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Pope urges end to bloodshed in Christmas message



Pope Benedict XVI delivers his traditional Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on December 25, 2012. AFP / OSSERVATORE ROMANO / FRANCESCO SFORZA

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI called for an “end to the bloodshed” in Syria and denounced the “savage” violence in Africa on Tuesday, even as Nigeria witnessed a Christmas attack on Christians.

Speaking in his traditional Christmas message, the pope touched on several other of the world’s conflict zones.

A capacity crowd of 40,000 pilgrims filled the vast St Peter’s Square to hear the 85-year-old pope, resplendent in red vestments, deliver the “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and to the World) message.

Speaking from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, the pope called for a return to peace in Nigeria, where he said “savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians.”

As he spoke, news was filtering in of a deadly attack there.

Gunmen attacked a church in the northern state of Yobe during a Christmas Eve service, killing six people, including the pastor, before setting the building ablaze.

It was the latest attack blamed on the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram, which has repeatedly targeted churches during times of worship, including multiple attacks last year on Christmas Day.

The pope also prayed for peace in Syria, whose people have been “deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims.”

In a message watched by millions around the world, he called “for an end to the bloodshed… and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.”

His wide-ranging speech pressed for peace in the Middle East and appealed to China’s new leadership to respect religious freedom there.

In Indonesia, more than 200 Muslims threw rotten eggs at Christians wanting to hold a Christmas mass outside Jakarta, police said.

Around a hundred Christian worshippers had gathered for the mass near the spot where they hoped to build a church but saw the project barred by district government and community members.

At the midnight mass in Bethlehem, the most senior Roman Catholic bishop in the Middle East issued a special call for efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Only justice and peace in the Holy Land can reestablish balance and stability in the region and in the world,” Patriarch Fuad Twal told worshippers in the West Bank city, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

“From this holy place, I invite politicians and men of good will to work with determination for peace and reconciliation that encompasses Palestine and Israel in the midst of all the sufferings in the Middle East,” Twal said.


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Tags: Christmas message , News , peace in Middle East , Pope Benedict XVI , world


  • intsikbeho

    Can someone please remind me of what the purpose of the Pope is.

    • where_I_stand

      Even if the answer is given directly to your mouth to chew it will not move upward.

      If you’re sincere in asking about the papacy, use wiki for elementary discussion of papacy and his role as Servant of the Servants of God (see also as head of the Catholic church).

      • shots_fired

        Question on by what power was the papacy given the right to make things holy? is he Equal to GOd? is he higher than God?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MZOKC6X7Q52Z4E5VLYNB7GF72Y Kaloy

         He is higher than the bishops and Cardinals for sure but definitely he is not infallible as claimed and certainly inferior than God. Only Satan, in his sinful nature claims he is equal to God.

      • shots_fired

        Really? he calls himself holy? did God appointed him? or did he appointed himself as holy? if so then there is no credibility in that.

      • mhertz

        Pope is the vicar of Christ on earth since he is the successor of Apotle Peter. Where Jesus Christ established and entrust his Church on earth. That even the hades of hell will not prevail it.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MZOKC6X7Q52Z4E5VLYNB7GF72Y Kaloy

        Saan bahagi ng bibliya mo natutuhan yang kasinungalingan na yan? Anong book, chapter or verse?

        Kawawa ka naman. Liars go to hell.

      • mhertz

        Dear Kaloy-pls see answer above and about the author below:

        Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most
        of his life living and working in England. Fr Dwight was brought up in an
        Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob
        Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology
        atOxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served
        as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson.
        Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on
        divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the
        Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic
        writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in
        Britain, Ireland and the USA.
        Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of
        English conversion stories called The Path to Rome– Modern Journeys to the
        Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son—a daily Benedictine
        devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern
        parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and
        thought of two of the most popular saints. In the field of Catholic apologetics,
        Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former
        editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a
        straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical
        Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from
        ‘Mere Christianity’ to ‘More Christianity’. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical
        Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now
        an Evangelical Episcopalian. Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is
        described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He
        wrote Christianity Pure & Simple which was published by the
        Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has
        also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the
        Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008.
        His latest books are, The Gargoyle Code –a book in the tradition of
        Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden
        Certainty.
        Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume
        of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular
        contributor to InsideCatholic, First Things, This Rock and National
        Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of children’s
        books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel.
        He’s working on The Romance of Religion and his
        autobiography: There and Back Again.
        In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain toSt
        Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville,South Carolina. This brought him and his
        family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and
        hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a
        Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican
        clergy. He ministers at St. Joseph’s, and in the parish of St. Mary’s,
        Greenville.
        Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and
        visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four
        children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in
        Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a cat named Joseph
        and various other
        pets.

