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Chapter 14

The Deadly Wound Re-examined

 

SERIOUS students of Bible prophecy have been fascinated for a long time with the deadly wound of the beast of Revelation 13 and its healing.

And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. (Revelation 13:3)

We have seen that the deadly wound was inflicted upon the Papacy in 1798, when General Berthier, of Napoleonís army, took the pope a captive to France. This wound was further deepened in 1870, when Giuseppe Garibaldi seized all the territory of the Papal States and incorporated it into the new kingdom of Italy; thus the Papacy had been stripped of its last vestige of temporal power, a power it had exerted since a.d. 538.

In reality, Rome fell to Italian forces led by General Raffaele Cadorna on September 20 1870. Pope Pius IX capitulated, and a national vote was taken in the Papal States in October 1870, resulting in an overwhelming majority in favor of union with Italy. The event which stimulated the overthrow of the Papal State is significant to the student of Godís Word.

The way had been paved by the meeting of the [first] Vatican Council, in 1869Ė1870, and its proclamation, in July 1870, of the infallibility of the pope. This symptom of the increasing centralization and clericalization of the church revived some of the old opposition. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1963 edition, Article: Italy)

The relationship of the declaration of the unscriptural doctrine of papal infallibility and the resultant loss of Vatican sovereignty over the Papal States are frequently overlooked. The Papacy had caused its own downfall.

The healing process was initiated by Benito Mussolini, prime minister of Italy, who in 1929 signed the Lateran Treaty restoring temporal power to the Papacy by returning its possession of the territory of Vatican City. This territory, just a mere speck of Rome occupying only 108 acres (one-sixth of a square mile), has become the center of the most powerful political organization upon earth. As succeeding popes have strengthened their influence upon the destinies of nations, the wound has healed so effectively that it is now almost impossible to detect even the scar.

When Pope Pius XII died in 1958, it appeared that the College of Cardinals could not decide on a suitable replacement. As a temporary measure, they chose the elderly Cardinal Roncalli as Pius XIIís successor. In four and a half years, as Pope John XXIII, he completely changed the face of Catholicism, and dispelled the antagonism of most Protestants.

Upon the death of John XXIII in 1963, the archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Montini, was elected Pope Paul VI. In the fifteen years of his pontificate, Paul VI introduced a schedule of worldwide travel for himself that had never before been undertaken by a pope. In this manner he became an international figure. While he did not possess the charisma of John XXIII, he nevertheless rode on a wave of Catholic popularity generated by his presence.

With the death of Paul VI in 1978, Cardinal Luciani, archbishop of Venice, was voted to fill the papal seat. He assumed the title of John Paul I. His sudden death, after a mere thirty-three days in office, precipitated a return of the cardinals to the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican, in order to elect another man to the papal throne. For over 400 years, the choice of pope had always been an Italian. It was not anticipated on this occasion that there would be any deviation from this precedent.

All evidence at the time indicated a fierce, close contest in the early ballots between the archbishop of Milan and the archbishop of Naples. But neither could obtain the two-thirds majority vote required for papal election; thus the College of Cardinals turned its attention to a compromise candidate. To the amazement of the world, a Polish prelate (Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Cracow) was appointed. He was not even the primate of Poland (that appointment, at the time, was held by the archbishop of Warsaw); yet this unlikely selection has proved to be an act of pure genius in the fulfillment of the aims and political ambitions of the Roman Catholic Church. No pope has ever prepared the way for a greater fulfillment of Bible prophecy than has this former armaments factory worker from Poland.

Today, Pope John Paul II has gained the respect and applause of almost all peoples of every nation. He is seen as a peacemaker, a champion of underprivileged nations, and an upholder of democracy. Such a reputation is amazing for the head of a power with the worst record of any in the field of democracy. It has a record of belligerence second to none, and has kept more nations in a state of poverty and backwardness than any other power in the history of this world.

The noted Catholic scholar, Peter de Rosa (former professor of metaphysics and ethics at Westminster Seminary; dean of Corpus Christi College, in London; and a former Jesuit priest trained in the Gregorian University in Rome), has this to say concerning the Roman Catholic record of justice:

The record of the Inquisition would be embarrassing for any organization; for the Catholic Church, it is devastating. Today, it prides itself, and with much justification [the authors dispute this judgment], on being the defender of natural law and the rights of man. The papacy, in particular, likes to see itself as the champion of morality. What history shows is that, for more than six centuries without a break, the papacy was the sworn enemy of elementary justice. Of eighty popes in a line from the thirteenth century on, not one of them disapproved of the theology and apparatus of Inquisition. On the contrary, one after another added his own cruel touches to the workings of the deadly machine. (Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ, Corgi Books, 1989, p. 244)

The Bible had declared that, notwithstanding this truly abysmal track record, all the world would regard the Papacy with wonderment.

