There was a big sensation for the Jews in Jerusalem when the Holy Ghost came upon the Apostles on the historical Pentecost feast. Everyone present heard the Apostles “speaking in his own language,” and they all praised “the wonderful works of God.” St. Peter spoke with reference to the prophet Joel that a special “day of the Lord, the great and manifest day” had dawned (Acts, 2:1-21).
Then the decisive words of Peter followed: “Men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth was a man approved by God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did through him in the midst of you, as you yourselves know. Him, when delivered up by the settled purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have crucified and slain by the hands of wicked men. But God has raised him up, having loosed the sorrows of hell, because it was not possible that he should be held fast by it” (Acts, 2:22-24).
“Now on hearing this they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ But Peter said to them: ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise and to your children and to all who are far off, even to all whom the Lord our God calls.’ And with very many other words he bore witness, and exhorted them, saying ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation’” (Acts 2, 37-41).
St. Peter was not afraid to point out the “miracles and wonders and signs” through which Jesus Christ was “approved by God” to his listeners who were Jews and not yet Christians. He recalls to their memory that Jesus was delivered by them to Pilate to let him be “crucified and slain” by Roman soldiers. Peter completes his remarks by a brief, but very solemn description of Christ's glorious resurrection from the dead. At the same time, St. Peter quotes passages of the Old Testament as important witnesses of Christ, the risen Messias, and makes clear to his listeners, most of them Jews, that the Old Testament was written in regard to Jesus Christ or rather found its fulfillment in Him.
Consider the solemnity of the following confession: May “all the house of Israel” recognize that Jesus who was crucified is the “Lord and Messias” prophesied in the Old Testament. With those words the prince of the Apostles fulfills the task given to him and to the other Apostles by Jesus Himself (on the occasion of his Ascension): “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:18ff). Peter gave them a straight answer when he was asked what they had to do. They must convert and gain the forgiveness of their sins by Christian baptism. This means, according to St. Peter, that a true and honest conversion to God must be a conversion to Jesus Christ! One can only gain the true forgiveness of sins by the belief in Jesus and the Christian baptism. In other words, the Jewish religion of the Old Testament cannot bring forgiveness before God.
Now, unfortunately, follows an entirely contrary performance by Joseph Ratzinger during his stay in the Holy Land from the 8th to the 15th of May this year. Please note that this article is not about his comments on political questions, important as they may be sometimes, but only about his statements to Jews and Moslems on religious-theological questions as mentioned before with the example of St. Peter.
1) Even during his flight from Rome to Amman, Benedict XVI gave an interview which already shows his position regarding those questions. It seemed to be important to him that Christians and Jews “have really the same root, the same Books of the Old Testament which are–for the Jews as well as for us–books of Revelation. But of course we mustn't be surprised after 2000 years of a different, even separate history, that there are misunderstandings because very different traditions of interpretation, expression and thought, so to say a very different ‘semantic cosmos’ have developed so that the same words have different meanings on either side.” Because of that, “apparent misunderstandings” originated. (All quotes of Ratzinger are taken from www.vatican.va)
Therefore, Ratzinger plays down the rejection of Jesus Christ in a scandalous manner and even practically agrees with them on the refusal of Jesus as “Lord and Messias” by attributing it to linguistic and cultural “misunderstandings”–the different “semantic cosmos.” And because he sees those “misunderstandings” as a general issue–he does not say that it was the Jews who were victims of those “misunderstandings”–the Christian interpretation of the texts of the Old Testament is, according to him, not to be preferred to the Jewish one. Judaism and Christianity are therefore put on the same level regarding theology and revelation! St. Peter acted in an entirely different manner in this question.