      • shots_fired

        ha? anong sabi? saan sa bible makikita na sinabi ni peter na si Pope ang susunod sa kanya? At saka kung si Pope man ang Vicar ni Christ sa earth at sucessor no apostle peter, bakit di ko mahagilap sa bible na gumamit si peter ng rosaryo at lumugod sa larawan ni jesus at mary? and to tell you Peter is a hebrew at jew bakit mo sasabihing successor ni pope si Apostle peter? is Pope a Jew? is Pope member of the twelve disciples? saan ko pwedeng mabasa sa bible please.

      • mhertz

        When I was in the Bible doctrine class at Bob Jones University,
        one of the verses we had to memorize was Matthew 16:18: “I tell you that you are
        Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not
        prevail against it.”
        A Catholic student might memorize this verse to prove his beliefs about the
        papacy. We learned it in order to deny Catholic beliefs about the
        papacy. It was explained that the rock in this verse was not Peter, but
        his profession of faith that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Christ’s pun on
        the name “Peter-petros” was not a pun at all because petros meant
        little stone, so Jesus could not have intended the rock to be Peter because he
        was speaking of a foundation stone. Only many years later did I begin to
        reassess the teaching I had received about this famous and important verse.
        The Fundamentalists claimed that Catholics built the entire edifice of papal
        authority on this one verse taken out of context—a misuse of Scripture. An
        important doctrine, they said, should not be developed on one proof-text alone.
        In fact they are right, and as I began to study the Catholic faith more openly,
        I came to understand that the Catholic Church does not rely on this one verse
        alone to support papal claims but considers the whole verse in context. In
        addition, instead of one proof-text, there are three important biblical images
        that come together to support the Catholic Church’s claims to papal
        authority.
        The three images are rock, steward, and shepherd. These three images are
        found not just in one verse, but are rooted in the Old Testament and affirmed in
        the New. Like a strong, three-strand, braided rope, these three images of rock,
        steward, and shepherd provide a powerful interlocking and interdependent support
        for the authority Christ intended to leave with his Church on earth.
        God Is My Rock
        A word study of the Old Testament shows the importance of the rock as an
        image of foundational authority and strength. In Genesis 49:24 the patriarch
        Jacob, blessing his sons, says that Joseph’s arm is strong in battle because it
        is upheld by “the shepherd, the rock of Israel.” The shepherd and the rock are
        symbols of God’s care and support for his people.
        For Moses, the rock is a solid place to stand and a secure hiding place (Ex
        33:21-22), and for the people of Israel, the rock is a miraculous source of
        refreshment and life (Ex 17:6). Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord is
        a rock who is perfect, who fathers his children, and who provides an abundant
        life for them (Dt 32:4,13,15,18).
        The great psalmist King David refers time and again to the Lord as his rock,
        his fortress, and his deliverer (2 Sm 22:2; Ps 18, 19 et al). The
        psalmist praises God for he has lifted his feet from the miry clay and set them
        firm upon a rock (Ps 40:2). Throughout the Psalms the rock becomes a predominant
        image for the solid, secure, and trustworthy Lord of Israel.
        The prophet Isaiah echoes the psalmist, and for him too the Lord is the rock.
        Shelter is found in the shadow of a rock in a dry and thirsty land (Is 32:2),
        while God is likened to the “Rock eternal” (Is 26:4), and the Lord is the rock
        from which the people of Israel are hewn (Is 51:1). Habakkuk reaffirms that the
        Lord is the rock (Hb 1:12), and at the end of the Old Testament, the prophet
        Zechariah says that God will make Jerusalem an immoveable rock for all nations
        (Zec 12:3).
        In the Old Testament the powerful image of the rock repeatedly refers to God
        himself. In the New Testament, Paul unlocks the image of the rock and says
        clearly that the foundation stone is Jesus Christ himself (Rom 9:33, 1 Cor
        10:4). The incarnate Christ is the manifestation of the rock who is God. He
        therefore has the authority to name someone who will share his rock-like
        status.
        In the context of the whole Old Testament, Jesus the rock gives his teaching
        about the rock. Specifically, the important passage of Isaiah 51 describes God
        as the “rock from which [the people of Israel] are hewn,” but they are told to
        “look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave you birth.” Stephen Ray’s
        masterful work Upon This Rock piles up evidence showing that the Jewish