We have seen evidence of this admiration even among the Protestant churches originally established to throw off the unmatched evils and errors of the Roman Catholic Church. Many Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptists, and others now see no peril in establishing close relationships with the Roman Catholic Church. In this they are utterly blind. Even Billy Graham has proclaimed Pope John Paul II as the most significant religious figure in the present world.

It is not without reason that the claim has been put forth in Protestant countries that Catholicism differs less widely from Protestantism than in former times. There has been a change; but the change is not in the papacy. Catholicism indeed resembles much of the Protestantism that now exists, because Protestantism has so greatly degenerated since the days of the Reformers. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 571)

The calls of the archbishop of Canterbury to elevate the pope to spiritual leader of Christendom fall upon deaf ears when suggested to those who believe Bible prophecy. Such men and women are appalled by the lack of spiritual insight shown by churches such as the Lutheran and Southern Baptist churches. Still there are numerous men and women who doubt the ability of the Roman Catholic Church to hold sway over the atheistic and the non-Christian world.

Recent events in communist Europe have shown the error of such complacency. Once it was believed that communism and Catholicism were irreconcilable enemies.

The meeting of the pope and Mr. Gorbachev, in December 1989, indicated to the world the symbolic end of the twentieth centuryís most dramatic spiritual war, a conflict in which the seemingly irresistible force of communism battered against the immovable object of Christianity. (Time magazine, Australian Edition, December 4 1989)

Time has revealed the truth of Bible prophecy which indicates that all the world will wonder after the beast. Mr. Gorbachevís visit to the Vatican in December 1989 was an immensely significant act. Prior to that visit, he had taken the unprecedented step of seeking the popeís assistance to help him calm the Catholic citizens in the Ukraine.

Stalin thought that the Vatican was weak. At the Potsdam Conference in 1945, he had scornfully asked Churchill, "How many divisions did you say the pope had?" Gorbachev found that the pope has many divisions of loyal followers on the streets of the cities of the Ukraine and Lithuania.

Gorbachev well knew that the pope could not be trusted to quiet the voice of revolt in areas of Catholic concentrations, unless he offered to fulfill the Vaticanís objectives; thus, in anticipating his meeting with John Paul II, it was stated that he would offer the following inducements:

"Come to Moscow and other Soviet cities on an official tour," he [Gorbachev] will say. "Talk of peaceful change to your co-religionists in the Ukraine and in separatist Lithuania as well; urge them, as Cardinal Glemp did in Poland years ago, to be patient and not to seek to overthrow the political regime." (Singapore Straits Times, Nov. 13 1989)

Gorbachev offered to undo "Stalinís forced amalgamation and subjugation" (ibid.) of the Roman Catholic Church with the Russian Orthodox Church; furthermore, the Soviet leader planned to return the seized church properties, and to permit the reopening of Roman Catholic schools in the U.S.S.R.

The author of the article cited above, William Safire of the New York Times, perceptively referred to this.

The Pope will want to use the opportunity offered by Mr. Gorbachev as a lever to help end the schism in the church. With that theological motive, he is likely to strike a political deal. (Ibid.)

The schism here referred to is between the Russian Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches.

Gorbachev, notwithstanding some progressive moves in Eastern Europe, demonstrated absolutely no insight in opening up his country to the inroads of Roman Catholicism in this way. Religious freedom is one thing; facilitating the Roman Catholic expansionist ambitions is entirely another. But here before our eyes is clear evidence of the escalating favor afforded to the Roman Catholic Church by communist regimesóall the world wondered after the beast.

In spite of all the efforts during forty years of communist rule, Catholicism may be stronger today in Eastern Europe than before communism.

