Pope rejects invitation by ‘apostate’ Strasbourg
And so Pope Benedict XVI has spurned the EU overtures ‘amid Vatican alarm at what is seen as a drift towards militant secularism’.
Militant secularism? Why would this eminent and highly astute theologian, who has shown himself more than capable of incisively addressing some of the most pressing problems of this age, permit a little militant secularism to deter him? Having spoken stridently against aspects of Islam, illegal wars, abortion, gay marriage and global warming (to name but a few), there is absolutely nothing to suggest that His Holiness would not have revelled in the opportunity to occupy the Strasbourg pulpit to admonish the secularists and exhort the faithful. Cranmer can think of no better place for the Pope to repeat the message he gave to the Catholic World Youth: ‘side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, a quiet sense of despair’.
‘Spiritual desert’, ‘interior emptiness’ and ‘quiet despair’ sound like the very essence of the Temple to the gods of the EU.
The letter from the Vatican simply said that the Pope was declining the invitation to address MEPs ‘owing to other commitments and his age’. He is, after all, 81, and his recent visits to the United States and Australia must have been a little gruelling.
Apparently, the EU Parliament wanted the Pope to be ‘principal Christian guest’ in its ‘Year of Intercultural Dialogue’. And now they will have to put up with ‘a less well-known Eastern Orthodox leader’.
They could always invite the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is not as less well-known as some obscure Eastern Orthodox leader, especially after the past few weeks. Or they could consider Scripture and invite a completely unknown Christian guest, perhaps some humble peasant from an obscure village in Ireland, and let him inform the great and the good of his plight and the consequences of their endless meddling directives.
Or they could simply invite Pope Benedict XVI when he is less busy. For this ‘apostate Strasbourg’ theory is nonsense. There is nothing this Pope would have enjoyed more than the opportunity to speak ‘to Europe’ about its fixation with the Enlightenment belief in the power of reason, its declining birth rates, its empty churches and its political indifference. It is a continent beset by ‘metaphysical boredom’, and heading for spiritual oblivion.
These are not issues any Christian leader would avoid; they are opportunities to preach the Good News. It may be out of season, but that is of no consequence to those who need lifting out of the morass.