With regard to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Ratzinger merely referred to the alleged common message. “We have the same roots despite different origins.” We had “in the origins as well as in our belief in one God very much in common.” Dialogue among those three religions should therefore be cultivated. So Ratzinger gives Judaism and Islam such a high value that their followers are in no way moved to reflect on their position as opposed to Christianity, but instead are flattered. And again, no single word about Jesus Christ, His suffering and death or the rejection of Christ as divine Redeemer in Islam and Judaism. Concerning the fundamental differences among these three religions he merely refers to their different origins—a clear betrayal of Christ’s command to convert all nations!
2) Ratzinger follows the same policy during the welcome ceremony at Amman airport: “My visit in Jordan gives me the great opportunity to speak of my deepest respect towards the Muslim Community.” This visit may “help us to grow in love to Almighty God and also in fraternal love towards each other.” Again, not a single word about Jesus Christ and the meaning of His work of salvation. Following Ratzinger’s words, Islam is leading to “love” towards the “almighty and merciful” God and makes Christians and Moslems brothers in the faith–without Jesus, without the belief in Him as divine Redeemer, without baptism! Well, St. Peter (and Christ) spoke in an entirely different way.
3) During the meeting with Muslim religious leaders, the diplomatic corps and rectors of the universities of Jordan, Ratzinger said about our topic: “Places of worship, like this magnificent … Al-Hussein-Bin-Talal-Mosque are like jewels all over the world. The old as well as the new places, the splendid as well as the simple ones, they are all pointing towards the Divine, the One Transcendental, the Almighty One. Through the centuries those sacred places attracted people to stay there, pray, become conscious of the presence of the Almighty and to recognize that we are all his creatures.” No longer only Christian Churches and Cathedrals, especially when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in them, are sacred places, where the one true God lives, but also every Muslim mosque in general. Where is Jesus Christ, the necessity of belief in him, the Holy Trinity, baptism? St. Peter, again, acted differently.
4) Somebody could raise the objection that Benedict XVI indeed mentioned Jesus Christ expressly during the welcome ceremony at Tel Aviv airport. Yes, that is true. But Ratzinger merely spoke of the present State of Israel as the “Land, which Christians venerate especially as the scene of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Not the smallest hint about the consequences for all non-Christians; no indication of the necessity of the belief in Jesus Christ or at least a discreet call to baptism in the name of the Triune God in order to achieve eternal salvation. On the contrary, at the very end of the speech Ratzinger spoke, referring to the present Israel: “May God strengthen his people! May God bless his people with peace!” If the present people of Israel, most of whom are rejecting Jesus Christ, are still God’s chosen people, then we neither need the Christian faith nor baptism for our salvation and spiritual welfare. In any case, St. Peter behaved very differently.
5) During Ratzinger’s meeting with the president of Israel he was talking about peace. He started very correctly: “Peace is first of all a divine gift because it is God’s promise to mankind and leads towards unity.” Then, he added two quotes from the book of the prophet Jeremias. Afterwards, he continued: “I want to tell the present religious leaders that the special contribution of Religion to the search for peace is at first a passionate and common search for God. Our task is to preach and confess that the Almighty One is present and recognizable…that he is working in our world for our good and that the future of our society is under the sign of hope, if the society lives according to the divine commandment. As a matter of fact, the unity within mankind has as first cause the perfect unity and universality of God, who created man and wife according to his image in order to draw us into his divine life, that all may be one.”
Ratzinger calls peace “first of all a divine gift.” He omits to show though, that true peace of man with God and peace within mankind can only come from our Savior Jesus Christ, who annihilated sin through his redemptive act on the Cross. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). Ratzinger claims to be the successor of St. Peter; he addresses the “present religious leaders”… and keeps completely silent about Christ, who is the source of peace itself: “Having been justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans, 5:1). Instead he speaks of “God,” the “Almighty One,” in order that the “religious leaders present” will not be offended and feel at least an indirect approval of their non-Christian religion.
Again, one could raise the objection that Benedict XVI refers to the Gospel with Jesus praying: “That all may be one.” As a matter of fact,Jesus prays explicitly for His apostles and disciples: “Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me, that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20ff). Ratzinger therefore deliberately perverted the words of Jesus and used them against their true meaning to “confirm” his un-Christian, modernist theory of the fraternization of all religions.
