Death of a Pope


May 1 2005
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The recent worldwide outpouring of grief upon the death of Pope John Paul II was unprecedented. Mourners ranged from his humblest adherents to the most powerful political and religious leaders of our day, including France’s President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. California Governor Schwarzenegger called the Pope “a beacon of virtue, strength and goodness.” Former President Clinton called him “a man of God,” while former President Bush said that his “adherence to liberty and freedom…gave people a real anchor.”

Russia’s President Putin honored John Paul’s “spiritual and political legacy.” President Bush called him “one of history’s great moral leaders.” Billy Graham called him “perhaps the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years.” Yet the Pope called Arafat, one of the worst terrorists and mass murderers of modern times, “Your Excellency,” and never rebuked him for his slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people around the world. Nor was the Pope’s “moral leadership” reflected in the lives of most of his admirers. The Houston Chronicle noted that “Italians who stood in line for hours to say farewell to their Holy Father have contracepted their way to the lowest birthrate in the world.” During his visit to California in September 1987, the famed hillside Hollywood sign was altered to read “Holywood”—yet Hollywood never missed a beat and remains anything but holy.

In June 2004, George W. Bush went to the Vatican to remind John Paul II that their moral values were the same and to gain support from America’s 65 million Catholics in the upcoming election. South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun called the Pope “an apostle of peace.” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark ordered flags flown at half-mast for “one of the truly influential figures of the 20th century.”

Such universal praise raised serious questions about the Pope’s claim to be the “Vicar of Christ.” After all, Christ was and still is “despised and rejected” (Isa:53:3). He told His disciples that if they were true to Him, they would receive the same treatment from the world: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me…the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” (Jn:15:18-20).

John Paul II outdid most politicians in playing all sides. During his 1987 visit to Los Angeles, he told Rabbi Emeritus Harvey Fields of Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the late Rabbi Alfred Wolf that everyone serves the “same God…no matter what their religion.” Yet in Latin America in February 1996, he warned Catholics against Protestants and urged those who had left the Church to come back. In the name of “ecumenism,” he declared that full unity could not be realized until all religions were subject to Rome!

In 2000 the Pope met with the President of Israel, visited the Wailing Wall, where he inserted a prayer, and assured Israelis that “the Catholic Church…is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism…by Christians....” Yet he only apologized for what “Christians” have done, and never admitted the truth: that it was the Church itself and its popes that had compelled Catholics to persecute Jews.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel told CNN that John Paul II “will have a very important place in Jewish history....” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (and Jewish leaders worldwide) called the Pope “a man of peace and friend of Israel....” Even U.S. News & World Report ’s Editor-in-Chief, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, usually so perceptive, praised the Pope for having “recognized the State of Israel,” overlooking the fact that he had been pope for 16 years before he did so in 1994, 46 years after Israel’s rebirth as a nation—and just after giving the PLO a permanent office at the Vatican.

Muslim leaders also lauded the Pope. Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University, said that Islam (which calls for Israel’s annihilation) had lost a great friend. Consistently (as in his papal bull on the Year 2000 Jubilee, etc.), John Paul II rejected Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. More than ten times (at the Vatican and papal palace in Castel Gandolfo) he warmly received Arafat, Israel’s most vicious enemy, visited him at his palace in Ramallah, and sided with Arafat and the PLO against Israel.

Of course, praising the deceased and overlooking blemishes is usual at funerals—but even evangelical leaders joined the “all praise to the Pope” chorus. The few who told the truth were condemned by the rest. For responding to a listener’s question as to whether the Pope was in heaven, Christian talk show host Marty Minto was fired by Pittsburgh’s WORD radio station, an affiliate of Salem Broadcasting (see News Alert). Yet the truth is that the Pope himself did not know whether he would go to heaven, and could give no assurance to others—a rather shocking fact about the head of the world’s largest church who claimed to be Christ’s vicar on earth!

