By Fr. George Welzbacher
May 18, 2008
Among the many tributes offered to Pope Benedict on the occasion of his visit to the United States the most astonishing of all was the tribute offered by Protestant Televangelist John Hagee, founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas-astonishing because, in contrast with the comments of such veteran televangelists as Billy Graham, who once publicly saluted Pope John Paul the Great as "the conscience of the world", it was not so long ago that Pastor Hagee was describing the Catholic Church as "a false cult" and, if you please, the Apocalyptic "Whore of Babylon." Yet in a recent issue (May 5th) of the national edition of The Washington Times Pastor Hagee voiced great admiration for the moral message that Pope Benedict brought to our shores and, via his address to the United Nations, to the whole world. May I share Pastor Hagee's statement with you here, with the reservation that I vigorously disagree with his impugning the Catholic Church as such with the charge of anti-Semitism. While the words and actions of certain churchmen in the past and even in the present can be described correctly as anti-Semitic, the Catholic Church itself in its official teaching has never contradicted, nor could it ever contradict, Christ's assertion to the woman of Samaria that "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and more precisely that salvation is from Christ Himself as the fulfillment of the Jewish Law and the Jewish Prophets (John 4:25-26; cf. Matthew 17:3).
Herewith Pastor Hagee's tribute. And I am appending to his tribute the even more astonishing apology offered by Pastor Hagee this past Wednesday to the Catholic Church for his previous insults.
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Thank You, Pope Benedict!
By: John Hagee
From: The Washington Times,
National Weekly Edition, May 5, 2008
During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI not only conducted Mass and met with the Catholic faithful, but he made a series of public statements about the role that our Judeo-Christian faith can play during these challenging times. As an Evangelical Protestant I happen to disagree with Pope Benedict on many issues of Christian doctrine and ritual. But when it comes to his moral vision for America and the world I have one thing to say in response to the Pope's visit. Amen!
I and many other evangelical leaders believe that our faith must not be confined to our churches on Sunday momings. We maintain that our Christian values and compassion can be powerful tools for helping build a more just and humane nation. Pope Benedict thus spoke for all of us when he said that "Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted" and called for Christian participation "in the exchange of ideas in the public square."
The pope was recalling the history we all cherish when he cited George Washington's Farewell Address to note that "religion and morality represent indispensable supports of political prosperity." The pope likewise voiced all of our concerns when he recognized the threats posed by secularism and materialism not only to our morality but to our happiness.
As people of faith, our concerns go well beyond the borders of our country. After the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, we joined our Jewish brothers in saying "Never Again!" For me, this commitment means never again allowing the Jewish people to be massacred or persecuted and [this commitment] thus helps to motivate my strong support for the State of Israel. But we also take from the Holocaust a universal "Never Again!" which means that we must never again allow genocide to be perpetrated against God's children anywhere in the world.
Thus all of our hearts cheered when Pope Benedict stood before the United Nations and stated so forcefully that when states fail to protect the basic human rights of their citizens, "the international community must intervene." Likewise, all people of faith applauded his comment in the same speech that it is religion's "recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman" which provides the powerful source of our commitment to resist genocide and terrorism.
My reaction to Pope Benedict's visit may surprise some who have come to accept certain caricatures of my views of the Catholic Church. But as I have noted from the start, my critics have ignored the real point and strong emphasis of my words. I have indeed been quite zealous about condemning the past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church. But I have been equally zealous in condemning Protestant anti-Semitism. Furthermore, as I noted in my 2006 book "Jerusalem Countdown," I have long viewed Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI as partners in this "righteous work" of overcoming our shared legacy of Christian anti-Semitism.
For decades I have taught that we Christians need to recognize that our roots are Jewish. As Christians we can only understand ourselves if we understand the Judaism from which we sprang. Pope Benedict made this very important point when he visited the Park East Synagogue in New York and shared that. "I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this."
With visits and words such as these, Pope Benedict is continuing the important work of recognizing our enormous Christian debt of gratitude to the Jewish people.
The world in which we live faces many difficult challenges. In recent days, we read in our paper of increased starvation due to higher food prices; of alienated youth planning to bomb their fellow students; of Islamic militants actually bombing innocents in Iraq and Israel; and about people so devoid of hope that they end their own lives.
I believe that the message of the Bible and of Judeo-Christian faith offers us timely answers to these problems. We were all inspired by Pope Benedict's visit. It is my prayer that we will now follow his example and look beyond our differences to see that when it comes to the great challenges of our times, people of faith have much in common.
* * * * *Pastor Apologizes to Catholics
From: Wall Street Journal of May 14, 2008
Reverend John Hagee, the evangelical pastor... wrote a letter of apology to Catholics Tuesday, expressing "deep regret" for inflammatory remarks that include accusing the Roman Catholic Church of supporting Adolf Hitler.
"Out of a desire to advance greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful," Mr. Hagee wrote.
The letter was addressed to William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and one of Mr. Hagee's biggest critics. Mr. Donohue accepted Mr. Hagee's apology, saying "the Catholic League welcomes his apology. What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns."'