January 29, 2001
volume 13, no. 21

Inside Assisi

by Christopher Ferrara

        The respected and traditional writer Chris Ferrara, acting as The Remnant Correspondent, was in Assisi credentialed to cover the 'inter-faith' summit Thursday. These are courtesy of The Remnant and editor Michael J. Matt. For more you can see www.remnantnewspaper.com. Michael writes that "Since there was so much speculation and rumor (together with a lot of hard-to-take facts) surrounding the first Assisi day of ecumenical prayer back in 1986, we decided that it was the duty of the Traditional Catholic press to have our own reporter be physically present for the repeat performance that is taking place in Assisi this week. We have, therefore, put our columnist Chris Ferrara on assignment in Assisi and Rome throughout the week. We’ll have several dispatches posted here on our site, and then Mr. Ferrara will provide full coverage and commentary on the event in the next issue of The Remnant." Below are the reports he filed.

  • First dispatch on Assisi
  • Second dispatch on Assisi

    ROME - (January 26, 2002) The Event included two concocted liturgies: one for "Christians" in the lower basilica, and the other for the polyglot assembly as a whole, which was conducted in two parts, one before and one after all the religions had conducted their assorted prayers and rituals in the Convent rooms. These two liturgies comprised a veritable orgy of novelty, the former being steeped in precisely the communicatio in sacris with heretics and schismatics that was constantly forbidden by the Church's preconciliar ecclesiastical law.

    The Vatican's official booklet on the Event makes it quite clear that the purpose of what it calls "the Ecumenical celebration" in the lower basilica was to demonstrate that all "Christians" are "disciples of Christ." The first caption in the booklet setting forth the order of the rite is "Together as Christ's Disciples." The next caption is "An Evangelical Witness for All," and the next "A Common Prayer."

    It was all I could do to restrain myself from shouting out in the press room as I watched the Pope and "the representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities" process up the center aisle of the lower basilica to conduct an "enthronement of the Book of the Gospels"--on the same altar where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated for centuries by monks who would rather die than legitimate heresy. The "Book of the Gospels" was carried by an Orthodox deacon, while four laypersons from "Churches and ecclesial communities" carried silly lamps.

    The spectacle culminated with the incensing of the "Book of the Gospels", whose divine teaching is rejected and despised in large measure by the train of heretics and schismatics the Pope led to the altar as if they were members of his flock, as opposed to dissidents who refuse to return to the one true Church. The train of dissidents included representatives of various Orthodox churches, the World Baptist Alliance, the Church of Scotland, the Quakers, the Pentecostals, and something called the Disciples of Christ.

    There were three invocations of the Trinity: one by a representative of the Church of Scotland, one by a Quaker, and one by a member of the World Baptist Alliance. The Church of Scotland teaches that abortion is morally acceptable under "extreme circumstances (i.e. serious risk to the health of the mother), when her [the mother's] needs override the rights of the fetus." [cf. MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor at http://www.efc.org.uk/religion.html] Many of the more liberal Baptists in the "World Baptist Alliance" believe this as well. So, the Pope allowed an invocation of the Trinity by "Christians" whose "ecclesial communities" teach that God's law permits murder in the womb sometimes.

    But curiously enough--and perhaps by divine intervention--these invocations of the Trinity did not actually invoke the Trinity. The thrice-repeated "invocation" declares simply: "Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit." At no time did the Pope or any of the heretics and schismatics dare to declare, as part of this travesty, In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

    In the typical blah-blah-blah style of the Novus Ordo, however, there were a number of inane declarations by which the people in this mixed assembly told God all about Himself. For example, "Lord, powerful God and prince of peace, your dominion will be great, and your peace without end," or "Lord, God of mercy and source of every consolation: you proclaimed peace to those who are far and those who are near." Huh?

    It as if the Pope thinks that in the twilight of his pontificate he must redouble his efforts to be novel, to find the one grand gesture that will accomplish the great ecumenical breakthrough he stubbornly pursues toward the ever-receding horizon of world history. What motivates these spectacles appears to be the notion that if one acts as if there is unity among contradictory and warring religions, then there will be unity. The result, however, is nothing but a sacrilege which perpetuates the false impression that the dissidents need not return to the true Church, and that in fact they already belong to it in some considerable measure. Why else would the Pope himself conduct liturgies with laymen pretending to be clerics, and Orthodox clergy who adamantly reject his primary of teaching and governance?

