Welcome to another edition of the Bible in the News. This is Paul Billington back with you after a few weeks absence during which we have been overseas, taking part in a prophecy day in Kent UK, and gathering material for another edition of the Bible Magazine which will be due out in early July.
Above: Monsignor Antonio Franco, Vatican ambassador to Israel
Below: Display at Yad Vashem relating to Pius XII
So what attracts our attention in the news, now we are back? Well of course, much has been going on, but the one item that tells us a great deal concerns the Vatican. We have spoken before about the growing relationship between the Vatican and Vladimir Putin's Russia--and that friendship is continuing to blossom. Quoting from a Reuters News item the other day:
"Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke in favor of closer ties between Moscow and the Vatican on Monday in an unusually warm greetings message to Pope Benedict XVl on his 80th birthday.
"Putin, the first Kremlin leader since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution to publicly profess his faith, has spoken in favor of ending a long-running feud between the Roman Catholic church and the Russian Orthodox church to which he belongs.
"There is speculation the new warmth could signal that a meeting is possible between the pontiff and Alexiy II, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church.
"Putin met the Pope last month for the first time since the German-born Pontiff took office two years ago and on Monday sent him a congratulatory letter and an icon entitled '1,000 years of Russia's Baptism' as a birthday present, the Kremlin press office said.
"I warmly remember our recent meeting in the Vatican," Putin's letter said. "It has confirmed that Russia and the Holy See have close views on a wide range of international issue and modern problems faced by the mankind today.'"
This is in harmony with what we would expect on the basis of Bible prophecy. Several prophecies show us that Rome and Russia will stand united against Israel and her king in the final crisis.
The two legs of Nebuchadnezzar's image (Daniel chapter 2) will stand so as to support the entire image structure. Daniel 2:31-35 gives us that picture. It is seen again in Daniel 11:37, 38 and 39. Ezekiel 38 is another view of the complete confederacy that will challenge Israel's existence. It is seen yet again under the title of "The Man of Sin" in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2--as well as in the Revelation, especially chapter 17.
The hostility of the Vatican towards the Jews and to Israel is well established over centuries, and it is as virulent today as it ever was. Only this last week there was heated disagreement between the Vatican and Israel over a ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial centre involving the controversial role of pope Pius Xll during World War 2. Yad Vashem had a display which drew attention to the role of the Vatican. A panel said:
"When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene. The pope maintained his neutral position throughout the war, with the exception of appeals to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia towards it end. His silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react."
It was a very restrained caption, but it was enough to cause the Vatican's ambassador to Israel, Monsignor Antonio Franco to refuse to attend the official Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony. In response to widespread criticism the Archbishop later changed his mind and went to the ceremony, but the episode demonstrated the hostility that exists.
A report in the Jerusalem Post read:
"The unusual open diplomatic wrangling came as the Vatican presses ahead with its plans to beatify Pius Xll over the objection of Israel and Jewish groups around the world.
"Israel's Holocaust Martrys' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority had said the planned boycott would have marked the first time in which a foreign emissary deliberately skipped the ceremony.
"Over the weekend, Yad Vashem had called on Franco to do some "soul-searching" over his planned boycott of official ceremony.
"The solemn one-hour state ceremony, which marks the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, is attended by all foreign ambassadors to Israel or their representatives, as well as Israeli VIP's and Holocaust survivors.
"The central theme of this year's ceremony--coming at a time when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a "myth" and has repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the map--is bearing witness.
"During the ceremony, six torches were lit by Holocaust survivors in memory of the six million Jewish victims."
The article in the Jerusalem Post continued:
"It seems that neither the love of God nor his fellow man could move Pius to publicly condemn Hitler, with whom he had famously negotiated, as papal nuncio, the 1933 treaty which the Fuehrer praised to his cabinet as being "especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry."
"Pius even granted a secret audience to Supreme SS Polizeifuehrer Wolff, who had served as Himmler's chief of staff and was in 1943 the chief of the German persecution apparatus in occupied Italy.
"That Pius realized that what he was doing was scandalous is attested to by the fact that the meeting took place in great secrecy and Wolff came dressed in disguise. Years later, Wolff said about the meeting: 'From the pope's own words I could sense the sincerity of his sympathy and how much he loved the German people.'"
"For all his white robes" concluded the article, "Pius's record is a dark stain against a great church..."
Indeed, that church is "great," and Revelation 17:5 gives her that title: "BABYLON THE GREAT!"
Today, as we see the unchanged character of the Roman Church--and as we see Russia's Vladimir Putin honouring and acknowledging the Roman god just as Daniel foretold (11:38, 39), we must realize what these developments mean.
The words written over 150 years ago by John Thomas have been referred to before, but they bear being repeated again now as Putin congratulates Benedict XVl on his birthday and speaking of the Autocrat of all the Russias, he wrote:
"As the head of a confederacy of the adherents of the Greek and Latin churches, it will be his policy to cause their priesthoods to be respected as useful co-operators in the subjection of Europe to his will."
When we see these things beginning to come to pass, it is uplifting to note the fact of Israel's existence as evidence that the Kingdom of God will shortly be established, and that redemption draws near for those who believe the true Gospel and who are obedient to it.
Visit our site, www.bibleinthenews.com next week when, God willing there will be more Bible related news for us to talk about.