Never before in history has a reigning Pontiff visited Latin America. Why did Pope Paul VI find the trip so urgently needed? Here are the surprising answers reported on the spot.
Bogota, Colombia "AMERICA, I bless you!" said Pope Paul VI. And minutes after he landed at El Dorado airport in his silver "Sucre" Avianca jet, I watched as he thrilled millions by kneeling and kissing the tarmac in imitation of Columbus. Three quarters of a million enthusiasts greeted the Pontiff's arrival. Adoring crowds following his three-day tour were gigantic, enthusiastic, wild. Faithful Catholics were excited, delirious, transfixed. America, they said, needs a blessing. But the famous and influential "Travelling Pope" did not come 6,500 miles (a tiring twelve-hour flight) just to give a brief blessing. Nor did he come just to receive a tremendous veneration — called an "apotheosis" by the press — from ecstatic multitudes. His trip is part of a far-reaching plan. It will affect more than the Latin multitudes present here. The Pontiff is a daring religious diplomat. Dramatic developments in Vatican policy are clearly foreshadowed in the papal trip to Colombia. But why Colombia? Why should the leader of 600 million Roman Catholics leave his post, right after Russia invaded Czechoslovakia and after his latest encyclical, Humanae Vitae, caused storms of protest — even open defiance — by certain Catholic prelates? Why should the ailing dignitary come here to South America? What long-range developments does his trip portend?
Uncovering the Answer
On our fact-finding tour through South America, Pablo Gonzalez (broad caster of The WORLD TOMORROW in Spanish) and I sought and found the answer behind this latest puzzling and historic event. Pope Paul's trip, remember, was the first visit of a ruling Pope ever made to Latin America. You would not find the answer merely by reading, since the press in general did not concern itself much with the "whys" of this bold venture. The mass media were satisfied to report only the "how and what." Analyze, for a moment, why the Pope came to Colombia. Before touching down in Colombia, the "Pope of Hope," as Pope Paul likes to be called, broadcast messages of peace to each nation he flew over. At El Dorado airport, after the blessing and the kiss, President Carlos Lleras Restrepo read his welcome speech to the Pope and the Colombian nation. On his eight-mile, open-car trip to the cathedral, the supreme Pontiff was hailed, cheered, adored and thronged by 750,000 people! These people were not only Colombians, but pilgrims from all over South America — even other continents! A clue to the meaning behind this visit can be seen in the effect of his arrival. The "White Pilgrim" was contacting government leaders in diplomatic fashion and winning Latin hearts by the thousands, in and out of the church. The Pope's first official stop was the Cathedral Primada and the Templete, a giant cement rotunda built specially for the 39th Eucharistic Congress — a congress traditionally dedicated to the study of doctrine. Here he addressed nearly 5,000 bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and laymen. You do not have to look far for the meaning of this high-level conference. The truth is, as one Spanish-speaking reporter put it, Catholic liberals and Catholic conservatives are on the verge of an open split. But why are Catholics in danger of a split? The answer to that question — an answer easy to come by down here — reveals one of the two major reasons behind the papal trip.
Revolution Versus Catholicism
Revolution is in the air here. Latin America is in terrible turmoil. The situation is serious, not to be taken lightly. Listen to these startling reasons. 1. The average wage per year in Latin America equals 300 United States dollars! 2. Out of 268 million people on this continent, 45% are illiterate. (Incidentally, the illiteracy rate of the entire globe is almost 45%) 3. A mere 3% of the population controls the bulk of all wealth! 4. And, as Time magazine lamented: "It is no great advertisement for future conversions [to Catholicism] that the Catholic clergy has traditionally preached the glories of the afterlife while ignoring the continent's social inequities" [Aug. 23, 1968]. "Social inequality," "social injustice"... that is the agonizing complaint heard all over South America. Patriots and professors, reformers and revolutionaries, Catholics and — of course — Castro-type COMMUNISTS are all seeking a solution. "SOCIAL JUSTICE," demand these oppressed millions. "Social Justice" cry the Communists, liberal Catholics and other reformers. An open split threatens the church. Catholic churchmen, as well as political parties and leaders, are divided over how to solve the social ills, woes and sores of