Benedict and European Unity
Last week during his regular weekly address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict strengthened the theme of European unity, connecting the history of the powerful influence on Europe of his namesake, St. Benedict, with the history of modern Europe that is currently unfolding under his own purview.
Addressing the around 22,000-strong crowd, Benedict xvi declared that St. Benedict is “‘the father of Western monasticism, who with his life and work exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture.’ His life and work … helped Europe to emerge from the ‘dark night of history’ that followed the fall of the Roman Empire” (cwnews.com, April 9).
Pope Benedict always chooses his words with consummate skill and care to deliver the exact impact he wishes on his audiences. His message here is quite clear: There’s a connection between St. Benedict, whose monastic system powerfully impacted Europe during Justinian’s revival of the Roman Empire, and Benedict xvi’s influence on a similar revival even now under way on the European continent.
By alluding to the period from 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 appears to be implying that modern Europe has gone through a similar “dark night” from which it is now emerging under the influence of his papacy in the spirit of the original St. Benedict. “The influence of St. Benedict produced ‘a true spiritual ferment’ in Europe, and over the coming decades his followers—the fast-growing Benedictine order—spread across the Continent to establish a new cultural unity based on Christian faith” (ibid.).
It was that “cultural unity” that was embraced by Justinian, who saw its power to unite an otherwise very disunited populace of Europe into an empire ruled from Rome, once again, during his imperial restoration of the Roman Empire. Ever since, it has been the “cultural unity” created by a dominant religion that has helped Europe to unify time and time again as the Holy Roman Empire. That empire has risen and fallen, yet to rise again, in process of fulfilling its prophesied seven resurrections. St. Benedict’s monastic system was the catalyst for that “spiritual ferment” that was to captivate all of Europe under the rule of Rome.
Regarded as the patron saint of Western Europe during the days of European revival following World War ii, Pope Paul vi named St. Benedict as patron saint of all of Europe in 1964, fully 25 years before Eastern European nations were once again able to freely practice their religion loosed from the oppression of the Soviet Union. It was to be the clarion call of Pope John Paul ii for Europe’s “eastern lung” to breathe free again, joined with its western counterpart, that motivated the masses in Eastern Europe to finally break free of their Soviet overlords in the early 1990s and return to Rome’s fold. The power of the unifying force of that “cultural unity” in the spirit of St. Benedict was again powerfully proven at that point.
The significance of such an iconic figure as St. Benedict being connected with current efforts to create unity among the disparate nations of Europe was highlighted further by the pope during last week’s audience. “Today a recognition of his influence is even more important to a European society that is ‘searching for its own identity,’ Pope Benedict said. He closed with the observation that the ‘vital lifeblood’ of European unity is the Christian heritage to which St. Benedict made such an enormous contribution” (ibid.).
How intriguing it is to see the same influence that inspired Emperor Justinian to embrace the religion of Rome as the cultural glue to enable the restoration of the Roman Empire being highlighted today as the answer to finally bringing about what is destined to be its seventh, and final, resurrection.
Throughout most of the 20th century, when the events that have impacted Europe since 1989 seemed then to be impossible to most, one lone voice spoke out declaring their future reality in fulfillment of the unbreakable prophecies of the Bible.
“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!
“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).”
Thus wrote Herbert W. Armstrong in the Plain Truth newsmagazine (January 1979 edition) of these events that are now currently happening before your very eyes.
The European Union is now the greatest united trading entity in the world. For the past eight years, the EU has had a common currency, which has vaulted high over the dollar in value. At the recent nato summit, it became clear that the EU is intent on aggressively developing its own combined military force. By 2009, with the ratification of the EU Reform Treaty, the EU will have its own president and its own diplomatic corps, with its own minister for foreign affairs. All these attributes, acquired steadily over the past 60 years, suddenly will place the EU on the world scene as a virtual supra-European continental government.
Yet Europe still lacks that key element: the ability to totally unite.
Right now we see Pope Benedict working feverishly at enabling the very spirit, the “vital lifeblood” of European unity, “Europe’s Christian heritage,” to be recaptured by the European populace in an effort to create a great wave of evangelism that will sweep all Europe up into the arms of Rome in a bonding of church and state, indeed, a final resurrection of that ancient Holy Roman Empire.
The pope’s appeal right now is to the masses, not so much to the political rulers of Europe. As Herbert Armstrong observed during the papacy of John Paul ii, “Now many of the political leaders, while they want a political union in Europe, they have all these things to overcome—the various languages, different nationalities, different patriotisms, everything of that kind. … Now many of the leaders, the political leaders over there, don’t want religion to have anything to do with it. They’d rather religion would stay out, but they cannot bring themselves together. And the pope of Rome knows that” (Nov. 27, 1982).
Pope Benedict realizes that he faces the same challenge that John Paul did. Hence, just as John Paul ii successfully galvanized Eastern Europe to return to its Romish roots, Benedict is first appealing to the masses. Once the political leaders of Europe catch on to the powerful effects of papal evangelism sweeping the European continent, then they will see the benefits of endorsing the religion of Rome as the state religion of the EU, enabling the disparate member nations to finally bond together as a singular cultural entity.
This is all now so close to coming to fruition.
But the pope needs something more. He needs a strong political ally, someone who identifies with the religion of Rome, someone who identifies with his particular Germanic, peculiarly Bavarian, approach to the papacy. Is there a Bavarian, a dedicated Roman Catholic politician, a committed Europhile having influential, high-profile office, who might be waiting in the wings for the call?
For some time, we have followed the career of Edmund Stoiber, currently chair of the High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens for the European Union. Stoiber would appear to be admirably suited as a political partner to Pope Benedict xvi, an ideal choice to bear the political side of the burden of welding together church and state in Europe.
While that remains to be seen, there can be no doubt that the pope is now well advanced along the track of evangelizing Europe back to its roots, the same roots embraced by Emperor Justinian almost 1,500 years ago and for the very same reason: to activate the only proven way to impose unity on Europe’s divided nations, that “vital lifeblood” of European unity—“the Christian heritage to which St. Benedict made such an enormous contribution.”
(Read Germany and the Holy Roman Empire for a more in-depth study on this subject.)