HISTORY - EUROPE & the CHURCH
IT IS THE SPRING OF 1945. THE FIGHTING IN EUROPE IS OVER.
Never has war been more destructive. The human and material losses are incalculable. The staggering enormity of the tragedy gradually becomes clear. The appalling cost in human lives totals more than 40 million civilian and military deaths.
Europe lies in ruins. Germany in particular has been hard hit. Many wonder whether war-torn Germany will ever rise again. Europe has hit bottom. It has been the pattern of European history: catastrophe, followed by revival, followed by catastrophe, ......
The war-ravaged Continent slowly begins to pick up the pieces. The suffering and destruction of World War 11 prompt many to ask how such a catastrophe might be avoided in the future. Many wonder: Is Europe doomed to oscillate between order and chaos, between power and ignominy? Or might a new path toward peace and
stability be found?
In a celebrated speech at Zurich, Switzerland, in September 1946, Winston Church-ill suggests a possible solution: “We must build a kind of United States of Europe.
Once again, an age-old ideal resurfaces.
The devastation of two world wars has made the limitations of national sovereignty painfully evident. If Europe’s individual nationalisms could be submerged within the context of European supra nationalism, many feel that future continental con-flagrations could be averted. If Europe could become one family of nations, historic
enmities could be put to rest.
The plan has highly significant overtones. For centuries, statesmen have advocated the union of European nations. Now, a fresh movement toward unity arises from the devastation of World War II.
But how to begin?
It is Churchill, among others, who again suggests a course: “The first step in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany.
The reconciliation of these two age-old enemies is widely viewed as the essential cornerstone of peace in postwar Europe . In essence the re-creation of the Empire of Charlemagne!
How, specifically, might this be achieved?
First Steps Toward Unity
A scheme is devised to unite France and Germany within a common venture designed to bind their economic destinies so tightly together that another intra- European war could not occur. The result is the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), created by the Treaty of Paris in April 1951.
The ECSC is a first step toward European integration. It creates a common transnational authority to pool French and German iron, coal and steel resources. The project is extended to include Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The wheels of European industry have begun to turn again. Massive U.S. aid in the form of the Marshall Plan has helped spur European recovery. And the ECSC has shown Europeans the advantages of cooperation.
Now, a further step is taken on the road toward integration. Individually, the nations of Western Europe—fragmented by internal barriers—are merely second-ary influences in world affairs. But united, many come to realize, their joint economic strength could allow them to recover some of their lost influence and give them a major voice in the global arena.
The signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957, creates the European Economic Community (EEC), or Common Market. Its six charter members are the same countries associated in the ECSC. (By 1986, the number of members will have grown to 12. see map.)
The EEC’s initial goal is to remove trade and economic barriers between its members and unify their economic policies. But the ultimate hope is that the organization will be able to bring about the eventual political unification of Europe. Many hail the EEC as the nucleus of a future “United States of Europe.”
In short order the EEC becomes the world’s most powerful trading bloc. And West Germany at the center of the European continent becomes the most powerful nation
of Europe west of the Soviet Union.
Pattern of History
Again, Europe has set out on the road to unity. Past articles in this series have shown that the Roman dream of a united Europe has permeated the history of the Continent.
Justinian dreamed of restoring the Roman Empire. He accomplished it in A.D. 554, healing the ‘‘deadly wound’’ administered to Rome by barbarian invaders in
476. But his restoration was short-lived.
In A.D. 800, Charlemagne was crowned as imperator Romanorum, again restoring the Roman Empire in the West. In Charlemagne, Western Europe had a Christian Caesar, a Roman emperor born of Germanic race. His realm was the spiritual heir of the old Western Roman Empire.
Charlemagne was rex pater Europae—”King Father of Europe.” He showed Europeans the ideal of a unified Christian Empire. Throughout the Middle Ages, the memory of the once-great Roman Empire lived as a vital tradition in the hearts of Europeans.
In 962, Otto the Great revived Charlemagne’s Empire as the first fully German Reich. The Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanicae— Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation—made its debut. Otto’s octagonal crown became the very symbol of the concept of European unity. Germany became the power center of the Empire.