society. Communism, with great glittering generalities and impossible promises, proposes solutions for these ills. Communism offers change, rapid change — violent change. The church on the other hand has always stood on the side of conservatism, the status quo... or, some would say, on the side of the landed gentry, the "establishment." In plain terms, on the side of the RICH. However, an increasing number in the clergy and church are swinging to the side of change, even of violent revolution! For example, last August, 214 "progressive" Roman Catholics — including six priests and two nuns — "captured" Santiago's cathedral, protesting against the Pope's trip, and crying for "social justice." A popular Colombian priest, Camilo Torres, left his teaching post and reappeared fighting with anti-government guerrillas. He lost. His death assures him a high place in the hearts of many priests and lay members as a martyr for "social justice." While chatting with Colombian journalism students and reporters, I was interrupted by a triumphant student who proudly sported new copies of Camilo Torres' revolutionary book, now being sold openly on the streets of Bogota. Radical sentiment has inveigled its way into very high circles. Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara (professor at the Recife Institute of Theology) is known as a maverick. He says: "Either the church will ally itself with progressive forces that demand social justice for the enslaved masses [sound like an earlier maverick named Marx?] or it will perish..." More radical still is the position of Uruguayan priest Juan Carlos Zaffaroni. He makes no bones about what he believes: support VIOLENCE AND REVOLUTION. Small wonder that more and more laymen pray for the intervention of "SAINT CHE [Guevarra]"! Communism is corroding the Catholic Church in Latin America. Many more examples could be cited, but the point is clear: Latin America is on the verge of revolution. No, let me correct that. LATIN AMERICA IS REVOLTING. As one reporter told us: "We are in revolution, but if it doesn't speed up, all South America will erupt in armed revolt." Either it will be "social justice," that is social change, higher wages, less class distinction, more responsive government, democratization of the ruling class, weakening of the Spanish-type nobility, closing of the wide economic gap between rich and poor — in a word, SOCIALISM, since capitalism is viewed as a failure — or IT WILL BE CONTINENT-WIDE REVOLUTION. Now back to the papal itinerary. After an open-car tour along two avenues lined by nearly 400,000 thronging devotees, the Pope addressed himself to the problem of "social justice." His eloquent words plead for a more equitable distribution of riches. In effect, he asks the rich to voluntarily make themselves less rich... easier said than done! Here again is revealed the first and specific purpose of coming to Colombia: try to keep the church from separating internally, from seceding to Communism. In Santa Cecilia Parrish, the Pope offered mass, then unexpectedly visited two poverty-stricken families, entering into their humble shacks and blessing them on their dirt floor. Late afternoon: he officially sanctioned the important Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM). The Pope's final act in Colombia, after vigorously defending the controversial decision against birth-control devices, was his blessing of 24 marriages. Unfortunately, Latin America's
POPE ON THE MOVE In order to develop papal prestige, Pope Paul has traveled widely to many areas. Top photo shows him in New York City in October 1965 just before his speech at United Nations to meet with "all the world." Center photo shows him coming to Bombay, India to meet with non-Christian leaders. He was greeted by Indian Prime Minister Shastri. Bottom photo shows Athenagoras I, patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. They had met previously when Pope Paul traveled to the Holy Land in the interests of ecumenism. Pope Paul has also been to Turkey and Fatima.
birthrate is one of the world's highest, 3% per year. The no-birth-control decision is viewed by many as creating "ever worsening poverty for those who can least afford large families." The Pope, like other diplomatic and political leaders, accomplished several things at once in this trip. He drew Latinos more firmly into Rome's fold, briefly defended birth control, stirred up religious enthusiasm (not more than 10% of nominal Latin Catholics could be called devout), appealed for the elusive "social justice." Try as he might, Pope Paul could not totally change the old impression that he is a far-off dignitary, who "shared the speakers' platforms with governmental leaders and proud representatives of the ruling oligarchs."
