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The Apology

TimeWatch Editorial
March 15, 2016

The year was 2001. The London Telegraph of April 29 of that year published an article entitled Pope's visit to Greece infuriates Orthodox Church, which described the horror expressed by Father Chrysostomos, a Greek Orthodox Priest concerning Pope Karol Józef Wojtyła, John Paul II planned one day stopover in Greece. Chrysostomos is quoted as saying: "He will infect our country. The Virgin Mary shares our
sorrow. The fact that this is a miracle is undeniable. We have had 100,000 visitors to witness it." The miracle he is referring to is the fact that blood-red stains appeared upon the neck of a Virgin Mary icon in his church in Athens.

“The Pope's one-day stopover, part of a millennial pilgrimage retracing the steps of St Paul, has sparked unprecedented hostility from the Greek Orthodox Church. When the 80-year-old pontiff arrives on Friday not only will he have to contend with the heat and smog of Athens but protests by monks and priests. Some have threatened to take to the streets, others to release black balloons and toll church bells all day.” Philip Sherwell,
Pope's visit to Greece infuriates Orthodox Church, The London Telegraph, April 29, 2001.

This was by no means a rare event for John Paul II. During his 26 year Pontificate he has visited 129 countries. It was significant however because of the rabid opposition that the brief visit evoked. The Greek Orthodox Church clearly defined not just Karol Wojtyła, John Paul II but also defines in no uncertain terms the Papacy.

“A poster outside Fr Chrysostomos's church spells out Orthodox opposition to the visit. Denouncing the Pope as a "false prophet and the anti-Christ" who adorns his mitre with "666", it announces a demonstration to be held tomorrow against the visit and lists the historical crimes for which successive popes were allegedly responsible.”
Philip Sherwell, Pope's visit to Greece infuriates Orthodox Church, The London Telegraph, April 29, 2001.

Now when you hear the list of crimes that Chrysostomos delineates, you would believe that this is a protestant speaking. Let me remind you that this is the year 2001, and the pope involved here is John Paul II. Listen to how Chrysostomos describes the ‘crimes.’

“Highlights include the sacking of Constantinople, the home of Orthodoxy, during the Fourth Crusade; the fall of Byzantium to the Turks; the Spanish Inquisition; the Bolshevik Revolution; the Third Reich; and the Western bombing campaign against (Orthodox) Serb forces in Kosovo. The influential monks of Mount Athos, the semi-autonomous monks' republic, have called for the Pope to be banned and the Union of Hellenic Clerics, which represents rank-and-file clergy, has urged a boycott.” Philip Sherwell,
Pope's visit to Greece infuriates Orthodox Church, The London Telegraph, April 29, 2001.

But Chrysostomos was not the only one willing to speak out on this very important and significant issue. Fr Nektarios, abbot of a monastery on the Corinthian Gulf, was equally vociferous. His counsel was pointed and clear.

"It is a fairytale to say that the Pope is just coming on a personal pilgrimage. He is doing this because he wants the Orthodox Church to recognize him. He wants recognition as a global religious leader. "Popes have fooled the Orthodox Church in the past. This pontiff will not be allowed to repeat the trick. He has the burden of history on his back. He cannot be trusted. You don't honor a criminal, you put him in jail."
Philip Sherwell, Pope's visit to Greece infuriates Orthodox Church, The London Telegraph, April 29, 2001.

As always however, the Vatican is very rarely caught without a counter move. In the midst of the above visit, in the midst of the controversy surrounding it Pope John Paul II makes a startling move.

“Pope John Paul II, in a sweeping statement of regret aimed at healing Christianity's east-west divide, begged God's forgiveness Friday for sins committed by Roman Catholics "against their Orthodox brothers and sisters," including the plunder of the Byzantine capital by 13th century Crusaders. His powerful and unexpected gesture came during the first visit by a pope to Greece, an Eastern Orthodox stronghold, since the schism of 1054. It drew warm applause from Orthodox clerics who until two months ago had demonized the pope and refused to welcome him. It was a papal act of mea culpa diplomacy on a par with the visit last year to Jerusalem's Western Wall, where John Paul sought pardon for centuries of Catholic torment of the Jewish people. That historic pilgrimage solidified the Vatican's relationship with Israel, furthering the pope's goal of building bridges to other faiths.” Richard Boudreaux, “Pope Apologizes for Anti-Orthodox Past,” The Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2001.

The willingness to ask for forgiveness for something that the Papacy still considers their right to inflict is one of the absolutes of the doctrine of infallibility. John Paul II’s “regret” was nothing more than a political means to an end. Listen to this:

“The Roman Church now presents a fair front to the world, covering with apologies her record of horrible cruelties. She has clothed herself in Christlike garments; but she is unchanged. Every principle of the papacy that existed in past ages exists today. The doctrines devised in the darkest ages are still held. Let none deceive themselves. The papacy that Protestants are now so ready to honor is the same that ruled the world in the days of the Reformation, when men of God stood up, at the peril of their lives, to expose her iniquity. She possesses the same pride and arrogant assumption that lorded it over kings and princes, and claimed the prerogatives of God. Her spirit is no less cruel and despotic now than when she crushed out human liberty and slew the saints of the Most High.” {The Great Controversy, page 571.1}

Cameron A. Bowen