A Benign Papacy?
Never has the world focused on the Vatican, the cardinals, Catholic ceremony or the papacy with the intensity we’ve seen over the past two weeks. The recent death of the Polish pope Wojtila and subsequent election of Joseph Ratzinger of German descent, resulted in the type of coverage and debate that has “legs,” as they say, meaning it won’t be over for a long time, if ever.
And as the debate unfolds, everything seems to turn upside down. Conservative commentators tend to lend full legitimacy to the “spiritual” qualities of the spectacle of Vatican tradition and ceremony. Audiences have even been lectured to pay attention to the example of “true spirituality” as the alternative to the “secular” trends that have taken hold in American politics, entertainment, and society in general. Similar statements have been repeated, making it sound like the rituals that emanate from Rome represent the only alternative to abortion, gay rights, and the whole litany of liberal causes.
The election of the German Ratzinger represents a very bold, maybe even combative stance by the most powerful “religious” organization in the world. While the recently deceased pope affected spectators as kindly, affable and maybe as “normal” as one could expect a cardinal or pope to be, this pope Ratzinger clearly lacks a soothing quality, even at first glance! Something about the eyes, maybe?
Publications around the world have pointed out that Ratzinger was a member of the “Hitler youth” in Nazi Germany, and served in the German army during World War II with an anti-aircraft unit; that Wojtila appointed him “Prefect Emeritus of Doctrine of the Faith,” the modern name for the former Catholic “Office of Inquisition.” German and British publications have nicknamed him “the enforcer,” the “panzer cardinal” and even “God’s rottweiler.” A former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican called him the “chief strategist” during the reign of the last pope, and a man of “grand design” in terms of propelling him to a position of world leadership.
If you’re intrigued by the demonstration of ancient “spiritual ceremony” that was beamed into your living room LIVE from the Vatican over the past two weeks, you might be interested to know just how far back this “state religious system” goes. Some brief research into Roman civilization and religion reveals that the robed chanting and parading of holy men was going on, in the same way and in the same place, long before the birth of Jesus Christ. Over three hundred years B.C. the “college of pontiffs” was electing a pontifex maximus from among their number.
There is reportedly a clamor among Catholics all over the world to “canonize” John Paul II, and elevate him to “sainthood.” It is interesting to note, as cursive research shows, that the practice of elevating mortal leaders to the status of “god” was passed down through various civilizations and adopted in Rome by Julius Caesar before the time of Christ.
The new pope uttered a brief statement immediately following the announcement of his election assuring his audience that “the Lord Jesus and His most holy mother Mary will be on our side.” The protestant world does not accept Mary as a diety, or agree with her worship. And secular history lists the mystery cult of the Magna Matre (great mother) as one which was adopted into Roman worship from other cultures dating back even further.
The last pope had a profound effect on Eastern Europe, given his Polish background and his support of the anti-communist movement there. It stands to reason, given his German background and the statements he himself has made that Ratzinger will make adherence to the Vatican in western Europe a priority. The question on the minds of many is whether he will be the one to bind the political powers of united Europe with the power of Rome. Contrary to media suggestions that he is unpopular in Germany, I am told by Michael Burkert, our contributing editor on location there, that Ratzinger enjoys the respect and “awe of the German people, Catholic and non-Catholic! Interestingly, he has chosen the name “Benedict,” and “St. Benedict” is revered as the patron saint of Europe!
Historically, no European union has succeeded without the support of the Roman Church. Will he be the “false prophet” of Bible prophecy? He is 78 years old, and being called an “interim pope.” But “interim” leading to what? Is there another protégé waiting in the wings? It is impossible to imagine a man any more directly positioned to move Europe and the Universal Church toward the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. We live in unsettled times. Initial indications are that this will be anything but a benign papacy.