Forces have been set in motion that will revolutionize the face of Europe — and the role of the Roman Catholic Church!
POWERFUL new thrust is being introduced by the Vatican into the European political arena. The world's press has almost totally, overlooked its significance. Many bishops — and even cardinals — of the Roman Catholic Church have not fully grasped its importance. Yet it may well be the biggest news of the 1980s! That new thrust is a papal commitment — a "mission" — to UNITE EUROPE religiously and politically! The stage is being set for far-reaching changes — the most momentous in the history of Europe since the Protestant Reformation!
An Institution Beset With Troubles
Over the past two decades the authority and unity of the Catholic Church have been severely shaken. Beneath the veneer of public enthusiasm and admiration so apparent during papal journeys abroad lies a seriously fragmented institution. The Pope is widely admired — but not always obeyed. It was the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) that opened the floodgates of dissent and paved the way for the crisis that now besets the Catholic Church. The innovative Pope John XXIII had called for the council — a general meeting of the bishops of the Church — to "bring the Church up to date" and work for spiritual renewal. But he died and the "breath of fresh air" he hoped would fill the Church turned out to be a devastating whirlwind. The festering issues of birth control, abortion, divorce, celibacy, homosexuality, women in the priesthood, political activism of priests, papal infallibility and distribution of ecclesiastical power mis-subsequently have troubled the Church. Differences among Church traditionalists, conservatives, progressivists and radicals tear at the fabric of the papacy. As Pope Paul VI himself augured, somewhat cryptically, when he neared death, "The Devil has entered the Church, there is smoke around the altar." Many even in the upper echelons of the Church hierarchy remain uncertain and apprehensive — not quite sure what comes next.
At the same time, the continent of Europe itself stands at an historic crossroads. Divided politically and ideologically and beset with increasingly serious economic and military concerns, Europe faces a potentially explosive situation. Fears over the future are growing among Europeans. Europe, like the Catholic Church, is weakened by division. And both prelates and politicians alike realize that a house divided against itself cannot stand. In the face of this division, voices within both European political circles and the Catholic Church are appealing for UNITY. But how is that elusive unity to be, achieved? How are the rifts to be healed — both within the Church and within Europe itself? The record of the recent past does not augur well for the future. On a purely political basis, the nations of Europe have been unable to unite. The European Economic Community (EEC) or Common Market has largely failed in its goal of bringing about increased political unity among member nations. The slow process of gradual strengthening of the EEC's political institutions has simply not worked. Likewise, the Catholic Church remains philosophically divided from within, despite the best efforts of unity-minded churchmen. Confronted with these realities, leading European politicians and Catholic clergymen have come to an important realization. There is only one possible course for the future, they believe. If they are to solve their respective problems, Europe and the Catholic Church need each other's help. Their common need for unity can be achieved only by working together. Influential churchmen within the Vatican have come to believe that the only way to inspire unity and bring new life into the Church is to plunge it into a cause larger than itself. That cause, they believe, is the unification of Europe! Historically, the Roman Catholic Church has exercised a powerful cohesive effect on Europe, binding the differing nationalities and cultures on that continent by the tie of a common religion. This, some political leaders believe, might well be the formula for unity today — a reconstitution of the whole of classic Europe, along the lines of the old Holy Roman Empire, under the Catholic aegis. Where will it all lead?
First, consider the religious sphere. The theme of European unity on the basis of a common religious and cultural heritage has been raised frequently by Pope John Paul II. For him it is no casual, passing concern. He has made it very clear that he believes he has a literal calling from God to unite Europe! During his well-publicized trip to his native Poland in June, 1979, Pope John Paul II declared: "Europe, despite its present and long-lasting division of regimes, ideologies and economic and political systems, cannot cease to seek its fundamental unity and must turn to Christianity.... Economic and political reasons cannot do it. We must go deeper...." Nine months later, John Paul II renewed his call for a united Europe including the Western European nations and the Communist bloc countries. During an audience with more than 3,000 Yugoslavs on March 21, 1980, he stressed that Europe must seek religious unity if it is to advance beyond its present divisions. The world's large, mass-circulation newspapers and magazines took little notice of these and similar statements — overlooking one of the potentially biggest stories of this century! In a private audience on October 25, 1980, John Paul II told a group of 200 European journalists that they had a serious responsibility to help shape public opinion in the effort to create "a united Europe." Yet they still appeared not to realize the significance of his words. The days are rapidly approaching when the theme will not be ignored!
