ROME SEEKS ABSOLUTION

Pope Francis' declarations represent the Roman Catholic Church as a magnanimous, conciliatory influence in the Christian world. He also manages in some measure to tar all professed Christian Churches with the same brush:-

Pope asks mercy, pardon for ways Christians have harmed one another

After walking across the threshold of the Holy Door with an Orthodox metropolitan and an Anglican archbishop, Pope Francis invoked God's mercy upon divided Christians and apologized for times that Catholics may have hurt members of other denominations.

"As bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to beg for mercy and forgiveness for un-Gospel-like behavior on the part of Catholics against Christians of other churches," the pope said Jan. 25 at a prayer service concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

"We ask most of all for forgiveness for the sin of our divisions, which are an open wound on the body of Christ," Pope Francis said.

"At the same time, I ask all my Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if, today or in the past, they were hurt by other Christians," he said. "We cannot erase what happened, but we do not want to allow the burden of past faults to continue to poison our relationships."

It is an undoubted fact that the Catholic laity have in the past been regarded with fear and loathing in the United States, as well as other countries:

When America feared and reviled Catholics

In the early 1900s, many Americans were genuinely frightened by the perceived religious threat of the Roman Catholic Church and the suspected imperialistic intentions of its leader, the pope. He was plotting the overthrow of the United States, warned the fearful, to "make America Catholic." His foot soldiers, tens of thousands of Catholic men who called themselves the Knights of Columbus, were busily stockpiling arms and ammunition in the basements of their churches, all in preparation for the day when their papist leader would give the signal for the violent insurrection to begin.

The holders of such beliefs were not just some fringe crazies safely outnumbered by their clear-eyed, religiously tolerant neighbors. To the contrary, widely popular, openly anti-Catholic literature spilled from newsstands across the country, newspapers like Sen. Tom Watson's Jeffersonian out of Atlanta and the Menace of Aurora, Mo., whose subscriptions dwarfed those of the largest newspapers in New York City and Chicago combined. Elections were won on promises to oust Catholics from positions of public trust. Only "true Americans" should hold such positions, went the warning, not Catholics who were loyal first to their religious leader in Rome.

In the present climate of acceptance and actual approval of the Roman Catholic presence and influence in America, few realize that the fears implied in the above article to have been unjustified were well-founded in the reality of Rome's claim of right to dominate, in the United States and the rest of the world (cf. The Role of the Papacy According to Malachi Martin.) Seventh-day Adventist writer A. T. Jones correctly exposed the ambitions of the papacy in the policy and declarations of Pope Louis XIII. Christian Edwardson, another Seventh-day Adventist writer, documented the advances made by the Church of Rome in Making America Catholic. The fears of the early 1900s were well-founded in history, and for Seventh-day Adventists in particular in Bible prophecy.

Unquestionably, there have been Roman Catholic as well as Protestant martyrs in the past; but consider the comparison:

ROMAN CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT MARTYRS CONTRASTED

The present interest in this difficult matter should be used to prompt a deeper study. It is well to recall that in the times of the Reformation there was great human cruelty. The death penalty, often for quite trivial offences, was common and carried out in the cruellest and vilest ways. Human life was cheap. It must ever be admitted that the Reformation, with its great emphasis on the Bible and its teaching, causing the recovery of the Gospel, slowly but surely reformed society into milder measures and a detestation of cruelty. Society became more Christian, as it renounced popery. No Protestant body ever, at any time set up such an institution as the Inquisition with its violation of justice and refined cruelty. It was a case of "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." Psalm 74 v20. Yet it was true that as the countries of the west emerged from the Papal domination there was great persecution and cruelty.

PERSECUTION IN SUPPORT OF FALSE DOCTRINE

The Roman Church claimed the right to persecute and has never renounced it. If it has, it would have disowned and disbanded the Holy Office of the Inquisition. In England, as the 15th Century was beginning, a wicked act of Parliament, known as the Act for the Burning of Heretics, was placed on the statute book. It was Rome's answer to the rise of Wicliffe and the Lollards, his followers. It was under this that many, often quite humble folk, were burnt alive. They were tried by Church courts and there examined for what they believed with regard to the doctrine of the Roman Church, that the wafer used in the Mass was changed in substance at its consecration into Christ Himself bodily. If they denied this unscriptural doctrine they were burnt. If they abjured they were put to penance and quite often branded physically on the cheek with a letter 'H' with a hot iron. If they relapsed later, they could be burnt without further trial. . .

NO ROMAN MARTYRS UNDER THE FIRST PROTESTANT KING!