        teachers repeatedly referred to Abraham as the God-appointed foundation stone of
        the Jewish people. God was the ultimate rock, but Abraham was his earthly
        presence. Just as Abram was given a new name to indicate his new foundational
        status, so Jesus gives Simon a new name—Rock —to indicate his
        foundational status in the new covenant.
        The King’s Delegate
        The second strand in the braided rope of Petrine authority is the image of
        steward. The steward in a royal household appears throughout the Old Testament
        record. The patriarch Joseph works with a steward in the palace in Egypt. King
        Saul has a steward, as does the prince Mephibosheth, but the most important
        image of steward in the Old Testament for understanding Matthew 16 is in Isaiah
        22.
        There the prophet foretells the fall of one royal steward and the succession
        of another. Shebna is being replaced by Eliakim, and the prophet says to the
        rejected Shebna, “I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around
        him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live
        in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to
        the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can
        open” (Is 22:21-22).
        The true holder of the keys to the kingdom is the king himself, and in the
        Book of Revelation we see that the risen and glorified Christ holds the power of
        the keys—the power to bind and loose. John has a vision of Christ who says, “I
        am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am
        alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rv 1:18).
        So the king holds the keys of the kingdom, but he delegates his power to the
        steward, and the keys of the kingdom are the symbol of this delegated authority.
        The keys not only opened all the doors, but they provided access to the store
        houses and financial resources of the king. In addition, the keys of the kingdom
        were worn on a sash that was a ceremonial badge of office. The passage from
        Isaiah and the customs all reveal that the role of the royal steward was an
        office given by the king, and that it was a successive office—the keys being
        handed to the next steward as a sign of the continuing delegated authority of
        the king himself (See “A Successive Ministry,” above).
        Isaiah 22 provides the Old Testament context that Jesus’ disciples would have
        understood completely as he quoted this particular passage in Matthew 16. When
        Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven;
        whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on
        earth will be loosed in heaven,” his disciples would recognize the passage from
        Isaiah. They would understand that not only was Jesus calling himself the King
        of his kingdom, but that he was appointing Peter as his royal steward. That John
        in Revelation sees the ascended and glorified Christ holding the eternal keys
        only confirms the intention of Jesus to delegate that power to Peter—the
        foundation stone of his Church.
        Catholic scholars are not alone in interpreting Matthew 16:17-19 as a direct
        quotation of Isaiah 22. Stephen Ray, in Upon This Rock, cites numerous
        Protestant biblical scholars who support this understanding and affirm that
        Jesus is delegating his authority over life and death, heaven and hell, to the
        founder of his Church on earth.
        The Good Shepherd
        The third strand in the strong rope of scriptural support for papal authority
        is the image of the Good Shepherd. This powerful image is so abundant in the Old
        Testament that this short article cannot begin to recount all the references.
        Suffice it to say that the Hebrews were a nomadic-shepherd people, and the
        images of the lamb and the shepherd are woven in and through their story at
        every glance. From the beginning God himself is seen to be the shepherd of his
        people.
        In Genesis 48 the old man Jacob, before blessing his sons, says that the Lord
        God of his fathers has been his shepherd his whole life long. The prophet Micah
        sees the people of Israel as “sheep without a shepherd,” and the shepherd King
        David calls the Lord his shepherd (Ps 23 et al). The prophet Isaiah
        says that the sovereign Lord will “tend his flock like a shepherd: He gathers
        the lambs in his arms, and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads
        those that have young” (Is 40:11).
        The theme of the Lord being the Good Shepherd reaches its Old Testament
        climax in the Book of Ezekiel. Earlier, Jeremiah the prophet had raged against
        the corrupt leadership of the people of Israel. They were wicked and abusive
        shepherds, but in the Book of Ezekiel God himself promises to be the shepherd of
        his people Israel.
        So the Lord says,