Pope Circles the Globe
But then there is the second and more far-reaching reason behind the Colombian trip! This pilgrimage is one more step in a long-range development of worldwide papal prestige and authority. With the exception of a short trip taken by Pope John XXIII, it can be said Pope Paul VI inaugurated in church history the concept of a flying Pope, or an "apostle on the move," as he refers to himself. Shortly after his elevation to the pontifical throne, Pope Paul VI flew to the Holy Land in January 1964. And the significance of this trip? Read this release from the CEI, official Catholic Agency in charge of the Congress: "More than a geographical move, this was a trip in depth: it was not so much travelling from Rome to Jerusalem, as it was a regression in time by the Church and by Twentieth Century humanity to the very cradle of Christian faith. This trip, therefore... signifies to all the world not only a personal mentality of the Pontiff himself but more, a new psychology of the Church... the Holy Land trip had a STRONG ECUMENICAL SIGNIFICANCE" (translations the author's throughout). Church unity begins to emerge as the reason behind the globe-trotting. On his Holy Land trip, Pope Paul achieved, in historical embrace, the first contact with one of the most outstanding representatives of "other Christian communities not united to Rome" — Patriarch Athenagoras of the separated Greek Orthodox Church. Next came the trip to India — land key to Asia and major representative of non-Christian peoples. There the Pope emphasized the missionary aspect, the catholicity, the "universal dimension" of the Catholic Church. Quoting again from the CEI report: "The mission was in the first place an affectionate dialogue with others; an exalting of non-Christian religions and cultures in their positive aspects; an adaptation of a unity to the universal plurality." In India the Pope made a startling and novel gesture. He joined "in a fraternal and unprecedented session with non-Christian leaders, quoted Hindu scripture, cited a Hindu prayer and commended its use. The Pontiff said that all men must begin to build the common future of the human race." The Pope reached out to other religions, and became a world spokesman in his own right. On the fourth and fifth of October 1965, Pope Paul traveled to United Nations in New York to reinforce the spirit of "Christian universalism" manifested in Bombay, and to meet with "all the world." The dialogue concerned the problems that face all peoples of the world and of the human family. The Pope did not fall into the easy temptation of platitudes on peace. He had "the daring to proclaim to the representatives of 117 different nations, of diverse ideologies, of different religious creeds and of non-believing or non-Christian ideologies, the true God and the revelations of Christ," says the CEI report). As previously analyzed by The PLAIN TRUTH, this trip "emphasized the worldwide political power and weight the Vatican carries. For this was the Pope's first trip for essentially diplomatic instead of religious purposes. It brought the Pope — and the Catholic Church — directly into the arena of world politics and diplomacy" (November, 1965). Paul's meeting in Turkey with the world's second most important religious figure, Patriarch Athenagoras I of the Greek Orthodox Church, reveals the purpose of the first papal visit to Turkey since 711 A.D. — ecumenism, church unity. The Pope's trip to Fatima differed slightly from the rest. Basic Catholic conservatism showed here, in that Pope Paul reaffirmed Mary's important place in worship for Catholics. He healed a breach in Vatican-Portuguese relations (Portugal disliked his trip to India, since those countries are still at odds over India's acquisition of Portugal's territory of Goa) and — as in this recent trip to Colombia — put brakes on Catholic liberals who may be overanxiously wooing Protestants. He again assumed the role of world peacemaker by praying that peace might be achieved through the world press. With these trips in mind, you need to take another look at the second reason for the Pope's trip to Colombia.
Diplomacy Important Too
The long-range Vatican plan is to reunite all the separated or daughter churches — to unify a quarreling Christianity. To achieve that goal, whichever pope may be in office must seek to be a figure of world importance, a leader of unquestioned prestige. Do Pope Paul's recent trips help achieve this goal? Most certainly. As never before in history. In all these trips, Pope Paul is setting a new direction for modern Catholicism. He is laying the groundwork for a Vatican appeal to the world's masses to follow the lead — in diplomatic and political affairs — of the Roman Pontiff. He has publicly and dramatically backed the United Nations, giving the nonreligious organization every chance to succeed. If the United Nations fails, then the Pope's advance indications are that he may decide to chart his own course toward world government and peace. Thus religion would say in effect: "We tried the United Nations, but it just does not work." The world from now on will see increasing participation in political and diplomatic affairs by the Roman Catholic Church. Because of the ever-present menace of World War III, because of the increasing threat of atheistic Communism, because of increasing suffering due to earthquakes, riots, famines, droughts and limited wars, Europeans especially are sensing the need for a central authority, a religious or semi religious figure around which to rally. Right now, patiently awaiting the departure of French President de Gaulle, are the Catholic nations in Western Europe. To protect themselves against the threat of Communism they are looking forward to a veritable resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. This coming great union of nations, when it forms, will be the holder of the world's power balance. Organized religion will play a vital role in this heterogeneous combine of nations, peoples and potentates. Great events are just around the corner. You need to be informed beforehand! Read the The Wonderful World Tomorrow booklet to see what the future holds in store for you! Meanwhile, the whole world needs a blessing. But blessings will be of no avail until man-induced curses are removed. It will take "a Strong Hand from somewhere" to punish man's disobedience, remove the curses man has brought on himself, and to set up Divine Government with blessings for all mankind!