In the 16th century, the great Habsburg Emperor Charles V pursued tirelessly, though unsuccessfully, the medieval ideal of a unified Empire embracing the entire Christian world. Napoleon, too, dreamed of a resurrected Roman-European civilization, dominated by France. He considered himself the heir and successor to Caesar and Charlemagne.
Mussolini likewise envisioned a modern Roman Empire. In 1936 he proclaimed another resurrection of the Roman Empire, claiming succession to imperial Rome.
Along with the time-honored system of Roman-inspired government, another pattern has stood out in the panorama of European history: the intimate relationship of the spiritual with the secular power.
Throughout the Middle Ages, leaders considered the Church at Rome to be God’s chosen instru-ment in spiritual matters. The Holy Roman Empire was regarded as God’s chosen political organization over Western Christendom. Pope and Emperor were regarded as God’s vice-regents on earth. This intimate alliance of Church and State served the needs of both institutions. The Empire exercised its political and military powers to defend religion and enforce internal submission through religious uniformity . The Church, in turn, acted as a glue for Europe, holding together the differing nationalities by the tie of common religion.
This ideal in Church-State relations was never completely realized, as we have seen in the frequent conflicts between Emperors and Popes for the leadership of Christian Europe. Yet despite their rivalry, the Papacy and Empire remained closely associated, their need for each other overriding disagreements of lesser importance.
Justinian became inheritor of the Roman Empire as Christianized by Constantine. He acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope in the West. Charlemagne received the imperial crown at the hands of Pope Leo III, initiating a close alliance between Pope and Empire. Otto the Great was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope John XII, reviving Charlemagne’s Empire in an alliance between Emperor and Church. Pope Clement VII crowned Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor. Charles fought hard to maintain the spiritual unity of Europe.
Napoleon’s coronation was consecrated by Pope Pius VII. Mussolini, too, recog-nized the need to come to terms with the Vatican, as did Adolf Hitler a few years later. All these successors of the Roman Caesars understood the vast importance of the Papacy in Eu-ropean affairs. But what of the present and future role of the Vatican in Europe in these latter days of the 20th century?
Over the past few decades the authority and unity of the Roman Catholic Church have been severely shaken. The festering issues of birth control, abortion, divorce, celibacy, homosexuality, women in the priesthood, political activism of priests and distribution of ecclesiastical power have greatly troubled the Church. Many even in the upper echelons of the Vatican hierarchy have expressed apprehension over the Church’s future.
At the same time, the continent of Europe itself stands at an historic crossroads. Divided ideologically between East and West and beset with serious economic and military concerns, Europe faces crucial decisions on its future. Like the Catholic Church, Europe has been weakened by division. And both prelates and politicians alike realize that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
In the face of this division, voices within both European political circles and the Catholic Church are appealing for UNITY. But how, many ask, is that elusive unity to be achieved? How are the rifts to be healed—both within the Church and within Europe itself?
The record of the recent past does not augur well for the future. On a purely political basis, the nations of Europe have been unable to unite. Strides have been made, but the slow process of gradually increasing the powers of the EEC’s political institutions has not worked as hoped. The process has resulted in only minimal surrender of national political sovereignty. The institutions are invested with no substantial powers . And Eastern Europe is still cut off.
Likewise, the Catholic Church within remains philosophically divided between liberal and conservative, despite the best efforts of unity-minded churchmen. Confronted with these realities, leading European politicians and Catholic clergymen have come to an important realization. There is only one possible course for the
future, they believe.
If they are to solve their respective problems, Europe and the Catholic Church need each other’s help. Their common need for unity can be achieved only by work-ing together. Once again, the past points the way to the future.
Influential churchmen inside the Vatican have come to believe that the only way to inspire unity and bring new life to the Church is to plunge it into a cause larger than itself. That cause, many believe, is the unification of Europe!
In turn, many of Europe’s poutical leaders see a role for the Church in their efforts. They believe the Church might once again exercise its powerful cohesive effect on Europe, providing the glue—the tie of common religion—to hold Europe together politically.
Again, as in centuries past, Europeans are beginning to appreciate that religion and politics are interdependent. In essence, they are envisioning a reconstitution of the whole of classic Europe, along the lines of the old Holy Roman Empire, under Catholic aegis. The dream of the Holy Roman Empire yet lives!
