Seeking after divine signs
by Keith Smith
Friday, April 22nd 2005
Fittingly enough, perhaps, I want to finish this week's lightweight series on names with the most serious name to emerge in the very week: Benedict XVI.
This, of course, is the papal name chosen by the former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (come to think of it, how does a new pope come up with his papal name minutes after his election-do all the cardinals go into the conclave with a particular papal name in mind? Ah mean, I can't imagine a new pope scrambling around even as the multitude awaits him in St Peter's Square below: "What name, what name? Lord, send me a name!" No, the papal name is too important for that, with not only the world's billion Catholics (practising or not) but the wider world (religious or not) seeking to divine its significance, people already reading in the name Benedict XVI clues as to the contours of this present papacy).
So we have heard the Pope himself predicting that his, like Benedict XV's, would be a short reign, others have noted that his papacy began in World War I, Professor Courtenay Bartholomew pointing out in one of his books, Mother and Coredemptrix,that in his first encyclical Ad Beatissimi, Benedict XV "denounced the war as a crime against religion, humanity and civilisation, waged as it was by Catholic countries".
Benedict XV, given his, well, war against the war became known as "The Pope of Peace". By choosing Benedict XVI was the new Pope signalling the need for another "Pope of Peace" at a time when secular commentators confess to fears about widening conflicts between not Catholic countries but Christian and Muslim?
But (and, perhaps this is only because of my journalist's mind that, invariably, sees secret shadows everywhere) what struck me-and I telephoned to tell him that-about the chapter in the book in which Benedict XV makes his appearance was how much of it dwelled on that Pope's confrontation with the enduringly anti-Catholic Freemasonry, Freemasons, for example, in 1917 (the year Catholics believe the Blessed Virgin appeared in Fatima, Portugal, as "The Lady of the Rosary") celebrating the 200th anniversary of the order's founding in England with marches through Rome, their black banners, Bartholomew writes, insisting:
"Satan must reign in the Vatican. The Pope will be his slave".
What in God's name, has this to do with this new Benedict XVI?
Nothing, perhaps, except that my eyes were drawn to these words uttered by the then Cardinal Ratzinger the day before at the opening of the very conclave that was to elect him:
"The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves-thrown from one extreme to the other; from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from agnosticism to syncretism. Every day new sects are created and what St Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw people into error..."
Listen, I know this is not the Catholic News nor is this a religious column, but the Pope is more than, well, Catholic, given the moral authority he holds across countries and, indeed, across religions to the point where secular presidents and prime ministers have been inferring well, God knows what, from the Benedict XVI name.
What I am wondering in context of his pre-election speech was if this Pope Benedict XVI was, albeit among other things, signalling the hard stand he intends to take on the "new sects" he so recently harangued against in the same way as Benedict XV confronted the ancient Freemason order, Professor Bartholomew writing for those who believe in such things that one Fr Stefano Gobbi, a "member of the Company of St Paul" who holds "a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of the Lateran in Rome" has written in a book, To the Priests, Our Lady's Beloved Sons, about this message said to have been received from the Blessed Virgin, 1989, (again for people who believe in these things):
"Freemasonry has infiltrated into the interior of the Church, that is to say ecclesiastical Masonry, which has spread especially among members of the hierarchy. The Masonic infiltration in the interior of the Church was already foretold to you by me in Fatima when I announced to you that Satan would enter even into the Summit of the Church. If the task of Masonry is to lead souls to perdition, bringing them to the worship of false divinities, the task of ecclesiastical Masonry on the other hand is that of destroying ...His Church, building a new idol, namely a false Christ and a false church,..."
Private so-called revelations do not have the imprimatur of the Catholic Church but as the public becomes even more familiar with the Benedict XVI name one of the questions I find fascinating is whether by choosing the name this new Pope is not girding his loins to do battle with forces both outside and inside the Church which, in the footsteps of St Peter (again for those who believe in these things), he is mandated to defend. In which case are we to expect a tempestuous pontificate in an increasingly tempestuous world?