During the reign of Edward VI 1547 - 1553 there was no persecution of Roman Catholics. The Bishops who refused to destroy high altars, rood-lofts, and images, were quietly retired. Only one was imprisoned - Stephen Gardiner of Winchester - in the Tower of London. It was not a very severe imprisonment. None was charged with treason or executed. . .

AN INCREASE OF PROTESTANTISM

During the early years of the reign of Elizabeth her policy of conciliation of her Roman Catholic subjects was successful to a large extent. In 1563 a considerable body of refugees returned from the Continent. Some of them were scholars and divines who had fled from the persecution under Mary I, and in the City of Geneva, with the assistance of the Swiss scholars, had made a new translation of the Bible. . .

THE PAPAL REACTION

The Jesuit Movement, founded by Ignatius Loyola, from its inception in 1534 contrived to effect the overthrow of Protestantism. English Jesuit Colleges were established at Reims, Douay, Vallodid and Rome. Young English men, often of noble birth or sons of landed gentry, went to these colleges to train for the priesthood. . .

The young Jesuit Priests, trained in these foreign colleges, were prohibited from coming to England by laws passed against them. If they came they were part of the plots for the murder of Elizabeth I and later Stuart monarchs. They were not martyrs dying for the faith but criminals, guilty of treason and sedition. It can be argued that they believed that what they were doing was right in the sight of God, that they were supporting the Papacy and its policy, which they equated with the Divine Will. They were not put to death for this belief, but the action they had taken to support it. To regard them as dying for the Christian faith is to acknowledge the papacy and Roman Church and its doctrine as Christian, which it is not, because it is totally contrary to Scripture and apostate in both belief and practice.

They came into this country as Missionary Priests, ostensibly to make converts and to minister to the Roman Catholic community. As they flitted from priest hole to priest hole, often in disguise, their purpose was to report back to their masters the state of the country and the support a foreign invasion would receive from native adherents of the Roman religion. This was a traitorous and seditious activity which prompted the English Parliament to pass laws against the Mass and conversion to Roman Catholicism and to prohibit the ingress of these priests into the country. This activity persisted until the passing of the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Acts of Settlement of 1689, 1694 and 1701. During the period before the coming of the Armada and prior to the death on the block of Mary Queen of Scots they were engaged in the plots to kill the Queen and also to gather intelligence for the Spanish invaders. The Queen of Scots is regarded by Romanists as a Martyr. She was very clearly implicated in the plots to kill Elizabeth and place herself on the throne and thereby to reinstate the Roman religion. This is proved by the state papers of the period. Many of them died bravely, endured torture and great hardship, often avowing that they died for the faith, but it was faith in a false religion and an impostor posing as the Head of the Church - the Pope; thus denying Christ the only Head of the Church. . .

Nothing in the annals of history can compare to the magnitude of Roman Catholic persecution and slaughter of Protestants:

ESTIMATES OF THE NUMBER KILLED BY THE PAPACY IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND LATER

Surely nearly all Roman Catholics as well as Protestants disapprove of past religious persecutions, so this discussion should not reflect negatively on current members of the Roman Catholic Church. However, events in Nazi Germany show how easily persecution can revive, so it is necessary to be on guard against it and maintain an awareness of its history. Of course, many other groups besides the Papacy have persecuted. And all of us, without Christ, have the roots of sin in ourselves. The reason the Papacy stands out is that it has ruled for such a long period of time over such a large area, exercised so much power, and claimed divine prerogatives for its persecutions. The magnitude of the persecutions is important for the following reason: One can excuse a few thousand cases as exceptional, but millions and millions of victims can only be the result of a systematic policy, thereby showing the harmful results of church-state unions. . .

Pope Francis and his predecessor John-Paul II have been outstanding in apologizing for persecutions perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church over the centuries. This is no accident. John-Paul II was Pope when the end-time prophecy of Jesus Christ was fulfilled. Since then world conditions have indicated that "God is no longer restraining the power of Satan in his control of the nations" of earth. Now is the time for the papacy to be swept to the pinnacle of world power before Satan himself appears on the scene. Pope John-Paul II, and now Pope Francis have worked assiduously to create a benign image of the Roman Catholic Church, by professing sorrow for past persecutions. Pope John Paul II, in the words of the following article, "attempted to purify the soul of the Roman Catholic church by making a sweeping apology for 2,000 years of violence, persecution and blunders":

Pope says sorry for sins of church

Saving one of his most audacious initiatives for the twilight of his papacy, John Paul II yesterday attempted to purify the soul of the Roman Catholic church by making a sweeping apology for 2,000 years of violence, persecution and blunders.