The time-honored theme of European unity on the basis of a common religious heritage has been raised frequently by Pope John Paul II. For him it is no casual, passing concern. He has made it very clear that he believes he has a literal calling from God to unite Europe!
During his well-publicized trip to his native Poland in June 1979, the Pope de-clared: “Europe, despite its present and long-lasting division of regimes, ideologies and economic systems, cannot cease to seek its fundamental unity and must turn to Christianity. . . . Economic and political reasons cannot do it. We must go deeper
In Santiago, Spain, in 1982 he proclaimed the following, in what he called a “Declaration to Europe”: “I, Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church, from Santiago, utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love: Find yourself again. Be yourself. Dis-cover your origins, revive your roots.”
The Pope has repeatedly stressed that Europe must seek religious unity if it is to advance beyond its present divisions. At his final mass during his trip to Poland in June 1983, John Paul prayed for “all the Christians of East and West, that they become united in Christ and expand the Kingdom of Christ throughout the world.”
The following September, 1982, in the first Papal pilgrimage to Vienna, Austria, in two centuries, the Pope again urged Europeans on both sides of the Iron Curtain to unite on the basis of their common Christian heritage. To a crowd of 100,000, he emphasized Europe’s unity in “the deep Christian roots and the human and cultural values which are sacred to all Europe.”
The theme of European unity on the basis of common religious heritage is not unique to John Paul II. Since World War II, each Pope has thrown his weight behind moves for the creation of a supranational European community.
Pope John XXIII said that Catholics should be “in the front ranks” of the unification effort. Pope Paul VI was especially vocal in his support for European unity. In November 1963. he declared: “Everyone knows the tragic history of our century. If there is a means of preventing this from happening again, it is the construction of a peaceful, organic, united Europe. In 1965, Paul VI observed that “a long, arduous path lies ahead. However, the Holy See hopes to see the day born when a new Europe will arise, rich with the fullness of its traditions.”
Perhaps the most forceful of Paul Vt’s calls for European unification came on October 18, 1975. It was an address in Rome to participants in the Third Sympos-ium of the Bishops of Europe. Present were more than 100 bishops, cardinals and prelates representing 24 European countries. The Pope declared: “Can it not be said that it is faith, the Christian faith, the Catholic faith that made Europe ......?.Paul VI continued: “And it is there that our mission as bishops in Europe takes on a gripping perspective. No other human force in Europe can render the service that is confided to us, promoters of the faith, to reawaken Europe’s Christian soul, where its unity is rooted.”
Paul VI called the Catholic faith “the secret of Europe’s identity.” In discovering this secret, he said, Europe could then go on to perform “the providential service to which God is still calling it.”
Europe and the Cross
The Popes’ calls for the spiritual unity of Europe have been echoed by influential spokesmen in the political arena.
Prominent among these is Dr. Otto von Habsburg, a key figure in the movement for European unification. Dr. Habsburg is the eldest son of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor and a member of the European Parliament. Inter-European unity has long
been a quest of the Habsburgs, as we have seen. Dr. Habsburg often speaks of the similarities between the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages and his view of a coming “United States of Europe.” Dr. Habsburg has long advocated a strong religious role in any future united Europe. He regards the Roman Catholic Church as Europe’s ultimate bulwark. “The cross doesn’t need Europe,” he once stated, “but Europe needs the cross.”
Europeans, he believes, must be reawakened to their historical religious heritage. “If we take Christianity out of the European development, there is nothing left,” he declares. “The soul is gone.” Dr. Habsburg has also called attention to the potential role of the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, which today resides in the Schatz-kammer (Royal Treasury) in Vienna.
Christopher Hollis, in the foreword to Dr. Habsburg’s book The Social Order of Tomorrow, points out that Dr. Habsburg “would like to see Europe resume her essential unity, and in the symbolism of that unity he thinks that the imperial crown of Charlemagne and of the Holy Roman Empire might well have its part to play.” It is to the model of the Holy Roman Empire that many European political figures and leading churchmen are now looking for the answer to today’s political and religious woes. A revived alliance between church and “empire,” they believe, may be the very key—the only key—to European survival in the face of perilous world conditions!