After 40 years of suppression, Christian democracy is finding its natural constituency intact across Central Europe. In Slovakia, the Hungarian provinces, and rural Poland electorates are overwhelmingly Catholic, conservative, and cautious. Despite the iniquities of the postwar years, the church has maintained massive influence, all the more now that it has been a focus of moral resistance to communism. . . . Here lies the obvious danger inherent in the right-wing revival: A church-sponsored eruption of nationalism and obscurantism that already threatens the stable development of democracy in Eastern Europe. (Singapore Straits Times, April 17 1990)

It was not surprising that Hungary, formerly one of the staunchest opponents of Catholicism, resumed diplomatic relations with the Vatican on February 9 1990 (Newsweek, February 19 1990). It was Hungary which had in 1948 imprisoned Cardinal Mindszenty, Roman Catholic primate of Hungary. During the 1956 uprising, the cardinal fled to the American Embassy in Budapest where he spent almost two decades in political asylum before dying in exile in Austria during 1975. But now Hungary is "wondering after the beast" in fulfillment of the prophetic Word. Poland had in July 1989 been the first Eastern bloc country to open diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The U.S.S.R. and the Vatican resumed diplomatic relations on March 15 1990.

In March 1990, two significant events occurred in Romania. Though Romania has fewer than three million Roman Catholics and Eastern Rite Catholics among its twenty-three million inhabitants, its importance in the papal schemes of the future has not escaped the attention of the pope. The return of the Vatican Embassy confiscated by the communist leaders in Romania forty years ago was the most significant. In the same month, John Paul II named twelve new bishops for Romaniaóseven Roman Catholics and five Eastern Rite bishops. He also elevated two former underground bishops to the rank of archbishop. There was no resistance from the new leaders of Romania. Talk of a return to diplomatic relations with the Vatican was then heard. Romania established diplomatic relations with the Vatican on May 15, 1990.

The pope is also anxious to obtain the cooperation of the Orthodox churches of Europe.

He visited [in 1979] the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, with an objective that was not obvious even to his Vatican associates. The Patriarch is the spiritual head of all Orthodox churches in the world. Through him, Karol Wojtyla [Pope John Paul II] wanted to convey the same message to Eastern Europeís Orthodox churches: Communismís collapse is near, be ready to fill the vacuum. (Enrico Jacchia, of the International Herald Tribune, in the Singapore Straits Times, March 13 1990)

No wonder the pope sees that "a new European political order will be set up, and the goodwill of a cooperative Soviet leadership in shaping it is of utmost importance." (Ibid.)

Not only are the Soviets supporting such a unity, but the leadership of the United States is also.

He [President Bush] said he was resolutely in favor of a united and peaceful Germany in a united and peaceful Europe. (Singapore Straits Times, April 15 1990)

The U.S.S.R.ís tacit permission of Roman Catholic Lithuaniaís secession from the U.S.S.R., declared by the Lithuanian parliament on March 12 1990, demonstrates how powerful the papal influence is upon the Kremlin. Many may wonder why Lithuania, a country of a mere 3.6 million people, would dare to challenge the strong power of the U.S.S.R., the third most populous nation upon earth with 280 million people. Such do not understand that feverish activity by the Roman Catholic hierarchy is undoubtedly supporting the Lithuanian people It must be recognized that Mr. Gorbachev dare not antagonize the Papacy lest such action incite the Catholics in the strategically important Ukraine to revolution; thus, in a very real sense, the president of the U.S.S.R. is greatly limited in his options in dealing with this small territory. Sending in the Red Army, which could easily settle the issue of secession, is certainly not a likely option presently open to the Russian leadership. Such an action would alienate the Vatican and seriously threaten Gorbachevís position. Incredibly, the worldís smallest nation, a minuscule one-sixth of a square mile, is effectively dominating earthís largest nation consisting of over eight and a half million square miles. Only an omniscient God would have foreseen such an unlikely situation; thus the communist world, for reasons of political expediency, at present has little option except to "wonder after the beast."

We can expect to see much posturing by the U.S.S.R. over Lithuaniaís unilateral declaration of independence. This strategy has already been seen with the occupation of the headquarters of the Lithuanian Communist Party, the rounding up of Lithuanian deserters from the Red Army, the movement of tanks through the capital city, Vilnius, and similar actions.

