For the last six months, Catholic cardinals, bishops and theologians have been deliberating in Vatican City, discussing the future of the church and redefining long-held Catholic doctrines and dogmas. The Third Vatican Council, is undoubtedly the largest and most important since the Second Vatican Council was concluded in 1962. Pope Francis convened the new council to ?finally finish the work of the Second Vatican Council.? While some traditionalists and conservative reactionaries on the far right have decried these efforts, they have delighted progressives around the world.
The Third Vatican Council concluded today with Pope Francis announcing that Catholicism is now a ?modern and reasonable religion, which has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone. Even atheists acknowledge the divine. Through acts of love and charity the atheist acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity.?
?Through humility, soul searching, and prayerful contemplation we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God? Pope Francis declared.
In a speech that shocked many, the Pope claimed ?All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.?
One statement in the Pope?s speech has sent traditionalists into a fit of confusion and hysteria. ?God is changing and evolving as we are, For God lives in us and in our hearts. When we spread love and kindness in the world, we touch our own divinity and recognize it. The Bible is a beautiful holy book, but like all great and ancient works, some passages are outdated. Some even call for intolerance or judgement. The time has come to see these verses as later interpolations, contrary to the message of love and truth, which otherwise radiates through scripture. In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!?
In addition to the Pope?s sweeping calls for tolerance and a new progressive understanding of Catholicism, he condemned racism, raising his voice and pounding the podium in front of him. Pope Francis spent over an hour castigating anti-immigrant politicians, parties and individuals. Wagging his finger sternly with righteous indignation, the Pope shouted ?Racism today is the ultimate evil in the world. When Italians, Spanish or French turn back the boats of African migrants seeking a better life, are they not like the inn keeper who told Mary and Joseph that there was no room for them and the infant Christ? These migrants are children of God and we are commanded to love them!?
His voice loudly echoing through St. Peter?s basilica, the Pope stated ?those who would dare to turn immigrants away, be they legal or undocumented, turn their backs on Christ himself! A racist is not a true Christian. A racist casts aside his humanity to become a beast, a demon! He is the embodiment and personification of evil, a Satan!?
To a chorus of thunderous applause, Pope Francis stated ?because Muslims, Hindus and African Animists are also made in the very likeness and image of God, to hate them is to hate God! To reject them to is to reject God and the Gospel of Christ. Whether we worship at a church, a synagogue, a mosque or a mandir, it does not matter. Whether we call God, Jesus, Adonai, Allah or Krishna, we all worship the same God of love. This truth is self-evident to all who have love and humility in their hearts!?
In a announcement that shocked many people, Pope Francis warned that ?those who seek to deny a home to the migrant, to the African and the Muslim, risk their membership in the church. We will consider excommunication for those whose souls willingly dwell in the darkness and evil of intolerance and racism. Satan himself is a metaphor or a personification, for the collective evils of mankind. Today, these evils manifest foremost as racism, intolerance, religious persecution and bigotries of all kinds.?
A couple of prominent Catholic cardinals have responded to Pope Francis? declarations by leaving the church. Cardinal Arinze of Nigeria asked, ?what do we stand for if we declare that truth is relative? On the contrary, truth exists independently of our personal feelings. All of this talk of love and tolerance is hollow if we have no identity of our own, if we stand for nothing. I charge that Francis has become a heretic, and that he is not a valid Pope. Indeed, Francis is no longer even a Catholic. The seat of Saint Peter is vacant. I am now a Sedevacantist. I should have become one long ago. The Vatican has embraced ecumenism in the past, but worse than that, it has now embraced moral relativism on abortion and homosexuality. At the same time it is embracing moral absolutism in favour of illegal immigration and cultural genocide against Europe.?
In his most controversial statement, Cardinal Arinze said ?Islam has overrun my own country, and now it threatens to overrun Europe. Some parts of Nigeria now live under Islamic Sharia law. Catholics there are no longer free to practice their faith publicly. Francis is a fool if he thinks that his liberal immigration policy will end well. He has betrayed western civilization. Vatican City will one day become a giant mosque if things continue in Europe along their present course. Those in the West who ignore this truth, do so at their own peril.?
In an angry and vitriolic rant revealing deep self-hating tendencies, the African Cardinal Arinze stated ?There is nothing wrong with Europeans who want to protect their borders. The problem is that there is not enough border control and the immigration policies are far too lenient in Europe. Is it racist to desire to preserve one?s own home? Why is it racist to want to preserve your own culture and a future for your people and your children? Have white people gone stupid today??
This much is clear, the Catholic Church has made a decision to rejoin humanity and to reject intolerance and extremism. The church has lost a few narrow-minded bigots, with reports of some small parishes and a few cardinals and bishops defecting, but Pope Francis has gained the friendship of the world. Pope Francis deserves praise for taking a humane stand in defence of human rights and against bigotry.