    Then there was the liturgy for the polyglot assembly. One by one the worshipers of various gods, spirits and idols were allowed to take to the pulpit set up in front of the Pope and deliver mini-sermons on world peace from their particular religious "perspectives." I watched in horror--and literally began to sweat in distress--as the Vicar of Christ sat there listening to a Buddhist monk, one Geshe Tashi Tsering, wail out a reading from the Shantideva. Among other things, he wailed (translation provided by the Vatican): "As long as space endures, as long as sentient beings remain, until then, may I too remain and dispel the miseries of the world." In the state of Nirvana, you see, and after a long cycle of reincarnation and purification, men will experience the extinction of desire and individual consciousness through absorption into the divine, and there will no longer be any individual, sentient human beings. (I wonder how many there were at Assisi that day.) In the meantime, while we are still sentient beings, we need to have world peace. And this is what the Pope allowed to be preached from a pulpit he provided - more than 2,000 years after Christ the King came to dispel such spirit-killing nonsense with the light of the Word Incarnate.

    Of course, the mini-sermons were also a splendid opportunity for the non-Catholic sermonizers to remind the Church of how bad she was before the pontificate of John Paul II. Rabbi Israel Singer's text declared that "John Paul II has corrected the abuses which have historically been used to justify violence against non-Christians." At the same time, however, Singer defended all of Israel's wars against its enemies as being motivated by divine imperatives. Singer departed from his text to declare that "only you [i.e. John Paul II] could make this happen." No argument there. And, to his credit, Singer offered the spontaneous remark that "You [meaning everyone there] should tell your people, and we should tell ours--all of us--to question whether land or places are more important than people's lives. And until you do that, there will be no peace." The very next day Corriere della Serra reported the objections of local Jewish leaders that the Vatican had chosen Singer and the other 10 rabbis were invited to the Event individually, without consultations with any of the organizations claiming to represent Judaism, and that the Jews were thus not allowed to choose their own representatives of Judaism. The same day, Israel began aerial bombardments of Palestinian targets.

    After the mini-sermons (and following the rituals in the separate rooms, and the liturgy for the Christians) came the lighting of the little oil lamps, which the representatives of the various religions carried in procession to a table set up on a tripod, upon which the lamps were gathered together to symbolize the supposed commitment of all the religions to world peace. The Pope was to deposit the first little lamp on the tripod, but at the last minute the task was given to Bishop Pierro Marini, the master of pontifical liturgical celebrations, who devised the entire liturgy. The Vatican liturgists were obviously very pleased with the oil lamps. A full-page picture of one is featured at page 88 of the Vatican's program booklet for the Event. The back of the page tells us that the lamp, dubbed "the Light of Hope," was designed by Sister M. Agar Loche.

    And so there the Pope sat, regarding the great manifestation of the Day of Prayer for World Peace: a table full of little burning oil lamps, perched on a spindly tripod. As I looked at the tripod and the lamps, with the crude abstract carvings on their wooden bases, I thought immediately of one thing: Star Trek. Yes, if the Klingons had a liturgy, it probably would include something like this.

    But easily the most trenchant comment on the Event was made by one of the journalists in the press room, a very clean-cut young man who suddenly burst out in song, recalling the immortal words of John Lennon and Yoko Ono: "All we are SAAAYing, is give peace a chance." A whole row of reporters, myself included, erupted in laughter. You just had to laugh. The spectacle was that ridiculous.

    I had had my fill of Assisi. I was not interested in touring the city, which, by the way, requires the cardiovascular conditioning of a mountain climber, since everything is uphill from the Basilica of Saint Francis. One even has to climb hills inside of restaurants, which are built on the side of the mountain.

    On the way back to Rome in the train I encountered an elderly woman with her belongings in a shopping cart. She looked and sounded crazy, until I began to listen to her carefully and realized that she was dispensing utterly sound and classically formulated spiritual advice to anyone who would listen. She even told a young woman, in tones of great motherly concern, that she should not dress in the manner of a prostitute because it offends God, who sees her precious soul defiled. The young woman accepted this advice meekly and with a smile. I dubbed the saintly bag lady Santa Joanna Battista del Treno - Saint Joan the Baptist of the Train. As she spoke, a small crowd began to gather in the space between the cars; they were listening to the bag lady. She gave me a Miraculous Medal, and told me how it converted the Jewish atheist, Ratisbone, which I said I knew well. There would not, of course, be any distribution of Miraculous Medicals during the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi. Nor would the intercession of the Mother of God be mentioned even once. As for the praying of the Rosary, well, that would have been unthinkable.

    Shortly before we arrived at Roma Termini, Saint Joanna of the Train began to describe the great Bordeau red backdrop at the Event, noting how it had lacked a Crucifix or any other sign of Christ. Thus emboldened, I told her that I regarded the whole event as a scandal. I expected an objection and a defense of John Paul II's "vision," but instead her face brightened as she exclaimed "Thank you!" and shook my hand vigorously. At last she had found someone who agreed with her.

