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What a busy weekend the Pope has just spent! After a closed-door pre-consistory meeting on Friday with the 150 cardinals who had traveled to Rome, where the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clergy may have been discussed,on Saturday the giant St Peter’s Basilic in Vatican City was a awash with crimson silk and w hite lace petticoats, as under the gold and bronze Baroque high altar Pope Benedict elevated 24 new cardinals as “Princes of the Church”, crowning each with a three-cornered red biretta cap, symbol of their office.
On Sunday the former archbishops were presented with a crucifix emblazoned ring which the faithful must kneel and kiss in greeting. From now on the cardinals are to be addressed as ‘Your Eminence’ rather than the previous ‘Your Excellency’. The College of Cardinals acts as a consultative bodyin the Vatican that has been likened to the supervisory board of a major multinational corporation.
Clad in gold-colored falda and mitre, the 83-year old pontiff, representative of Christ on earth, told the grateful pastors: “In the Church, there is no boss. It is not the logic of domination, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bowing down to wash feet, the logic of service, which is at the basis of every exercise of authority.”
Fine words, but spoken from a golden throne in an ornate and sumptuous palace by one who expects to be addressed as ‘Most Holy Father’, they ring most hollow and hypocritical. For as Jesus said to his disciples:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”
An examination of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount reveals how terribly the ‘Christian’ church has betrayed his message. He was particularly against praying in public, and would have despised places of worship dedicated to his name:
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
And as for the opulent riches of St Peter’s and the billions hoarded in the Vatican Bank:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
On the gorgeous raiment the priests bedeck themselves with:
“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
If he were alive today, Jesus’ criticism of the Church would be the same as that he levelled against the synagogue in his day:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
‘Christians’ take heed. It’s probably too late for Pope Benedict and his College of Cardinals.
MICHAEL DICKINSON lives in Istanbul. He can be contacted through his website: http://yabanji.tripod.com/