Forces already have been set in motion that will revolutionize the face of Europe and the role of the Roman Catholic Church. As often explained in the pages of The Plain Truth, Bible prophecy reveals that current efforts toward Church unity and European political integration will be achieved! The result will be the emergence of a religious-political union in Europe, in the spirit of the old Holy Roman Fmpire—a final revival, in this age of the Bomb, of the ancient Roman political system!
As we have seen in this series of articles, numerous revivals of the Roman Empire have arisen in Europe in the centuries since the fall of ancient Rome. In Revelation 17, these revivals are represented by the seven heads of a wild animal. Six have already occurred, from Justinian to Mussolini. One last restoration of this great political system is yet to arise.
This confederated Europe will be an immense political, military and economic power—a great Third Force in world affairs, a superpower in its own right. Prophecy further reveals that this powerful church-state union will be composed of “ten horns”—meaning 10 nations or groups of nations (Rev. l7:3)—under the overall leadership of a single political figure (verse 13). Europe will again have a single political head of state! Moreover, prophecy foretells that a religious figure of unprecedented power and authority will sit astride the “empire,” directing it as a rider guides a horse (Rev. 17:3).
To counter the ongoing spread of atheism, secularism and consumerism, the Vatican as in centuries past will be forced to become a major power in the international arena. The political muscle of the Papacy will be reinvigorated. In these turbulent last days of the 20th century, the “spiritual unity” of the Continent—as so often urged by recent Popes will be realized!
Now notice further: In the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Daniel, the Roman Empire and its predecessors are pictured as a giant human figure. The figure’s 10 toes correspond to the 10 end-time national units also described (as “horns”) in Revelation 17. The prophecy of Daniel reveals that these 10 entities will constitute a political system that will exist at the return of Jesus Christ to establish the kingdom of God on this earth (Dan. 2:44, 45).
The original Roman Empire was broken into two “legs,” as pictured in the human image of Daniel’s prophecy—the Eastern Empire centered at Byzantium (Constantinople) and the Empire of the West centered at Rome. Thus it is very possible that the coming reconstituted Roman Empire will be composed of two distinct yet cooperative parts: one comprising nations of Western Europe, the other incorporat-ing nations freed from Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe. Given the fact of five toes on each foot of the human image, possibly five entities will come from the West and five from the East.
With this in mind, Pope John Paul II’s appeals to Christians behind the Iron Curtain take on added significance. His voice is a source of enormous influence in that region. Many East Europeans have caught his vision of a pan-European Christian alliance against the secular materialism of our modern age. “The Pope,” observes one news commentator, “has undertaken the liberation of Eastern Europe.” Vatican observers speculate that the voice of the Papacy might continue to stir religious and nationalistic fervor in Eastern Europe, which, together with other factors, could weaken the Kremlin’s hold sufficiently to open the way for a political deal between Europe and the Kremlin—a deal that would allow elements of Eastern Europe to associate themselves with an evolving West European union.
In this age of intercontinental missiles, the nations of Eastern Europe no longer adequately fulfill their original function as a security buffer for the Soviet Union. And they are a severe drain on Soviet economic and military resources. Many political observers are therefore suggesting that the Kremlin might soon be willing to strike a deal: the withdrawal of its military forces from Eastern Europe in exchange for the neutralization of Eastern Europe and the withdrawal of American forces from Western Europe!
The resulting political vacuum in Europe could then be filled by a new entity the prophesied resurrected Holy Roman Empire!
United Europe Inevitable
What is transpiring on both sides of the Iron Curtain today are the first steps in the refashioning of Europe into a new, yet old, alignment. As George Bailey, in his perceptive book Germans, suggests: “Can we be sure that history has written finis to what was perhaps the grandest design ever conceived by man: the Holy Roman Empire?”
Declares Otto von Habsburg: “We are well beyond the point of no return where you can still go back into the [recentj past. Of course, we have not yet arrived at the other shore; but we can’t go back.”
A united Europe is inevitable.
Unity is not a condition which nations achieve by some natural and inevitable tendency. Unity is created or imposed by vigorous human action, by effort and will. Europe awaits a modern Charlemagne, another Otto the Great, a second Charles V—a champion to resurrect the tradition of imperial unity.
The coming Renovatio imperii Romanorum restoration of the Empire of the Romans—will astound the world! Europe—and the Church of Rome—will again be powers to reckon with.
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