Pope Francis Visits the Holy Land
Pope Francis recently traveled to the Holy Land where he made news on several fronts. What is behind the popularity and influence of this pope?
Over the weekend of May 24-26, Pope Francis visited the Middle East with a jam-packed schedule of meetings, speeches and photo opportunities. Anytime a pope visits the Middle East, his words and actions are closely watched around the world. But with Pope Francis’ rock star status, his trip was even more in the spotlight.
In the last year Pope Francis has demonstrated two things:
- He doesn’t do the expected.
- He understands how to use his carefully crafted words and actions to send political messages.
Pope Francis is an astute political pope. Whereas the previous pope, Benedict XVI, was a somewhat stern theologian who seemed to prefer writing and study to public relations, Pope Francis is a master of the media. He knows how to put himself in the news constantly. He knows how to cause controversy without really saying or doing anything overtly controversial. He understands how to talk to the current postmodern generation—and present himself as tolerant and progressive without formally changing any Catholic doctrine.
An understanding of the Roman Catholic Church’s place in prophecy helps us understand that instead of retreating into irrelevancy, the Roman Church will be revitalized and restore itself to prestige on the world stage.Pope Francis’ trip
Pope Francis’ first stop on his Middle East tour was the nation of Jordan. While there, he met with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania and afterwards conducted mass in a large stadium in Amman. He made statements in praise of religious tolerance in Jordan and encouraged the leaders to continue to promote peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He also complimented Jordanians on their care for Syrian refugees.
The pope then visited Bethlehem and met with leaders of the Palestinian Authority. While there, he visited a portion of the wall separating Israel from the Palestinian areas of Bethlehem—where Francis said a short prayer. (This act alone made headlines throughout the world.)
He also met with Israeli leaders in Israel. The most notable news from this portion of his trip was his invitation for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres to travel to the Vatican for a special prayer summit.
Also while in Jerusalem, Pope Francis met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church. This was to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 meeting between then Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch Athenagoras—which was the first official meeting between the bishop of Rome and the bishop of Constantinople in nearly 1,000 years. It was the beginning of now 50 years of a growing relationship between these two major denominations of Christendom.
Why pay attention to the papacy?
Why should readers of Life, Hope & Truth be concerned with the papacy? The simple answer is that the pope holds the most powerful religious position in the world—leading the world’s largest Christian denomination (with over 1.2 billion members). Our readers should also understand that the papacy will play an important role in end-time prophecy.
The Roman Catholic Church fits the description of a religious system that will have great influence in the end times. See our article about Revelation 17 for the biblical and historical details.
Revelation 17 prophesies that this ancient institution will once again be revitalized and hold massive power in union with a combine of European nations.
The past 20 years have not been good for the Roman Catholic Church. They have seen the Roman Church losing relevancy in Europe, promoting seemingly archaic ideas and institutions in a postmodern society. The church has been losing credibility due to the sexual abuse scandals that many of its priests have been involved in and what many consider its lackluster response to those scandals.
An understanding of the Roman Catholic Church’s place in prophecy helps us understand that the effects of the above trends will be reversed. Instead of retreating into irrelevancy, the Roman Church will be revitalized and restore itself to prestige on the world stage.
We could be seeing the beginnings of that trend with the efforts of Pope Francis. His approach, actions and words have gained worldwide attention and adoration. Catholics and non-Catholics alike admire him, and he draws huge crowds wherever he travels. He consistently reaches out to other religions. His understanding of how to use mass media and how to speak in a way that appeals to a younger, postmodern audience has led him to be called the pope for everyone.
Watch as Pope Francis continues to make the religious institution he leads more socially and politically relevant in today’s world. Expect to see some of the pope’s accomplishments of this trip expanded over time: greater unity with other Christian denominations and attempts to insert himself into political issues.
Time will tell how successful his prayer summit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders will be, but if it is successful in some way, Pope Francis will instantly attain a new level of political clout.
For more background, read our past coverage of Pope Francis:
Photo: Flickr.com/Globovisión/CC BY-NC 2.0