ROME: ASSERTING ITS ROLE
The International Herald Tribune (Online) reported on November 15, 2002: “Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to the Italian Parliament on Thursday (11/14/02), seeking both to move beyond past tensions between the Vatican and the Italian government and to weigh in on challenges that currently confront the country. In a 45-minute speech that marked the FIRST TIME a pope had ever addressed the legislature here, John Paul told Italians to make sure that the expansion of the European Union did not diminish the role and importance of Christianity on the Continent.”
Just how significant this address was is attested to by the attendance of some 800 lawmakers and national leaders–including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. The article goes on to point out, “The pope’s visit was preceded by day after day and page upon page of news coverage here, and it was suffused with an EXTRAORDINARY SENSE OF OCCASION.”
On November 15, Zenit News Agency summarized the event in this way, “Pope’s Visit to Italian Parliament Mark Full Church-State Reconciliation.” It pointed out that the papal visit “made front-page news in all Italian newspapers today, some dedicating as many as nine pages to the event. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls described the visit as ‘an homage that the Pope wishes to offer to the unique historical role of Italy with Christian humanism,’ adding in comparison to other papal visits to parliamentary assemblies, ‘I think that, in this case, it is about something singular, in a certain sense unique.'” The article pointed out, too, that “according to historian Pietro Scoppola, John Paul II’s presence in the Italian Parliament marks a ‘full and unconditional reconciliation with Italian institutions.'”
A further quote on this historic address, this time from CNN.com for November 15, 2002, shows the authoritative influence wielded by the Pope: “John Paul appealed to European leaders, who are drafting a new EU constitution, to recognize the role Christianity has played on the continent. ‘There is a need to guard against a vision of the continent which would only take into account its ECONOMIC and POLITICAL aspects, and not its RELIGIOUS ones,’ the pope said.”
We bring excerpts from the pope’s speech, as follows:
“A self-confident and internally cohesive Italy can be a great enrichment for the other nations of Europe and the world. I wish to share this conviction with you at this time, when the institutional shape of the European Union is being defined and its expansion to include many countries of Central and Eastern Europe appears imminent, as it were sealing the end of an unnatural division. It is my hope that, thanks also to Italy’s support, the new foundations of the European ‘common house’ will not lack the ‘cement’ of that extraordinary religious, cultural and civil patrimony which has given Europe its greatness down the centuries… In this noble Assembly I would like to renew the appeal which in recent years I have made to the various peoples of the Continent, ‘Europe, at the beginning of the new millennium, open once again your doors to Christ!’… Italy and the other nations historically rooted in the Christian faith are in a sense inherently prepared to open up for humanity new pathways of peace… Illustrious Representatives of the Italian People, a prayer arises spontaneously from the depths of my heart: from this ancient and glorious City — from this ‘Rome where Christ is Roman,’ in Dante’s celebrated phrase (Purgatorio 32:102) — I implore the Redeemer of man to grant that the beloved Italian Nation will continue, now and in the future, to live in a way worthy of its national tradition, and to draw from that tradition new and abundant fruits of civilization, for the material and spiritual progress of the whole world.”
We have proclaimed for decades the Biblical teaching that the Catholic Church will play a very dominant and influential role in restoring in Europe the ancient Roman Empire. In fact, the coming United States of Europe is the final and last resurrection of the Roman Empire, which was later called the Holy Roman Empire. The Bible pictures the city of Rome, which is built on seven hills (Revelation 17:9), as that “great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:18).
The Bible also shows that the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire, under the influence and direction of the Catholic Church, will not remain a peaceful power bloc. It will become responsible for bringing havoc on this earth, launching this world into World War III.
The Bible also indicates very strongly that most of the Protestant churches, including the Lutheran Church, will unite again under the Catholic umbrella. In this light, the following development is very interesting:
On November 17, 2002, Zenit News Agency reported that “‘the Catholic Church continues toward full unity with the Lutheran Church,’ John Paul II said Saturday… ‘We are committed moving further ahead on the path of reconciliation… The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, signed in 1999, paves the way for more extensive common witness,’ adding that it ‘brings us a step closer to the full visible unity which is the goal of our dialogue.'”
These events occurred against the backdrop of American bishops of the Catholic Church struggling to restore confidence after sex abuse cases rocked the whole institution. In a conference meeting, the bishops were attempting to produce a national policy to address abusive priests–an earlier document had been rejected by Rome.
In the Denver Post, November 17, 2002, the repercussions of the abuse cases were noted, “One in five Catholics has stopped donating to a diocese because of the scandals, according to a Gallup poll released two weeks ago.” This article closed its report with this final statement:
“‘Only the pope can oust a prelate, and he will resist doing so in response to public outcry,’ said… Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America. ‘Rome would never want to look like it’s giving in to pressure,’ Reese said.”
Finally, in The Coloradoan, November 17, 2002, “A Pittsburgh priest who was accused but never convicted of child molestation was defrocked by Pope John Paul II for disobeying orders to not serve as a priest in public.” However, having gone to Rome to appeal the Pope’s order, the priest found little success, because, “The Vatican decree stated that ‘the penalty is unappealable.’ “
News reports such as these highlight an emerging power in Rome as the Catholic Church opens new doors, participates in empire building and rules its own with unflinching authority.