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Another Papal Trip - But Why?

by Christopher A. Ferrara

On May 22, 2002 the Pope arrived in the tiny nation of Azerbaijan, where a grand total of 120 Catholics reside in a sea of Muslims. As Zenit reports, the Pope "introduced himself as an ‘ambassador of peace’ during his meeting with world leaders of religion, politics, culture, and art."

The Pope declared: "I have come to Azerbaijan as an ambassador of peace. As long as I have breath within me I shall cry out: ‘Peace, in the name of God!’" Yes, but which God? The god of the Muslims, who reject Christ and make war throughout the world in the name of their prophet, or the true God, whose only begotten Son is the one and only Prince of Peace? Indeed, can there ever be peace in a world that rejects Him and the Father Who sent Him? As the Church has always taught (cf. Pius XI in Ubi Arcano Dei), the answer is no  —  there will never be peace in the world if the world does not acknowledge and obey Christ the King.

Zenit notes that "Following his brief greeting, and to conserve his energy, the Holy Father requested one of his collaborators to read in Russian the address he prepared for the occasion". Among other things the address said had a great deal to say about beauty, art and poetry: "Beauty, as you know, is the light of the spirit. The soul, when it is calm and reconciled, when it lives in harmony with God and the universe, emits a light that is already a kind of beauty … Holiness is nothing other than fullness of beauty, as it reflects, according to its ability, the consummate beauty of the Creator." Here the Pope was alluding to a 12th Century poet of the region.

These are all very fine sentiments, but how does man achieve the holiness of which the Pope speaks without sanctifying grace to lift him from the state of Original Sin? And how does man achieve a state of sanctifying grace, and remain in it, without faith in Christ, the Catholic Church and the seven sacraments? As the condition of the world should tell us, and as the Council of Trent taught, without the Church and the sacraments man can hardly live at all in the state of grace - let alone habitually. That is why God founded His Church, and that is why without Her influence pervading the whole of social and political life, there can be no true and lasting peace in the world.

According to Zenit, the Pope concluded that "the present challenge consists in transmitting ‘a taste for beauty,’ adding that ‘as the ancients teach us, beauty, truth, and goodness are united by an indissoluble bond.’" With all due respect to the Holy Father, surely it is more than a question of cultivating a taste for beauty. Surely the world is not at peace because the world has turned its back on Christ the King, as Pope after Pope warned the world before the Second Vatican Council.

Zenit notes that "On Thursday (May 23), John Paul II will celebrate Mass in Baku´s Sports Palace, and he will then take lunch with the Salesian community in the country, which directs this mission territory." After the outdoor Mass, the Pope will have a meeting "with leaders of the monotheist religions - the leader of the Caucasus Muslims, the Orthodox Bishop of Baku, and the president of the Jewish community." And then the Pope will go home, apparently without so much as suggesting to the rabbis and the muftis that they need to become Christians for the sake of their souls and for peace in the world.

A speech at the airport. Talk of peace, tolerance and beauty. A meeting with rabbis and muftis, an outdoor Mass. We have seen this all before - about a hundred such trips throughout a world which, as the trips have unfolded, has grown more violent and more hateful by the hour. Yet another trip to another nation where Christ is not followed, while our own house is racked with scandal and apostasy in the pews.

May we not ask, with all due deference to our Pope: Holy Father, why another trip? What does the physical presence of the Pope in this or that remote place accomplish, given that there is no call by the Vicar of Christ to enter the one true Church? Does the world need another ambassador, even one so prominent as yourself? Holy Father, why is the Church not commanded to offer Masses for the conversion of world leaders to the one true religion so that there will be peace among men? Does the Vatican not seek any longer the conversion of the whole world to Christ? Is adherence to the true religion no longer seen by the Vatican as indispensable for world peace?

Such are the questions that confront us as we watch our Pope travel the globe incessantly, even as his infirmities are beginning to make that travel all but impossible. The Pope’s handlers would have us believe that the Pope’s ability to continue to go to one place or the other is the measure of his leadership of the Church. But the measure of a leader is the state of the realm over which he has care. What is the state of the realm of the Church today? As the Church goes, so goes the world.