Benedict’s Ecumenical Crusade


Benedict’s Ecumenical Crusade

Jihad is catalyzing the Vatican’s wayward daughters to reach out to the mother church in an effort to perpetuate the realm of Christendom.

Pope Benedict xvi is on a crusade. The groundwork was laid during Vatican ii at which Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul ii, formed a friendship through agreeing on the Vatican’s ecumenical initiatives.

Ever since the second Vatican Congress, convened in Rome by Pope John xxiii in 1962, the Vatican has been preparing for what it is convinced will be a return of the Protestant and Orthodox followers to the Catholic fold. Until 1978, this church of one billion followers followed a steady and careful ecumenical path until the pace of progress of reuniting Christendom dramatically stepped up under the leadership of a Polish pope.

In 1978, John Paul ii ascended the papal throne. He wasted no time in calling his Vatican ii associate Cardinal Josef Ratzinger into the key role of Vatican enforcer—the senior Vatican position of Prefect of the Office of the Doctrine of the Faith, the ancient office of the Holy Inquisition. As John Paul ii busied himself with raising the church’s public profile on the world geopolitical stage, Ratzinger cleaned out liberalism from the priesthood, boring in on its main proponents and ostracizing them. This formidable partnership revamped both the church pastoral and bureaucratic organization to prepare for a return to traditional Catholicism. At no level was this more apparent than the curia. Pope John Paul ii literally so stacked the deck with right-wing cardinals that, at his death, this upper echelon of the church reflected tradition through and through.

With the political union of Europe largely accomplished under John Paul ii’s charismatic influence, and the revamped curia in place, it remained, at his death, for another to finish one more highly important task: that of solving the problem of welding these 25 individual nations—literally a resurrection of the ancient Holy Roman Empire—into a single whole, an organic union that would think, move and speak with one united political voice instead of its present cacophony of disparate jabberings.

John Paul ii set the mood, crying out often for Europe to return to its “Christian roots.” It fell to Benedict to convert that rallying cry into reality.

Benedict xvi has lost no time in pursuing an ecumenical agenda in association with his leading an increasingly revitalized priesthood in a crusade of evangelism of global proportions. The catalyst that Benedict has used to call for revitalization of the church has been the threat to Christendom posed by a much more aggressively evangelizing religion: Islam.

There was no doubting John Paul ii’s charisma. As a trained actor, he was well prepared to strut the global political stage, resplendent in costuming fit for every occasion. His use of the mass media was legendary; and his funeral garnered the largest television audience in history. That was an audience that played also, and massively, to his successor’s favor.

The quietly spoken, gimlet-eyed, stooped-in-stature presence of Pope Benedict belied the eloquence and finesse of his impeccable performance at John Paul ii’s funeral. Since then, the steel-trap mind of this most articulate of popes has produced an unprecedented flow of statements, both published and spoken, which, if closely followed, show Benedict in hot pursuit of those sheep that the Vatican lost through history, from the times of the loss of Rome’s eastern empire and the Protestant Reformation.

But this year, it seems that all of a sudden the wayward sheep are clamoring for contact with the mother church!

Before the month is out, the year will have seen three crucial meetings between the pope and the leaders representing a majority of the church’s daughter denominations.

The Russian Orthodox Church split from Rome in the Great Schism of 1054. Thus it was most significant that reported in May that “A senior cleric from the Russian Orthodox Church has held a rare meeting with Pope Benedict in a latest sign that once icy relations between the churches are thawing …. Metropolitan Kirill, the head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, delivered a message to Benedict from Patriarch Alexiy ii …. [S]enior Vatican officials have said they are working toward an eventual meeting between Benedict and Alexiy. Kirill was one of the most senior clerics from the Russian Orthodox Church to meet Benedict since he was elected in 2005.”

That same month, 50 participants representing the Roman Catholic and the Russian Orthodox churches gathered in Vienna to consider the challenges facing Christianity in Europe and to propose collaboration in facing them. The Vatican followed up by accepting an invitation to send a delegation to an inter-religious summit held in Russia in July.

The most recent development to follow that May meeting between the pope and the Russian Orthodox representative occurred only days ago. The international news agency Zenit reported that an Eastern prelate, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna and Austria, representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Institutions, moved that Catholics and Orthodox establish a “strategic alliance”—and why? Notice his language: “[W]e must learn to be partners and allies in the face of common challenges: militant secularism, relativism, atheism, or a militant Islam. It is for this reason that, since the election of Pope Benedict xvi, I have repeatedly called for the fostering of ties between the Catholics and the Orthodox Churches through the creation of a strategic alliance for the defense of Christian values in Europe (November 7, emphasis ours throughout).

That is crusading language.

The second of these watershed meetings propelling forward the pope’s ecumenical agenda appeared November 7 in the Catholic World News service under the headline “Ecumenism, not Islam, as focus of Pope’s trip to Turkey.” The Vatican secretary of state described the trip as being “primarily ecumenical. It noted his stating in a newspaper interview that the trip was planned around a meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew i of Constantinople, a meeting with “great significance for the dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.”

The third historic meeting is fragrant with symbolism. The West Australian reported, “The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will make his first official visit to Pope Benedict xvi in Rome this month …. In a deeply symbolic gesture, the two leaders are planning to pray together publicly as well as hold a private meeting. More significantly, they are expected to announce a new round of unity talks aimed at resolving the theological disputes that have divided the Anglican and Catholic churches since the Reformation. … The archbishop’s trip … is particularly symbolic because it falls 40 years after an historic meeting between one of Dr. Williams’s predecessors, Archbishop Michael Ramsey, and Pope Paul vi. That was the first formal meeting between the heads of the two churches since Henry viii broke with Rome in the 16th century, and it raised hopes that the centuries-old rift could be healed.”

So, why this sudden rush on ecumenism when the wheels seemed to have ground so slowly since Vatican ii? The answer is simple. Pan-Islamism, as a global movement, was hardly a threat when Vatican ii convened. Until the age of international jihad, no real global catalyst was apparent to galvanize action to bring Christendom’s major denominations together in unity. But now, extremist Islam—posing a real threat to global order, let alone to the very existence of the Catholic religion—has triggered these senior churchmen into action. And the pope is leading the way!

Yet once again we see the great vision of that apostolic patriarch of the age, Herbert Armstrong, leap into current-day focus: “Bible prophecy says this European unification will be also a union of church and state (Revelation 17). Many European political leaders do not want religious domination, or even participation. But they are coming to realize they cannot be welded together into one great European super nation without the unifying power of the Catholic Church” (co-worker letter, Nov. 22, 1982).

In a 1978 Good News article, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “As I said before, when Pope John xxiii was in process of election, I felt that the pope elected might be the one who would make available his good offices to help political leaders of Europe bring about their hoped-for union. But at once it became evident that Pope John had other ideas. He started the ecumenical movement to bring about a different kind of union—a church union between Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholics.”

This ecumenical movement is now being carried forward aggressively by Benedict xvi, accelerated by the cries of jihad against all Christendom by extremist imams across the world. Watch for, in the words of the Russian Orthodox prelate, the increasingly rapid “fostering of ties between the Catholics and the Orthodox churches through the creation of a strategic alliance for the defense of Christian values in Europe.”