The Evangelization of Europe
Four powerful events are currently at play in Europe reshaping the geopolitical landscape: financial crisis, the resurgence of Russia as a global power, the revival of German militarism and a renewed call for the evangelization of Europe by Pope Benedict xvi. All four are destined to result in a mighty clash of wills between the principal antagonists that will literally shatter many nations apart.
Considering the first of these events, and the most predominant in European news at this point—financial crisis—this has propelled Germany to the front as the nation that holds the key to Europe’s immediate future. Regarding the second, the resurgence of Russia, this is inevitably moving Germany and Russia, in the wake of the election of a pro-Russian president in Ukraine, toward a non-aggression pact so that each can get on with the business of building their separate empires without being distracted by having to shore up the borders between the two.
Concerning German militarism, although this is given scant publicity at this juncture, the writing is on the wall as German elites react to the twin pressures of Iran’s foreign-policy push and the rise of Russia. It is the third, the pope’s call for evangelization of Europe, with which we are primarily interested in this article, for, in truth, it impacts heavily on all the others.
In respect of the Greek financial crisis, it is intriguing to note that the outcome will heavily influence Vatican finances. Not only is the Vatican by far the richest institution in the world, the Vatican State, having only recently renewed its convention with the eurozone, has its monetary policy tied to the euro. This means it has a huge stake in the outcome of the eurozone’s present crisis. The Vatican is touting for Jesuit-trained governor of the Italian Bank and chairman of the Financial Stability Board, Mario Dragi, to take the top job at the European Central Bank (ecb). In this race, it is in a contest with Germany’s candidate, Bundesbank chief Axel Weber. Having Dragi, a dedicated follower of the pope, at the helm of the world’s most influential central bank, the ecb, would no doubt give opportunity for the Vatican to have significant sway in that bank’s future policies.
With regard to the resurgence of Russia, the Vatican, via John Paul ii initially, and latterly via Benedict xvi, has been reaching out by all diplomatic means at its disposal to seek to draw back the eastern churches into the Roman fold. The Ukraine election will provide a spur to these negotiations as Rome seeks to move quickly to capitalize on the advanced state of its east-west dialogue before Russian power negates any prospect of the Vatican losing ground in its drive east.
With a fellow Bavarian heading up Germany’s defense portfolio, Pope Benedict not only has the ear of Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, but he has the religious commitment of Germany’s most popular politician at a crucial time when Germany is seeking to reestablish itself as both a political and military power to be reckoned with.
Each of these events thus impinge on the Vatican’s overarching strategy of leading Europe back to unity via its Catholic religious roots, its “Holy Roman” roots. Hence the pope’s call last Friday for both the eastern and western religious divisions of that “Christian” heritage to join in a continent-wide evangelization of Europe.
In receiving a group of prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Romania last Friday, Benedict recalled that, 10 years ago, Pope John Paul ii made a historic trip to “venerable Romania.” In addressing the Romanian delegation, the pope expressed the hope that “the desire for unity aroused by that visit may nourish prayer and a commitment to continue dialogue in charity and truth, and to promote joint initiatives” (emphasis mine throughout). “[T]he witness of fraternity between Catholics and Orthodox is particularly important,” he said; “may it prevail over divisions and dissent, and open hearts to reconciliation.“
Benedict xvi emphasized that “One particularly important area of collaboration between Orthodox and Catholics today concerns the defense of the Christian roots of Europe and of Christian values …. Constructive dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics will not fail to foment unity and harmony, not only for your countries, but for all of Europe.“
The evangelizing of Europe has been one of the most strident themes publicized by both Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul ii. It is a message that Pope Benedict has increasingly ramped up over the past few years.
In January 2006, Vatican news source Zenit headlined an item quoting the pope calling for religious unification in Europe, airing his continuing concern over the Eastern churches being divided from the mother Rome. He was addressing an ecumenical event convened by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and the Conference of European Churches. While the former is a Catholic group, the latter embraces other Christian denominations, especially from the East. The pope told the conference that “The ‘new evangelization’ of Europe requires that the followers of Jesus overcome their divisions …. ‘In a Europe on the way to political union, can we admit that it is precisely the Church of Christ that is a factor of disunion and discord? Is this not one of the greatest scandals of our time?’ asked the pope” (Zenit, Jan. 26, 2006).
