthians 11:13-15, we are told that Satan has his religion—his own ministers. Yet most people are led to believe that Satan does not even exist. And if they do believe in the devil, they certainly would not believe that he actually uses religion to deceive the masses.

Do not be deceived! Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2). Right now, just as we have been predicting for more than 50 years (see our February issue), he is raising a European beast power, straddled by the great false church of Revelation 17, to conquer the world! And human beings—even those directly involved in Satan’s machinations—will continue along, unwittingly led by the god of this world.

Thomas Reese was shocked to find that the Vatican offered no explanation for why John Paul changed the way the next pope could be elected. “It is almost as if the pope did not realize the consequences of what he decreed,” Reese said. He didn’t realize what he was doing—but Satan did! Satan is preparing the way for one man to gain a stranglehold on a church of 1 billion converts. He is preparing one man on the European front to gain a stranglehold on the political affairs of Europe. United together, this religious and political force will conquer the world during what the Bible calls the Great Tribulation.

We can thank God that it will only last for a short time.

People do not see what is happening yet because it is all underground—unless, of course, they are tuned in to God’s wavelength. You can hear the rumblings of this religious-political beast now rising in Europe like a bear awakening from hibernation, if you are attuned to God’s message. You can know how to be protected from the destruction this power will wreak upon our land and upon our peoples, if you will act on God’s message.

Meanwhile, scoffers will howl with laughter until this beast is staring them in the face!