        As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I
        look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were
        scattered on a day of clouds and darkness . . . I will search for the lost and
        bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but
        the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
        (Ez 34:12,16)
        Finally, the Lord’s servant, the Son of David, will come and be the shepherd
        of the lost flock.

        I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge
        between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant
        David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the
        Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. (Ez
        34:22-24)
        One of the clearest signs, therefore, of Christ’s self-knowledge as the Son
        of God is when he calls himself the Good Shepherd. In story after story Jesus
        uses the image of the Good Shepherd to refer to his own ministry. He explicitly
        calls himself the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11,14) who has come to the lost sheep of
        the house of Israel (Mt 15:24). He tells the story of the lost sheep, placing
        himself in the story as the divine Shepherd who fulfills Ezekiel’s prophecy (Lk
        15). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews calls Christ the Great Shepherd of
        the Sheep (Heb 13:20). Peter calls Jesus the Shepherd and overseer of souls (1
        Pt 2:25), and in the Book of Revelation, the Lamb on the throne is also the
        Shepherd of the lost souls (Rv 7:17).
        When Jesus Christ, after his Resurrection, then solemnly instructs Peter to
        “feed my lambs, watch over my sheep, feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17), the
        ramifications are enormous. Throughout the Old Testament, God himself is
        understood to be the Good Shepherd. He promises to come and be the shepherd of
        his people through his servant David. When Jesus Christ, the Son of David,
        fulfills this prophecy, God’s promise is kept. Then before Jesus returns to
        heaven, he commands Peter to take charge of his pastoral ministry. Now Peter
        will undertake the role of Good Shepherd in Christ’s place.
        The Vicar of Christ
        When I was an Anglican priest in England, I held the title of vicar of the
        parish. The term derives from the fact that the vicar is a priest appointed to
        do a job in the stead of the official parish priest. One priest might oversee
        various parishes, and so he appoints vicars to do the job when he can’t be
        there.
        Many non-Catholic Christians object to the pope being called the Vicar of
        Christ. But the word vicar simply stands for one who vicariously stands
        in for another person. A vicar is someone to whom a job is delegated. The three
        strands of biblical imagery—rock, steward, and shepherd—show in three different
        ways that Jesus intended Peter to exercise his ministry and authority here on
        earth—in other words, to act as his vicar.
        The fact that there are three images is important because the authors of
        Scripture believed the number three to be one of the perfect numbers. A
        statement was most authoritative when it was expressed three times in three
        different ways.
        We see this in the passage in John 21. Jesus gives his pastoral authority to
        Peter with three solemn commands: “Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my
        sheep.” Here Jesus delegates his authority three times in three different ways,
        using imagery found throughout the Old Testament. In so doing he clearly reveals
        his delegation of authority to Peter.
        History shows that from the earliest days Christians considered Peter to be
        the very rock, steward, and shepherd that Jesus proclaimed him to be.
        Furthermore, from the earliest days they considered his successor to be the
        Bishop of Rome, and that Bishop of Rome endures today as rock, steward, and
        shepherd—just a few hundred yards from the site of Peter’s death and burial.
        Does the Catholic Church build the claims to papal authority on one verse
        taken out of context? Hardly. The three strands of rock, steward, and shepherd
        are woven in and through the whole of Scripture, coming into focus in the life
        of Jesus Christ who is the true Rock, the King of the Kingdom and Good Shepherd,
        and who hands his authority on earth to Peter until he comes again.
        SIDEBAR
        A Successive Ministry
        The non-Catholic protests, “There is no evidence that Peter’s ministry will
        be successive.” However, the whole context and meaning of the imagery from the
        beginning to the end show it to be a ministry that must be successive.
        First of all, the image of the rock is, by its very nature, a timeless and
        everlasting image. That’s why the image of the rock was chosen. That’s how rocks
        are. They’re there to stay. Then in Matthew 16 Jesus himself says that the
        steward’s ministry will have an eternal dimension. He holds the keys to the
        Kingdom of God and the gates of hell will never prevail against it. Finally, the
        image of the shepherd, as we have seen, is an eternal one because God himself is
        the ultimate Good Shepherd. If the rock, the steward, and the shepherd are
        eternal ministries, then for it to last that long, the ministry must be
        successive. How could this eternal ministry have died out with Peter himself and
        still have been eternal?

