The Pope did a tour of the Middle East starting 8 May 2009 and lasted 8 days. What to make of the trip?
Failure to Impress
On 9 May, the Telegraph wrote, “Pope Benedict XVI under fire from Muslims for not doing enough to heal rift with Islam”, in which it was reported that “he did not give the apology demanded by many Muslim leaders for remarks three years ago in which he quoted a medieval text describing the Prophet Mohammed’s legacy as ‘evil and inhuman’.”
On 11 May, the Telegraph wrote, “Pope in Israel on most controversial leg of Middle East tour”, in which they wrote “Attitudes in Israel are even more ambivalent. He was a member of the Hitler Youth in the war, though he has said he had no choice but to join” and “He also lifted the excommunication of a British bishop who had been accused of denying the Holocaust.”
On the same date, the Telegraph also ran the article “Pope Benedict XVI seeks to end Jewish-Catholic tension over Holocaust”. In that article, Tim Butcher wrote, “Despite the visit, where the Pope prayed and laid a wreath in the memorial’s Hall of Remembrance, Rabbi [Israel Meir] Lau said he was disappointed by the Pope’s speech.”
On 12 May 2009, Time reported in their article “The Pope’s Muddled Message for the Middle East”, “On Monday, Benedict’s remarks at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial were a disappointment to some Jewish leaders for the lack of any mention of the Nazi perpetrators, expression of remorse or sharing of his own personal recollections of growing up in Bavaria.”
I cannot imagine that the Vatican helped any, either. On 13 May, the Telegraph reported, “Don’t mention the Pope’s Hitler Youth past, says the Vatican”, in which the 2nd day of his visit to Israel was overshadowed by pronouncements from Father Federico Lombardi told a Jerusalem press conference, "The Pope was never in the Hitler Youth, never, never, never,” This contradicts earlier statements by the Pope that state he was in the Nazi youth party, but he was forced into it (as were others during that time).
The one positive of the trip was the Pope’s visit to Nazareth, where security was a little looser and there was more interaction with people there. The 14 May 2009 Telegraph article “Pope Benedict XVI calls for an end to inter-faith tension in Nazareth” reports, “The throng, made up of local Christian Arabs as well as many foreign Christians, had gathered from dawn for a special mass at an amphitheatre constructed at Mount Precipice.”
That was quickly overshadowed the following day. On 15 May, the Telegraph ran the article “Pope Benedict XVI calls for rebirth of Middle East at Christian burial site”. The Telegraph reported:
The Pope eloquently spoke of the suffering of Holocaust victims but did not follow the lead of his predecessor, John Paul II, in expressing remorse for the Church’s historic persecution of Jews. Neither did he discuss what some see as the Church’s passivity during the Nazi genocide or his own time as a member of the Hitler Youth.
Those perceived omissions led officials at the Yad Vashem memorial to take the exceptional step of openly criticizing the speech.
Not a Political Power
During his visit, the Pope was also quoted by various news agencies that the Catholic Church is not a political power. On Robert Thiel’s Church of God News blog article “Pope in Middle East”, the Pope is quoted as saying, “We are not a political power but a spiritual power that can contribute.”
This is a strange statement. The Vatican owns land. The Vatican has ambassadors around the world. It was the influence of Pope John Paul II that emboldened Poland to become free. Even this trip is dripping in politics, and twice the Pope made statements during his visit about the “two-state solution”. What’s not political about the Vatican?
On 11 May 2009, UCG put out a Good News Commentary on “The Pope, the Mideast and Prophecy” with the same quote from Pope Benedict.
Both commentaries add that there will be a political and religious power in the end times that will deceive many and will cause war and chaos in the Middle East. However, given the events that occurred both preceding and during his visit, it looks like Pope Benedict is not charismatic enough to be the one that will deceive the many.
Certainly, it is interesting that the Vatican chose a German pope. However, that appears to have been rather unimportant in the scheme of things. Having said that, we do know that the Beast power will rise out of the ashes of the Holy Roman Empire centered in Europe, especially Germany. Now, this isn’t a prophecy but pure speculation on my part, but why wouldn’t the final Pope be Italian? Just a thought.