    She was hardly alone among Catholics in Italy. Cardinal Biffi refused to attend the Event, and the BBC reported that Federico Bricolo and Massimo Polledri, members of an Italian government coalition party, had issued a statement declaring that "To pray with heretics, schismatics, rabbis, mullahs, witch doctors and various idolaters creates confusion among Catholic believers." (I tried to set up an interview, but as Bricolo and Polledri are from northern Italy, it could not be arranged for at least a week.) According to my contacts in Rome, there is indeed a large undercurrent of resentment about the Event among priests and other serious Catholics here. But none of them dares to be seen swimming openly against the current of adulation manifested by the crowd at Assisi, whose reaction to the Event was on the level of: "Giovanni Paulo, clap-clap-clap-CLAP!!!!"

    So now I am back in Rome, about to complete my assignment for The Remnant, whose correspondent I am proud to be. And it occurs to me that the neo-Catholics will have yet another hair-splitting excuse for the Pope in his incessant pursuit of unheard-of novelties. They will say, I expect, that while Pius XI condemned the notion that all religions are more or less good and praiseworthy, he was speaking only in the context of a "false ecumenism," whereas John Paul II calls the different religions together only for the limited purpose of praying for world peace.

    Let me conclude my assignment, then, not with any opinion of mine, but with the solemn teaching of Saint Pius X on this very question of making common cause with false religions for world peace. (We will put aside the sacrileges in the Sacred Convent and the sermons by witchdoctors and Buddhists, which not even the neo-Catholics will try to justify.) In his apostolic letter condemning the Sillon movement in France, Saint Pius X described the following movement in order to condemn it:

        "For the construction of the Future City they appealed to the workers of all religions and all sects. These were asked but one thing: to share the same social ideal, to respect all creeds, and to bring with them a certain supply of moral force. Admittedly: they declared that 'The leaders of the Sillon place their [Catholic] religious faith above everything. But can they deny others the right to draw their moral energy from whence they can? In return, they expect others to respect their right to draw their own moral energy from the Catholic Faith. Accordingly they ask all those who want to change today's society in the direction of Democracy, not to oppose each other on account of the philosophical or religious convictions which may separate them, but to march hand in hand, not renouncing their convictions, but trying to provide on the ground of practical realities, the proof of the excellence of their personal convictions. Perhaps a union will be effected on this ground of emulation between souls holding different religious or philosophical convictions."
    Notice that Saint Pius X here describes a unity action among the different religions, in which practical unity each person retains his own religious convictions and there is no syncretism. Sound familiar? Saint Pius X went on to observe:
        This being said, what must be thought of the promiscuity in which young Catholics will be caught up with heterodox and unbelieving folk in a work of this nature? Is it not a thousand-fold more dangerous for them than a neutral association? What are we to think of this appeal to all the heterodox, and to all the unbelievers, to prove the excellence of their convictions in the social sphere in a sort of apologetic contest? Has not this contest lasted for nineteen centuries in conditions less dangerous for the faith of Catholics? And was it not all to the credit of the Catholic Church? What are we to think of this respect for all errors, and of this strange invitation made by a Catholic to all the dissidents to strengthen their convictions through study so that they may have more and more abundant sources of fresh forces?
    Saint Pius X concluded by teaching Catholics what they must think of such an association of different religions, each keeping its own convictions, for the attainment of "world peace and justice." He taught that Catholics must avoid it like the plague:
        But stranger still, alarming and saddening at the same time, are the audacity and frivolity of men who call themselves Catholics and dream of re-shaping society under such conditions, and of establishing on earth, over and beyond the pale of the Catholic Church, 'the reign of love and justice' with workers coming from everywhere, of all religions and of no religion, with or without beliefs…. What are they going to produce? What is to come of this collaboration? A mere verbal and chimerical construction in which we shall see, glowing in a jumble, and in seductive confusion, the words Liberty, Justice, Fraternity, Love, Equality, and human exultation, all resting upon an ill-understood human dignity…. And now, overwhelmed with the deepest sadness, We ask Ourselves, Venerable Brethren, what has become of the Catholicism of the Sillon? Alas! this organization which formerly afforded such promising expectations, this limpid and impetuous stream, has been harnessed in its course by the modern enemies of the Church, and is now no more than a miserable affluent of the great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church… No, Venerable Brethren, We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker - the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be setup unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants." OMNIA INSTAURARE IN CHRISTO.
    Let the neo-Catholic hair-splitters explain how what I have just witnessed is materially different from the notions Saint Pius X condemned. Let them tell us with a straight face that Saint Pius X would regard with anything but absolute shock and horror the Day of Prayer for World Peace at Assisi 2002.

    And with that I will pack my bags. God willing, I will be home tomorrow.

[Editor's Note: Bolded words added for emphasis]


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Tuesday, January 29, 2002
volume 13, no. 21
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