      • shots_fired

        Mababaw parin, alam mo kung bakit? because peter and his apostles did not pray or bow down to images even on the cross. And peter and his apostles kept the Sabbath on the seventh day and not on the first day, take note you cannot find a single scripture in the bible that says that God changes the Sabbath to the first from the seventh. And i’m surprised because i look at the catholic ten commandments and some alterations are made, so that they can keep all they want to keep, like for example the fourth commandment which is ‘remember the sabbath day to keep it holy, … on the seventh day…’ now the catholics changes it to ‘remember tha lords day’ ? wow, how could you try to alter the written commandment of the lord, and what is shocking is that the lord wrote the ten commandments two times with the same content and not the content written by the pope or whatsoever. And yes peter is the rock of which jesus built his church but contrary to your arguments, peter is not the rock the catholic builts it’s church you know why? because i have not seen any single thing that peter and his apostles does to the catholic faith. Peter and his apostles was not a preist or a pope but how come the pope as you say sees himself as a priest? and on the bible all priests must come from a levite clan and on jesus death he removes the preistly order, because he is the high priest, how come your faith is handled by so called priest which even takes themself as holy and reverent, how can such skin and flesh have the nerve to say they are holy and reverent?

        and now your answer is your own downfall
        do you know that the word anti-christ found in the bible is taken from three greek words? which is ‘against’,'stands for’and not-believeing or un-believeing, qouting from your anwer which is “But the word vicar simply stands for one who vicariously stands in for another person” , you are simply saying that the pope is antichrist and that is true, why because the earliest apostles never made statues of their fallen brothers in christ, even christ hated those kinds of practices that worship the dead so called saints, have you read in matthew 23:29?, thats what the catholic church is all about reliving and honoring the dead saints eventually christ does not care about that.

        so if the church and pope is built and according to you is the successor of the apostle peter why are the catholic and the apostles way difer from each other? now who is wrong? the apostles or the catholic faith?? tell me?

      • shots_fired

        And for the record, why would you call them Bishops and Cardinals , they are just wolves in sheep skin, full of malice and deciet.

      • intsikbeho

        i wasnt sincere but you gave the reference and i might as well readi it. hehehe

        and the answer when given directly to my mouth should move down to my heart first before it can be accepted up top. it has so long been drilled into my head but never accepted by my heart =P

      • mhertz

        Follow your heart but take with you your brain.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MZOKC6X7Q52Z4E5VLYNB7GF72Y Kaloy

    Ang gustong madinig ng taumbayan ay pagsbihan ng Pope ang mga alipores niya dito sa Pilipinas  na huwag makialam sa gobyerno at huwag gamitain ang banal pulpito sa personal na ataske  sa mga bumoto sa RH bill.

    Ang paghahasik ng lagim at paghahati sa taumbayan ay maaaring mapunta sa mas madugong patayan sa iba’t ibang panig na Pilipinas.

    Ang ganitong pamamaraan ay gawa lamang ni satanas. Kaya dapat ay manahimik na lamang ang mga alagad ng Diyos dahil pasado na sa kongreso at senado ang RH. At pipirmanhan na lang ng Pangulo para maging ganap na batas.

    Mulat na ang sambayanang filipino at hindi na basta maloloko ng mga Kulto at relihiyon.