John Cardinal O’Connor declared: “Church teaching is that I don’t know...what my eternal future will be. I can hope, pray, do my very best—but I still don’t know. Pope John Paul II doesn’t know absolutely that he will go to heaven, nor does Mother Teresa of Calcutta....” Cardinal John Krol, as spiritual leader of Philadelphia’s more than one million Catholics, admitted that his personal major worry was about “getting to heaven.” Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), who headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, watchdog of Catholic orthodoxy (Holy Office of the Inquisition), and successor to John Paul II, expresses the same uncertainty of salvation—as he must.

Like the Pope, the Church that he led firmly rejects Christ’s promise of “eternal life” (Jn:3:16) to all who believe on Him, that they have “passed from death unto life” (Jn:5:24) and “shall never perish” (Jn:10:28). Its priesthood offers endless Masses and prayers to Mary and favorite saints (thousands will be said for the dead pope), encourages pilgrimages to various shrines, and extends other means of gaining the same indulgences to shorten suffering in purgatory, a fact that upset Martin Luther and sparked the Reformation.

In a book highly rated by 250 evangelical leaders, the Pope wrote, “Baptism and the Eucharist…create in man the seed of eternal life.” Rejecting the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and His triumphant cry, “It is finished!” (Jn:19:30), the documents of Vatican II begin thus: “It is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, ‘the work of our redemption is [still being] accomplished.’” Rome anathematizes anyone who dares to confess the very assurance of a finished salvation that the Bible repeatedly promises (1 Jn:5:13).

Catholicism’s premier “televangelist” before his death, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (whom John Paul II called “a loyal son of the Church” and whom Billy Graham praised as “the greatest communicator” of the last century), hoped that “the Virgin” would welcome him to heaven because of his more than 40 pilgrimages to her shrines at Lourdes and Fatima. Pope John Paul II was likewise totally devoted to Mary, especially to “our lady of Fatima,” whose apparition declared that “All religions are the same…many souls perish because they have no one to make sacrifice for them,” a clear denial of the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. His Apostolic Letter of Oct. 16, 2002, ends with these words:

I entrust this Apostolic Letter to the loving hands of the Virgin Mary, prostrating myself in spirit before her image in the splendid Shrine built for her by Blessed Bartolo Longo, the apostle of the Rosary. I willingly make my own the touching words with which he concluded his well-known Supplication to the Queen of the Holy Rosary: “O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God... tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary of Pompei, O dearest Mother, O Refuge of Sinners, O Sovereign Consoler of the Afflicted....

Rushed to the hospital, having taken two bullets during an assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, the Pope groaned in Polish, “Madonna, Madonna...!” He often repeated the words, “Victory…will be…through Maria.” He credited “Our Lady of Fatima” with saving his life on that occasion in Rome and from a bayonet-wielding Spanish priest in 1982, while visiting Fatima, Portugal, to thank her for rescuing him from death. But his favorite “Maria” was the “Black Virgin” of Jasna Gora in Poland—where Billy Graham himself welcomed pilgrims after preaching in Wojtyla’s cathedral while Wojtyla was made Pope in Rome. In a February 1980 addendum to his Last Will and Testimony of March 6, 1979, John Paul II entrusted “that decisive moment [of death] to the Mother of Christ and of the Church [and] of my hope....In life and in death, Totus Tuus through the Immaculate.” Embroidered inside all of his robes was the phrase, Totus tuus sum Maria , “Mary, I am all yours.”

The Rosary, which he urged Catholics to pray continually as the means to world peace, offers a false gospel of salvation through Mary. An “apparition” at Fatima claiming to be “Our Lady of the Rosary” declared, “Say the Rosary every day...pray a lot and offer sacrifices for sinners [Christ’s sacrifice was not enough]....Only I will be able to help you....In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.” The Rosary concludes:

HAIL, HOLY QUEEN, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

It is clear, however, that Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus, “her firstborn Son” (Mt 1:25), but had sons and daughters through her husband, Joseph (Mat:12:46,47; 13:55,56; Mk 3:31; Lk 8:19,20; Jn:2:12; Acts:1:14)—and that she was not a special conduit of blessing from Him to others (Mat:12:40-50; Mk 3:33-35; Lk 8:19-21; 11:27,28). There is no biblical record of anyone ever praying to Mary or of her interceding with Christ for anyone’s salvation.