Some a little over three months later, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, announced, according to Radio Vaticana, that “Pope Benedict xvi expressed hope that a landmark meeting between Catholic and Russian Orthodox representatives would result in the two churches working together to re-evangelize Europe” (May 4, 2006). The cardinal was referring to a message in which “the pope sent his greetings to participants in a meeting organized by the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate. … The May 3-5 meeting in Vienna, Austria, was titled, ‘Give a Soul to Europe: The Mission and Responsibility of the Churches’” (Catholic News Service, May 3, 2006).
Further ecumenical meetings were held over the following three years culminating in a papal cry for unity between east and west from the city of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, one of the countries that abuts the religious divide between Orthodox and Catholic on the European continent. The Associated Press item that reported this papal visit ran under the headline, “Pope Re-evangelizes Europe.” Reporting on the same event, Zenit ran its story under the quip, “Christians Are Obliged to Remind Europe of Roots.” Zenit reported, “Hilaire Belloc famously said ‘Europe is the faith,’ and he was right to the extent that no other culture (so far) has been as deeply imprinted with the spirit of Christianity as has Europe …” (Sept. 27, 2009).
Commenting on that same visit, Associated Press observed, “Pope Benedict xvi said Sunday that all of Europe—and not only this ex-Communist country—must acknowledge its Christian heritage …. [I]n talks with leaders of other faiths and branches of Christianity, Benedict broadened his message to all of Europe. ‘As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own,’ the pope said …. ‘Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance’” (Sept. 27, 2009).
Having already tempted a portion of the Anglican community to begin separating from the main body of that church and give due obeisance to Rome, it does seem that the day is approaching when, under the influence of constant papal diplomacy, certain of the Orthodox faith will soon follow suit.
Yet once again we must point to the vision of Herbert Armstrong, so far ahead of his time in prophesying these events. Seven years before the fall of the wall dividing Eastern from Western Europe, uniting the east with the west following the implosion of the Soviet Union, Herbert Armstrong stated: “The nations of Europe have desired such a union, as one combined world power. It would be perhaps greater in power than either the Soviet Union or the United States. … It is foretold in prophecy in Revelation 17. It can be brought about only through the Roman Catholic Church …. An ecumenical union between the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox churches could well precede such a union of nations into one super, combined nation” (Plain Truth subscriber letter, Nov. 27, 1981).
Following the same theme, he wrote six months later, “Revelation 13 and 17, coupled with Daniel 2 and 7, say that a union of ten nations in the area of the old Roman Empire will plunge the world into the Great Tribulation! … The uprising against Soviet domination in Poland can easily lead to Poland, and such Eastern European nations as Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and even Greece, joining in a union with Roman Catholic nations in Western Europe. The Eastern Orthodox … Church could join with the Roman Catholic. The 10 nations of Revelation 17 will be Catholic” (co-worker letter, May 20, 1982).
Again, six months after that letter was written, Herbert Armstrong stated the following in a message: “Now even the religion has been divided. We have had the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church and, of course, the Roman Catholic Church in Rome; and the religion has continued to be divided down to now. 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; but then the religion is divided. 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” (Nov. 27, 1982).
A couple of weeks after that, he declared: “Now incidentally, the Roman Catholic Church grew up, but it wasn’t all Roman Catholic. There was the Eastern Orthodox Church as well as the Roman Catholic Church, and that has come down to today also. However, the Roman Empire fell in 476, and in 554, Justinian was brought from Constantinople over to Rome to restore the empire in the west. And it wasn’t restored as the Roman Empire in the east at that time. But it has had a number of successions, and now it’s going to be restored once again” (sermon, Dec. 11, 1982).
Believe it or not, effective from January 1 this year, that old Holy Roman Empire has been restored as an economic, financial and political power. It is even now, under initiatives created by Germany, rapidly developing the mechanisms to install its military power. Now, through the stringent efforts of the Vatican, Pope Benedict xvi in particular, it is close to achieving its aim of uniting the Eastern churches with Rome. When that has been achieved, the only ideology that has ever united the Roman Empire together since Justinian’s restoration, Europe’s mother religion, will provide the glue, yet again, to finally unite Europe into a powerful global empire.
When that does occur—and its coming reality is as sure as the rising of tomorrow’s sun—we hope and pray that you will by that time have responded to the perpetual warning that has been trumpeted to you and have reacted to make those life changes that will guarantee your escape from its terrible consequences—before it is too late to do so!
Read The Incredible Human Potential and begin to live in the marvelous hope of participating in the unbelievably peaceful and stable world that will follow the great disruptions ahead.