  • mhertz

    Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most
    of his life living and working in England. Fr Dwight was brought up in an
    Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob
    Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology
    atOxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served
    as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson.
    Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on
    divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the
    Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic
    writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in
    Britain, Ireland and the USA.
    Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of
    English conversion stories called The Path to Rome– Modern Journeys to the
    Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son—a daily Benedictine
    devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern
    parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and
    thought of two of the most popular saints. In the field of Catholic apologetics,
    Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former
    editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a
    straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical
    Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from
    ‘Mere Christianity’ to ‘More Christianity’. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical
    Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now
    an Evangelical Episcopalian. Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is
    described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He
    wrote Christianity Pure & Simple which was published by the
    Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has
    also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the
    Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008.
    His latest books are, The Gargoyle Code –a book in the tradition of
    Screwtape Letters and a book of poems called A Sudden
    Certainty.
    Fr. Dwight has contributed a chapter to the third volume
    of the best selling Surprised by Truth series and is a regular
    contributor to InsideCatholic, First Things, This Rock and National
    Catholic Register. Fr. Dwight has also written a couple of children’s
    books, had three of his screenplays produced, and is finishing his first novel.
    He’s working on The Romance of Religion and his
    autobiography: There and Back Again.
    In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted a post as Chaplain toSt
    Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville,South Carolina. This brought him and his
    family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible belt, and
    hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a
    Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican
    clergy. He ministers at St. Joseph’s, and in the parish of St. Mary’s,
    Greenville.
    Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and
    visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four
    children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in
    Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a cat named Joseph
    and various other
    pets.

  • mhertz

    Do Catholics Worship Statues?

    “Catholics worship statues!” People still
    make this ridiculous claim. Because Catholics have statues in their churches,
    goes the accusation, they are violating God’s commandment: “You shall not
    make for yourself a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven
    above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the
    earth: you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Ex. 20:4–5);
    “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves
    gods of gold” (Ex. 32:31).

    It is right to warn people against the sin of
    idolatry when they are committing it. But calling Catholics idolaters because
    they have images of Christ and the saints is based on misunderstanding or
    ignorance of what the Bible says about the purpose and uses (both good and bad)
    of statues.

    Anti-Catholic writer Loraine Boettner, in his book Roman
    Catholicism, makes the blanket statement, “God has forbidden the use
    of images in worship” (281). Yet if people were to “search the
    scriptures” (cf. John 5:39), they would find the opposite is true. God
    forbade the worship of statues, but he did not forbid the religious
    use of statues. Instead, he actually commanded their use in
    religious contexts!

    God Said To Make Them

    People who oppose religious statuary forget about
    the many passages where the Lord commands the making of statues. For
    example: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold [i.e., two gold statues
    of angels]; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy
    seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one
    piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The
    cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with
    their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces
    of the cherubim be” (Ex. 25:18–20).

    David gave Solomon the plan “for the altar of
    incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden
    chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the
    covenant of the Lord. All this he made clear by the writing of the hand of the
    Lord concerning it all, all the work to be done according to the plan” (1
    Chr. 28:18–19). David’s plan for the temple, which the biblical author tells us
    was “by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it all,”
    included statues of angels.

    Similarly Ezekiel 41:17–18 describes graven
    (carved) images in the idealized temple he was shown in a vision, for he
    writes, “On the walls round about in the inner room and [on] the nave were
    carved likenesses of cherubim.”

    The Religious Uses of Images

    During a plague of serpents sent to punish the
    Israelites during the exodus, God told Moses to “make [a statue of] a
    fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees
    it shall live. So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a
    serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Num.
    21:8–9).

    One had to look at the bronze statue of the
    serpent to be healed, which shows that statues could be used ritually, not
    merely as religious decorations.

    Catholics use statues, paintings, and other
    artistic devices to recall the person or thing depicted. Just as it helps to
    remember one’s mother by looking at her photograph, so it helps to recall the
    example of the saints by looking at pictures of them. Catholics also use
    statues as teaching tools. In the early Church they were especially useful for
    the instruction of the illiterate. Many Protestants have pictures of Jesus and
    other Bible pictures in Sunday school for teaching children. Catholics also use
    statues to commemorate certain people and events, much as Protestant churches
    have three-dimensional nativity scenes at Christmas.