Among Roman Catholicism’s popular “15 Promises of Mary,” are the following: “The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish....I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary. Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall…at the moment of death…participate in the merits of the Saints in Paradise.” Tragically, hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics have been turned from faith in Christ alone for salvation to trusting Mary and the Rosary, as did Pope John Paul II! They will not receive salvation from Christ so long as they trust Mary or any other “saint” for it.

In “The Holy Father’s Prayer for the Marian Year,” John Paul II asked Mary to do what only God can do: to comfort, guide, strengthen and protect “the whole of humanity....” His prayer ended, “Sustain us, O Virgin Mary, on our journey of faith and obtain for us the grace of eternal salvation.” Faith in the only Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is both conspicuously missing and denied by such a prayer!

John Paul II often referred to “the salvation of souls through Mary Immaculate.” Urging all Christians to accept Mary as their mother, the Pope declared that Christ’s words to John from the Cross, “Behold thy mother!” (Jn:19:27), revealed the “authentic meaning of Marian worship....” Claiming that “Mary is the path that leads to Christ,” the Pope urged all Christians “to make room [for Mary] in their daily lives, acknowledging her providential role in the path of salvation.” He always wore the scapular (a practice that originated from an apparition of “Our Lady of Mt. Carmel” to St. Simon Stock in A.D. 1251, and was confirmed by subsequent popes such as Pope John XXII in 1322), trusting in the promise written upon it that “whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” It is irrefutable logic that anyone, who in simple faith has trusted Christ for the salvation He provides, would consider it not only unnecessary but an abomination to wear such a piece of cloth!

In view of these well-known facts, the praise heaped on the Pope upon his death by evangelical leaders is incomprehensible! Incredibly, Billy Graham praised John Paul II for “his strong Catholic faith.” Increasing numbers of evangelicals are joining Colson, Packer, Billy Graham and others in accepting as fellow Christians Roman Catholics who embrace this false gospel. Mark Oestreicher, president of Youth Specialties, called the Pope’s death “a key point in history where we have the opportunity to embrace [Catholics as] fellow children of God.” That is like failing to set up flares and warning signs for motorists traveling along a highway where a bridge is out and waving them on to their death instead!

Richard N. Ostling, long-time Senior Religious Correspondent for Time , called John Paul II “probably the most popular pope ever among America’s evangelical Protestants....” Dan Betzer, pastor of Fort Meyers’ First Assembly of God, enthused: “I have long been an admirer of the Pope. His prayer life is an example to us all. He has lived a godly life....His death will leave a great void in the kingdom of God.” Pat Robertson said that “the most beloved religious leader of our age [has passed] from this world to his much deserved eternal reward.”

Like Billy Graham, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, emphasized that any disagreements Protestants may have had “with John Paul II are [irrelevant] to the foundations of the faith.” Land praised the Pope’s “staunch defense of traditional Christian faith....” Yet John Paul II on more than one occasion gathered together for prayer witch doctors, spiritists, animists, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and other leaders of world religions, declared that they were all “praying to the same God,” and credited their prayers with generating “profound spiritual energies” that would create a “new climate for peace.”

We dare not trifle with the eternal destiny of souls. Peter, whom Rome falsely claims was the first pope, declared that “there is none other name [than Jesus Christ]...whereby we must be saved” (Acts:4:12). Not Mary, not Buddha, not anyone but Christ! But John Paul II relied upon Mary for salvation and protection and taught his flock to do the same. We pity him and them for this error.

It is too late to pray for the dead pope’s soul—but we owe it to our Lord and all mankind still living to give them the good news: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (Jn:3:16,17). TBC