Europe and the Catholic Church need each other's help... unity can be achieved only by working together.
John Paul II takes the subject very seriously. This was evidenced in an address to top European theologians. In it, the Pope asserted his conviction that "the problem that assails us is really to save Europe and the world from the final catastrophe"!
Now see how this theme of a unified Europe has been developing within the Catholic Church over recent decades. Pope John Paul II's predecessors — Pius XII (1939-1958), John XXIII (1958-1963) and Paul VI (1963-1978) — all threw their considerable weight behind moves for the creation of a supranational European community. John XXIII said that Catholics should be "in the front ranks" of the unification effort. Pope Paul VI was especially vocal in his support for European unity. In November, 1963, soon after assuming the papal throne, Paul VI declared: "Everyone knows the tragic history of our century. If there is a means of preventing this from happening again, it is the construction of a peaceful, organic, united Europe." In 1965, Paul VI declared that "a long, arduous path lies ahead. However the Holy See hopes to see the day born when a new Europe will arise, rich with the fullness of its traditions and animated by a common will to build the best possible future for the millions of inhabitants of Europe." Perhaps the most forceful of Paul VI's calls for European unity came on October 18, 1975. It was an address in Rome to participants in the Third Symposium of the Bishops of Europe. Present were more than 100 bishops, cardinals and prelates representing 24 European countries. Addressing the question of the role of bishops in spreading the Catholic faith, Paul VI asserted: "Can it not be said that it is faith, the Christian faith, the Catholic faith that made Europe...?" Paul VI continued: "And it is there that our mission as bishops in Europe takes on a gripping perspective. No other human force in Europe can render the service that is confided to us, promoters of the faith, to reawaken Europe's Christian soul, where its unity is rooted." Paul VI called the Catholic faith "the secret of Europe's identity." In discovering this important secret, he said, Europe could then go on to perform "the providential service to which God is still calling it."
On June 27, 1977, Paul VI took a major step toward promoting his vision of European unity — a step whose full ramifications are yet to be felt! On that day — slightly a year before his death — Paul VI elevated Giovanni Benelli, the dynamic arch bishop of Florence, to the rank of cardinal. Numerous reasons lay behind the move. But sources close to the Vatican reveal that a major objective was to give Archbishop Benelli the standing with which to effectively undertake an important role — the role of organizer of a "new soul" for Europe! Cardinal Benelli's commission is to galvanize new unity on the Continent, to actively push the idea of a united Europe. Giovanni Benelli is a man with many friends — and enemies. His friends describe him as "tough-minded," "hard-driving," "tireless," "politically adroit" and even "charming." His adversaries call him "dangerous," "ruthless" and "despotic. " Cardinal Benelli, 61, has had a long and successful career. Born near Pistoia in Tuscany, he was ordained a priest in 1943. In 1948 he joined the Vatican diplomatic service and subsequently served in numerous overseas posts, including Ireland, France, Brazil, Spain and Senegal. Cardinal Benelli served for many years as Pope Paul VI's "chief of staff" or administrative right-hand man. He was an intimate adviser and was named deputy secretary of state in 1967. Vatican sources reveal that he was clearly favored for the papacy by Paul VI before his death. Archbishop Benelli's elevation to cardinal in 1977 and appointment to the See of Florence to round out his experience were reportedly designed to signal that fact. In his new role of organizer of a "new soul" for Europe, Giovanni
Cardinal Benelli's commission... is to actively push the idea of a united Europe.