    If one measured Protestants by the same rule, then
    by using these “graven” images, they would be practicing the
    “idolatry” of which they accuse Catholics. But there’s no idolatry
    going on in these situations. God forbids the worship of images as gods,
    but he doesn’t ban the making of images. If he had, religious movies, videos,
    photographs, paintings, and all similar things would be banned. But, as the
    case of the bronze serpent shows, God does not even forbid the ritual use of
    religious images.

    It is when people begin to adore a statue as a god
    that the Lord becomes angry. Thus when people did start to worship the
    bronze serpent as a snake-god (whom they named “Nehushtan”), the
    righteous king Hezekiah had it destroyed (2 Kgs. 18:4).

    What About Bowing?

    Sometimes anti-Catholics cite Deuteronomy 5:9,
    where God said concerning idols, “You shall not bow down to them.”
    Since many Catholics sometimes bow or kneel in front of statues of Jesus and
    the saints, anti-Catholics confuse the legitimate veneration of a sacred image
    with the sin of idolatry.

    Though bowing can be used as a posture in worship,
    not all bowing is worship. In Japan, people show respect by bowing in greeting
    (the equivalent of the Western handshake). Similarly, a person can kneel before
    a king without worshipping him as a god. In the same way, a Catholic who may
    kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even
    praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in
    his hands when praying is worshipping the Bible or praying to it.

    Hiding the Second Commandment?

    Another charge sometimes made by Protestants is
    that the Catholic Church “hides” the second commandment. This is
    because in Catholic catechisms, the first commandment is often listed as
    “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3), and the second
    is listed as “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” (Ex.
    20:7). From this, it is argued that Catholics have deleted the prohibition of
    idolatry to justify their use of religious statues. But this is false.
    Catholics simply group the commandments differently from most Protestants.

    In Exodus 20:2–17, which gives the Ten
    Commandments, there are actually fourteen imperative statements. To arrive at
    Ten Commandments, some statements have to be grouped together, and there is
    more than one way of doing this. Since, in the ancient world, polytheism and
    idolatry were always united—idolatry being the outward expression of
    polytheism—the historic Jewish numbering of the Ten Commandments has always
    grouped together the imperatives “You shall have no other gods before
    me” (Ex. 20:3) and “You shall not make for yourself a graven
    image” (Ex. 20:4). The historic Catholic numbering follows the Jewish
    numbering on this point, as does the historic Lutheran numbering. Martin Luther
    recognized that the imperatives against polytheism and idolatry are two parts
    of a single command.

    Jews and Christians abbreviate the commandments so
    that they can be remembered using a summary, ten-point formula. For example,
    Jews, Catholics, and Protestants typically summarize the Sabbath commandment
    as, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy,” though the commandment’s
    actual text takes four verses (Ex. 20:8–11).

    When the prohibition of polytheism/idolatry is
    summarized, Jews, Catholics, and Lutherans abbreviate it as “You shall
    have no other gods before me.” This is no attempt to “hide” the
    idolatry prohibition (Jews and Lutherans don’t even use statues of saints and
    angels). It is to make learning the Ten Commandments easier.

    The Catholic Church is not dogmatic about how the
    Ten Commandments are to be numbered, however. The Catechism of the Catholic
    Church says, “The division and numbering of the Commandments have
    varied in the course of history. The present catechism follows the division of
    the Commandments established by Augustine, which has become traditional in the
    Catholic Church. It is also that of the Lutheran confession. The Greek Fathers
    worked out a slightly different division, which is found in the Orthodox
    Churches and Reformed communities” (CCC 2066).

    The Form of God?

    Some anti-Catholics appeal to Deuteronomy 4:15–18
    in their attack on religious statues: “[S]ince you saw no form on the day
    that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest
    you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any
    figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on
    the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness
    of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water
    under the earth.”