6) During his visit to the Yad Vashem memorial, Ratzinger spoke about the “obligation” of the Catholic Church to the “teaching of Christ” and of her “intention to imitate his love towards all mankind.” But, as he spoke on this occasion only in context of the “deep sympathies for the victims which are remembered here,” these words are not relevant to the topic discussed here.
7) On the square before the mosque in Jerusalem Ratzinger said with regard to the Dome of the Rock which is a mosque: “I am very grateful for the invitation to visit this sacred place.” “This sacred place … asks men of good will to make it an effort to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past.” Thus, according to Ratzinger, a Christian now needs a Mosque as a “sacred place” to live a life according to God’s will. What a prostration to Islam and a betrayal of the Catholic faith. Ratzinger’s only intention is obviously to ingratiate himself with Islam (and at other times with Judaism).
In the same speech, Ratzinger twice mentions Abraham who is revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews “as a man of faith”. He even called himself a “son of Abraham,” but neglected to mention that Jesus gave the right to use Abraham’s name legitimately only to those who believe in Him, Christ (see Matthew 3:9; John 8:33-47). Because “Abraham your father rejoiced that he was to see my day” (John 8:56).
In a similar manner Ratzinger spoke about Christians and Moslems worshiping “the one God.” At the end of his speech he asks the “Almighty One” (which is a very popular invocation in Islam) “humbly” to give peace to the persons present and mentions that all of them have the task to “bear witness to the one God.” This practically presupposes that Allah of the Koran and the (Triune) God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ are identical. This is an absolutely impermissible and extreme upgrading of Islam, equating it, in a sense, with the Christian religion.
8) He speaks in a similar manner to the organizations for inter-religious dialogue: “With the help of the Almighty One and enlightened by his truth you may walk forward bravely, respecting what is dividing us and promoting what unites us as creatures who want to bring hope to our societies and to our world. May God guide us on this road.…” Every Muslim or Jew hearing these words will feel encouraged in Islam and Judaism! And why doesn’t Ratzinger mention Jesus Christ, whose Cross and Resurrection are the only hope for this world? Is Ratzinger no longer a (convinced) Christian? If he were one he would have explicitly spoken of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, as did the Apostle of the Gentiles St. Paul (I Tim 1:1).
9) Ratzinger follows exactly the same line in the prayer which he wrote on a sheet of paper and put on the Wailing Wall of the old temple in Jerusalem. In the first part he wrote: “God of all ages, on my visit to Jerusalem, the 'City of Peace', spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, I bring before you the joys, the hopes and the aspirations, the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world.”
10) During his meeting with the leading rabbis of Jerusalem, Ratzinger talks about the delegates of the bilateral dialogues being ready not only to speak about “common ground, but also about differences.” But he does not comment on those differences further. As he is expressly mentioning what's common, he should in all justice also mention those “differences.” He continues: “Today I have the opportunity to repeat, that the Catholic Church is irrevocably following the way which was chosen in the Second Vatican Council to achieve a true and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews. The Church continues to esteem the common spiritual inheritance of Christians and Jews very highly, as the Council declared in Nostra Aetate. The Church strives to reach a deep mutual understanding and respect by biblical and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogue.”
Have you, dear reader, ever heard a Jewish rabbi speaking publicly about his deep “respect” towards the Christian faith or his esteem of the tradition of the Catholic Church? Do you get the impression that what high-ranking Jewish officials say in the media is really a “fraternal dialogue” in which the Jews are moving towards the Christians and in which both sides have equal rights and where no side puts itself morally above the other? There is no need to say more about Ratzinger’s words which in many respects are only drawing attention away from the reality.