From the altar of St Peter's Basilica in Rome he led Catholicism into unchartered territory by seeking forgiveness for sins committed against Jews, heretics, women, Gypsies and native peoples. . .

Centuries of hate and rivalry could not recur in the third millennium. "We forgive and we ask forgiveness. We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed towards followers of other religions." . .

Yesterday's apology was by far the most sweeping and an unprecedented act for the leader of a major religion. One of the highlights of this year's jubilee, or holy year, it was the result of four years' research by a panel of 28 theologians and scholars. . .

The document that provides the theological framework emphasises a distinction between the sins committed by the church's sons and daughters and the church itself, which remains holy and immaculate. . .

Speaking after the ceremony to the crowd in St Peter's Square, the Pope stressed he was seeking forgiveness not from those who had been wronged, but from God. "Only he can do that."

The last paragraph but one in the passages quoted above is an object lesson in the hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. We are expected to believe that the sins committed by the Church's sons and daughters are not the sins of the Church itself. We must overlook what was directly sanctioned by the Popes and the Roman Catholic hierarchy, as well as the claims of church authority over all mankind which have engendered the atrocities committed by the Church's sons and daughters. As to the Pope stressing that he was not seeking forgiveness "from those who had been wronged, but from God," we can know with confidence that this was in vain; and Seventh-day Adventists should pay close attention to this prophetic fact.

Now he who is the power behind the papal throne knows this prophetic fact as well as any Bible student, but his efforts to neutralize the fear of the Church of Rome by means of the papal apologies is not an exercise in futility. One need only to look at the parade of Christian denominations into the camp of Rome to perceive the intent, and that it is working, not least of all through the present extremely popular Pope. Note the context and terms in which he apologized "for times that Catholics may have hurt members of other denomination" in "Pope asks mercy, pardon for ways Christians have harmed one another" hyperlinked above:

After walking across the threshold of the Holy Door with an Orthodox metropolitan and an Anglican archbishop, Pope Francis invoked God's mercy upon divided Christians and apologized for times that Catholics may have hurt members of other denominations. . .

"As bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to beg for mercy and forgiveness for un-Gospel-like behavior on the part of Catholics against Christians of other churches," the pope said Jan. 25 at a prayer service concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. . .

"We ask most of all for forgiveness for the sin of our divisions, which are an open wound on the body of Christ," Pope Francis said.

"At the same time, I ask all my Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if, today or in the past, they were hurt by other Christians," he said. "We cannot erase what happened, but we do not want to allow the burden of past faults to continue to poison our relationships.". .

No doubt many are hoodwinked into appreciating and sympathizing with Pope Francis in the face of reports such as the following:

Pope Francis under fire for ‘concessions’ to Protestants after asking for forgiveness, common prayer

Pope Francis will be visiting Sweden in the fall for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation amid heavy criticism for religious “concessions.” The Pope had asked Protestants and other Christian Churches for forgiveness for Catholic persecutions. . .

Earlier last week, the Pope asked “forgiveness for the un-gospel like behavior by Catholics towards Christians of other Churches” during his speech at the annual vespers service in St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome. The event was also attended by members of other religions.

“We cannot undo what was done in the past, but we don’t want to allow the weight of past sins to pollute our relationships,” he said. “The mercy of God will renew our relations.”

Pope Francis also called on Catholics to forgive anyone who has persecuted them in the past.

While the head of the Catholic Church has already been heavily criticized for his openness towards other religions, Pope Francis’ attempts to blur lines and embrace dialogue have reached new highs lately. He was spotted visiting the Lutheran Church of Rome, as well as Rome’s synagogue and the Waldensian protestant community in northern Italy. Moreover, the pope is planning his first-ever visit to a mosque in Rome.

The issue that has stirred the most controversy, however, could be Francis’ perceived concessions to Lutherans, including the “common prayer.”

Those who would sympathize with Pope Francis as he comes under criticism and opposition within his own religio-political institution for his successful campaign of ecumenical unity thereby succumb to the delusion that the Church of Rome is "holy and immaculate." Such a description has always been a lie (2 Thess. 2:8-12.)

The conclusion of the matter is that the spirit of the devil has ever reigned supreme in the Roman Catholic Church. She has always been a persecuting power, and at the culmination of earth's history in this world will again reveal her true character as the would-be annihilator of God's people (Rev. 13:12-18.)