Benelli delivered the main speech at an important conference in Bavaria, West Germany, in September, 1977. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the religious contribution to the first direct elections to the enlarged and strengthened European Parliament. In attendance were many influential political figures, including West Germany's Franz Josef Strauss. Cardinal Benelli said in his address that Europe would be united effectively only if proper value is placed on its religious heritage. He suggested that one reason for the lack of enthusiasm for a united Europe might be weakening of the religious spirit in Europe. That trend, he asserted, would have to be reversed. In the pope-electing conclaves of 1978, Giovanni Benelli emerged as "the power behind the throne." Cardinal Benelli engineered the election of Albino Luciani (the short-lived Pope John Paul I) in August, 1978. In the balloting for Pope Luciani's successor in the October, 1978, conclave (which eventually elected Karol Wojtyla as John Paul II), Giovanni Benelli fell only a few votes short of being elected pope himself! Cardinal Wojtyla reportedly voted for Cardinal Benelli in the early balloting. Sources in Rome familiar with the Vatican's inner workings say that Cardinal Benelli's failure to be elected was due, in part, to the fact that he was considered to be simply "too young" — 57 — in 1978. This was three years short of the minimum age for a pope by traditional standards. With this in mind, knowledgeable churchmen, when asked before the October, 1978, conclave about Cardinal Benelli's chances of becoming pope, remarked, "Not f this time, next time." Cardinal Benelli is definitely a man to watch in the new Europe!
Europe and the Cross
The Popes' calls for "the formation of the spiritual unity of Europe" have been echoed by influential spokesmen in the political arena. Most prominent among these is Otto von Hapsburg — a key figure in the movement for European unification. Dr. von Hapsburg is the eldest son of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor. With the endorsement of his longtime politician friend Franz Josef Strauss, Dr. von Hapsburg won a seat in 1979 in the European Parliament. Observers of the European political scene feel Dr. von Hapsburg's views will carry increasing weight in months ahead, as crises force a painful reassessment of European goals and directions. Otto von Hapsburg, 69, has continually stressed the importance of religion in the formation of a united Europe. He regards the Roman Catholic Church as Europe's ultimate bulwark. "The cross doesn't need Europe," he once stated, "but Europe needs the cross. " Perhaps today — in view of growing crises within the Catholic Church — Dr. von Hapsburg also grasps the "cross's" complementary need for Europe. Inter-European unity has long been a quest of the Hapsburg family. Otto von Hapsburg has often pointed out the similarities between the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages — over which his family ruled for a time — and his view of a coming "United States of Europe." Europeans, he believes, must be reawakened to their historical religious heritage and realize the utility of religion as a "glue" for Europe. In this regard, he has called attention to the potential role of the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, which today resides in the Schatzkammer (Royal Treasury) in Vienna. Christopher Hollis, in the foreword to Dr. von Hapsburg's book The Social Order of Tomorrow. points out that Dr. von Hapsburg "would like to see Europe resume her essential unity, and in the symbolism of that unity he thinks that the imperial crown of Charlemagne and of the Holy Roman Empire might well have its part to play." Under the Holy Roman Empire, the temporal power of the emperors was closely linked with the spiritual power of the popes. Catholicism served to integrate European society. In practical terms, this meant that the papacy wielded significant worldly power. Europe, in face, came to be virtually dominated and led by the papacy. It is to this medieval church-state model that popes, cardinals and European political figures such as Otto von Hapsburg are now looking for the answer to today's political and religious woes! A revived alliance between church and "empire," they believe, may be the very key — the only
Under the Holy Roman Empire, the temporal power of the emperors was closely linked with the spiritual power of the popes... A revived alliance between church and 'empire'... may be the very key — the only key — to European survival.
key — to European survival in the face of Soviet communism.
As crises mount, such appeals by political and religious leaders may begin to reach more responsive ears. And crises are mounting. In recent years, Western Europe's economic troubles have intensified. Inflation, unemployment and slow growth now plague most of the Continent. Fears over military security — centered on the question of U.S. reliability as an ally — further aggravate the picture. In the nations of Eastern Europe as The Plain Truth recently reported, events are heading inevitably toward a large-scale crisis confrontation with the Soviet Union. Poland is just the beginning. Inside the Catholic Church, prospects are also disturbing. In his book titled The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church. former Jesuit professor Malachi Martin examines the decline of unity and authority in the Catholic Church. Dr. Martin concludes that "as things now stand, there appears to be no reasonable hope that this decline can be arrested." "It is very late for the church of John Paul II," Dr. Martin observes. He calls John Paul II "a pope of transition.... " The situation, admittedly, is serious. Dr. Martin feels the Ch urch 's decline is irrevocable. But is it?