But, Gorbachevís saber rattling aside, there is every indication he believes the three republics have the right to secede, though only after Moscow has agreed to the terms of separation. (Time magazine, April 2 1990)

The Vaticanís pressure has undoubtedly caused Gorbachev to come to such a conclusion. Lenin, Stalin, Malenkov, Kruschev, and other Soviet leaders would simply have marched a few battalions of the four-million-strong Red Army into Lithuania (total population only 3.6 million) and that would have speedily ended the matter. In 1956 the independence movement in Hungary, a nation far stronger than Lithuania, was quelled in a few days. Similarly, in 1968, Czechoslovak moves toward democracy were put down because of the Russian military machine. Owing to the popeís intervention in Soviet affairs, the Soviet response to the declared independence of Lithuania is expected to be different.

Western observers concurred that a full-scale invasion [of Lithuania] was unlikely. "What we see now is Gorbachev raising the ante in what will be hard and drawn-out negotiations," said an American diplomat in Moscow. "Lithuania has a united population on the issue of independence, and I donít think theyíll back down. And Moscow has pretty well ruled out force." At independence ceremonies in Namibia last week, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said, "We are against the use of force in any region, and we are particularly against the use of force domestically." (Ibid.)

Unquestionably, the pope is playing a decisive role in what is happening in Lithuania.

The pope, on Saturday [April 14], met Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachevís personal adviser, Vadim Zagladin, for talks believed to have touched on Lithuania. He also issued a message of support to Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church leaders, saying he felt closer than ever to the aspirations of the Lithuanian people! The Vaticanís ambassador to Moscow, last week, indicated that the Vatican was willing to act as a mediator in the Lithuanian crisis if both sides wanted. Italian Communist Party newspaper, Unita, said Mr. Zagladin had been sent by Mr. Gorbachev to examine how the Vatican could play a role in ending the face-off between the Kremlin and the Baltic Republic which declared itself independent on March 11. (Singapore Straits Times, April 6 1990)

On March 18 1990, East Germany held its first democratic elections. Incredibly, the Christian Democrat Party, the party of the Roman Catholic Church, easily emerged as the most successful of the twenty-one parties contesting the polls. They received over 40 percent of the votes while their closest rivals, the Social Democrats, received 24 percent, and the party for Social Democracy (the reformed Communist Party) received 16 percent. The success of the Christian Democrat Party was remarkable, not only because it was achieved in a nation that had been avowedly communist for over forty years but also because East Germany includes German territories overwhelmingly Lutheran prior to the advent of communism. The results of this election certainly demonstrated the efficiency of the Roman Catholic Church even in communist nations which were former strongholds of Protestantism.

In the non-Christian world, there is no greater foe to Catholicism than Islam; yet even in this sphere Catholicism is making giant strides. When in the 1930s the Islamic population in Rome requested permission from Mussolini to build a mosque in Rome, he replied with an emphatic "No! When we can build a Roman Catholic church in Mecca, you can build a mosque in Rome." Mussoliniís statement at least contained a marginal level of logic.

But today a $50,000,000 mosque is under construction in Rome with Vatican approval. The head of the mosque, Prince Abolghassem Amini, has openly stated his great admiration of Pope John Paul II. He has expressed a desire for closer Islamic links with the Vatican. (Sarawak Tribune, Malaysia, March 8 1989)

Is it any wonder that the Reuters correspondent who reported this matter perceptively declared, in speaking about the construction of the mosque, "Its religious and political symbolism is very important, a sign of the times." (Ibid., emphasis added.) It is indeed a sign of the times vastly more significant than the reporter recognized. The architect of the mosque, Vittorio Gigliotti, also insightfully exclaimed, "This is a work of exceptional historic, religious, cultural and political importance. It will have tremendous impact upon public opinion!" (Ibid.)

When Pope John Paul visited Indonesia in 1989, hordes of citizens of that nation flocked to his meetings, despite the fact that its population is predominantly Islamic.

Similar crowds of unprecedented proportions attended the papal gatherings in Buddhist Singapore and Thailand, as well as Hindu India, on previous visits. Truly all the world is wondering after the beast. Pope John Paul II has been seen by more people than any other human in the entire history of the world. Bible prophecy is being fulfilled in our time with unerring accuracy. How alert we must be if we are to be prepared for the serious crisis ahead, when Roman Catholicism will once more seek to force its errors upon the consciences of true men and women by using the arm of political power! She will not disdain the use of fearful persecution any more than she did in the past.

When church leaders such as the archbishop of Canterbury openly recognize the Papacy as the head of all the Christian churches, they are ignoring the potent lessons of history as expressed by President Roosevelt.

Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them. (Life, March 1990)

 


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