11) During the farewell ceremonies in the inner courtyard of the president’s palace in Bethlehem, Benedict XVI finally formulated a sentence which at first sounds very Catholic: “Since I arrived in Bethlehem this morning, I had the joy to celebrate Mass with a great number of faithful in the place where Jesus Christ, the light of the nations and hope of the world, was born.” Isn’t it wonderful and an expression of true orthodoxy to call Jesus Christ, in the presence of the Palestinian president and a number of Muslims, the “light of nations and hope of the world”? Yes, it would be, had Ratzinger not spoken differently on so many other occasions, as shown above! He is like a father whose children are known in the whole world for completely neglecting and offending against the 7th or 8th commandment but who nevertheless still praises them all the time for their piety and their strong and deeply-rooted faith in God. Can one really say that this is a good father, who only very seldom or maybe only one time in the presence of his children mentions the existence of the 7th or 8th commandment – and even then only on the side?
12) But during his meeting with teachers in Galilee Ratzinger showed what he really thinks about non-Christian religions. He is greeting “all the leaders of the diverse communities who are present here, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Druses and other faithful.”
Sometimes we hear Novus Ordo “Catholics” say that the “pope” has to act like that and has to make these compromises; otherwise, the liberals, Jews and Muslims would start another media campaign against him and even commit acts of violence, as we have unfortunately witnessed in the recent past. Well, that may be true and we almost have to count on it today. But that also shows with what kind of forces Ratzinger wants to “fraternize” at all costs.
Ratzinger is also far from not being responsible for this sad situation. He was a peritus (adviser) of the “progressive” Cardinal Frings of Cologne during the Second Vatican Council and therefore an influential theologian, responsible for many of the innovations that were decided there. He himself affirms that with Nostra Aetate the Councilstarted a completely different course with regard to dealing with non-Christian religions. Since that time the “Church” officials were not only silent about any false ideas and heresies, they have even told members of false religions how highly they esteem them.
And because the others noticed that Catholics don’t stand up for their beliefs any more and even willingly give them up in the name of “ecumenism” and “interreligious dialogue,” they are used to putting the Catholics under pressure. In any case we notice that Ratzinger during his latest journey to the Holy Land did not act at all according to the example of St. Peter, who was inspired by the Holy Ghost. He was not only not willing to use the opportunity to speak in front of non-Christians about the meaning of the redemptive works of Jesus Christ (of course in a diplomatic manner), but he even strengthened them in their false beliefs. He did exactly the opposite of what he was supposed to do as he claims to be the pope. It was definitely not the Holy Spirit, but a very different spirit which lead him, as one can only bear witness to Jesus Christ when inspired by the Holy Ghost (see John 15:26). For this, true disciples of Christ have given us the right example numerous times in the course of history.
The Holy Ghost also makes man who accepts him aware, according to the words of Jesus, that “he will convict the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in me…” (John 16:8ff). Benedict XVI ignores that completely; he even perverts the fundamental moral principles. He perverts the mission of the Church, the task given by Christ himself by constantly speaking of his “high esteem” towards non-Christians (and also their refusal to believe in Christ) without any fundamental criticism. That is absolutely not the Catholic teaching—Ratzinger shows clearly that he does not want to act in the name of Christ or his Church! Such a person therefore cannot be a legitimate, Catholic pope. There is no question that there are, just like everywhere, Jews and Muslims who follow decent and noble goals. Catholics can work together with these to achieve important worldly aims. But as man is not only made for this world the Church of Christ cannot ignore the eternal salvation of man or fail to demonstrate essential spiritual fundamentals.
The Church cannot neglect to preach Jesus as the crucified Savior, especially to those who have not yet recognized him and do not believe in him. “For the doctrine of the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who perish, but to those who are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God…. For since in God’s wisdom the world did not come to know God, by “wisdom” it pleased God, by the foolishness of our preaching, to save those who believe. For the Jews ask for signs, and the Greeks look for “wisdom”; but we, for our part, preach the crucified Christ—to the Jews indeed a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor 1,18:24).
Fr. Eugen Rissling