The answer, remarkably, is found in the pages of the very Bible from which the Christian-professing world purports to derive its faith. Bible prophecy reveals that a dramatic reversal of this decline lies just ahead — a religious revival of monumental proportions! As explained frequently in The Plain Truth. prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments foretell the emergence of a final end-time restoration of the ancient Roman Empire. This powerful entity will be composed of "ten horns" meaning 10 nations or kingdoms (Rev. 17:12) — under the overall leadership of a single powerful political figure (verse 13). Prophecy further reveals that this united European power — a great Third, Force in world affairs — will be a religiously dominated federation of nations. A great church, led by a religious figure of unprecedented authority and strength, will sit astride the "empire," giving direction to it like a rider guides a horse (Rev. 17:3). The prophetic picture is clear. In the face of a growing communist threat, a great political figure — arm-in-arm with a powerful religious leader — will step into the gaping void of leadership and radically alter the direction of both Europe and the Catholic Church. In these turbulent last days of the 20th century, the "spiritual unity" of the Continent — as so often urged by recent popes and political leaders — will be realized! The Church will surmount the ideological division of Europe and, in turn, the political influence of a united Europe will be used to promote religious uniformity. Many of the Church's "wayward daughters" will be brought back into the "mother-fold."
Man of the Hour
Now notice how this religious-political configuration is beginning to take shape. As students of Bible prophecy understand, the "ten horns" (10 nations or groups of nations) of Revelation 17 correspond to the 10 toes on the great statue described in Daniel 2. The prophecy of Daniel reveals that these 10 entities will constitute a political system that will exist at the return of Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on this earth (Dan. 2:44-45). There are, of course, five toes on each foot. This may well indicate that, as historically, the coming reconstituted Roman Empire will include elements of both Western and Central Europe! (Central Europe as used here, refers to that tier of states west of Russia and east of the nations of Western Europe.) Will some nations of Central Europe — now behind the Iron Curtain — succeed in freeing themselves — or being freed — from Soviet domination? The Kremlin fears the Polish Pope-politically the most powerful pope of modern times. John Paul II is indeed in a unique position to lay the groundwork for ultimate participation of Central Europe in the master plan of European unity. As Malachi Martin has also observed, "Karol Wojtyla ... seems to have been born for this hour." John Paul II has had a great impact on Iron Curtain politics. His voice is the source of enormous influence in that region. Many even in Central Europe's Iron Curtain countries have caught his vision of a pan — European Christian alliance
POTENTIAL ROMAN CATHOLIC INFLUENCE in Europe is illustrated by the above map. Vatican initiatives toward unity with other churches could further extend papal authority in its confrontation with communism and secularism. See PDF for Map
against the secular materialism of both East and West. Austrian Cardinal Franz Koenig has observed of the Soviet satellite countries "... Marxism as an intellectual doctrine is no longer of importance among the young generation. They are looking for a spiritual orientation, a spiritual support, and here the religious sphere offers itself very strongly...." Vatican observers speculate that John Paul II's voice might continue to stir nationalistic fervor in Poland and her neighbors, weakening the hold of the Kremlin sufficiently to open the way for a political deal between Europe and the Kremlin that would allow elements of Central Europe to associate themselves with an evolving West European power. Vatican specialists point out, however, that it might be left to a subsequent pope — one with less of a personal preoccupation with Poland — to assemble the continent-wide unity package. In other words, someone geared to think and act in the tradition of the great medieval statesman — popes.
Events are taking shape that will radically change the face of the European continent. The coming Renovatio imperii Romanorum" restoration of the empire of the Romans" — will astound the world! Europe — and the Church of Rome — will once again be powers to reckon with.