    We’ve already shown that God doesn’t prohibit the
    making of statues or images of various creatures for religious purposes (cf. 1
    Kgs. 6:29–32, 8:6–66; 2 Chr. 3:7–14). But what about statues or images that
    represent God? Many Protestants would say that’s wrong because Deuteronomy 4
    says the Israelites did not see God under any form when he made the covenant
    with them, therefore we should not make symbolic representations of God either.
    But does Deuteronomy 4 forbid such representations?

    The Answer Is No

    Early in its history, Israel was forbidden to make
    any depictions of God because he had not revealed himself in a visible form.
    Given the pagan culture surrounding them, the Israelites might have been
    tempted to worship God in the form of an animal or some natural object (e.g., a
    bull or the sun).

    But later God did reveal himself under
    visible forms, such as in Daniel 7:9: “As I looked, thrones were placed
    and one that was Ancient of Days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its
    wheels were burning fire.” Protestants make depictions of the Father under
    this form when they do illustrations of Old Testament prophecies.

    The Holy Spirit revealed himself under at least two
    visible forms—that of a dove, at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10;
    Luke 3:22; John 1:32), and as tongues of fire, on the day of Pentecost (Acts
    2:1–4). Protestants use these images when drawing or painting these biblical
    episodes and when they wear Holy Spirit lapel pins or place dove emblems on
    their cars.

    But, more important, in the Incarnation of Christ
    his Son, God showed mankind an icon of himself. Paul said, “He is the
    image (Greek: ikon) of the invisible God, the firstborn of all
    creation.” Christ is the tangible, divine “icon” of the unseen,
    infinite God.

    We read that when the magi were “going into
    the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down
    and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts,
    gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11). Though God did not reveal a
    form for himself on Mount Horeb, he did reveal one in the house in Bethlehem.

    The bottom line is, when God made the New Covenant
    with us, he did reveal himself under a visible form in Jesus Christ. For
    that reason, we can make representations of God in Christ. Even
    Protestants use all sorts of religious images: Pictures of Jesus and other
    biblical persons appear on a myriad of Bibles, picture books, T-shirts,
    jewelry, bumper stickers, greeting cards, compact discs, and manger scenes.
    Christ is even symbolically represented through the Icthus or “fish
    emblem.”

    Common sense tells us that, since God has revealed
    himself in various images, most especially in the incarnate Jesus Christ, it’s
    not wrong for us to use images of these forms to deepen our knowledge and love
    of God. That’s why God revealed himself in these visible forms, and
    that’s why statues and pictures are made of them.

    Idolatry Condemned by the Church

    Since the days of the apostles, the Catholic Church
    has consistently condemned the sin of idolatry. The early Church Fathers warn
    against this sin, and Church councils also dealt with the issue.

    The Second Council of Nicaea (787), which dealt
    largely with the question of the religious use of images and icons, said,
    “[T]he one who redeemed us from the darkness of idolatrous insanity,
    Christ our God, when he took for his bride his holy Catholic Church . . .
    promised he would guard her and assured his holy disciples saying, ‘I am with
    you every day until the consummation of this age.’ . . . To this gracious offer
    some people paid no attention; being hoodwinked by the treacherous foe they
    abandoned the true line of reasoning . . . and they failed to distinguish the
    holy from the profane, asserting that the icons of our Lord and of his saints
    were no different from the wooden images of satanic idols.”

    The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566)
    taught that idolatry is committed “by worshipping idols and images as God,
    or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our
    worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them” (374).

    “Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate
    religious sense. An idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible
    notion of God to anything other than God’” (CCC 2114).

    The Church absolutely recognizes and condemns the
    sin of idolatry. What anti-Catholics fail to recognize is the distinction
    between thinking a piece of stone or plaster is a god and desiring to visually
    remember Christ and the saints in heaven by making statues in their honor. The
    making and use of religious statues is a thoroughly biblical practice.
    Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know his Bible.

    NIHIL OBSTAT:
    I have concluded that the materials
    presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
    Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

    IMPRIMATUR:
    In accord with 1983 CIC 827
    permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
    +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004



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