It is inaccurate to suggest that Popes claim to be God

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Ben Lowry got a good roasting from the Rev Ivan Foster (Ret), along with His Holiness, Pope Francis, in the News Letter (‘Lowry saying NI should welcome Pope is example of ignorance of Rome’s teachings,’ May 7).

The Rev Foster writes: “...Ben Lowry believes we should all welcome to Northern Ireland (is) one who exceeds all other deceivers. He (Pope Francis) claims to be God on earth!” and “Mr Lowry’s stance is an indication of the gross ignorance that exists on the historic position of the Reformed Church on the teachings of Rome.”

The Rev Foster also says that “None can welcome him here (Northern Ireland) without giving credence to his (Pope Francis) claims.”

It is a non sequitur to suggest that inviting His Holiness to Northern Ireland implies acceptance of the Catholic Church’s Creed; the suggestion appears to be mischievous.

He says that Mr Lowry, who has lived and grown up in Northern Ireland, is ignorant regarding the Reformed Church on the teachings of Rome.

Perhaps, this accusation can be levelled at the Rev Foster.

For example, the Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, wrote, “There is not one of our Evangelicals, who is not seven times worse than before he belonged to us, stealing the goods of others, lying, deceiving, eating, getting drunk, and indulging in every vice, as if he had not received the Holy Word.

“If we have been delivered from one spirit of evil, seven others worse than the first have come to take its place.”

Even Erasmus of Rotterdam, who had at first favoured Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformed movement, was soon disillusioned. Erasmus wrote, “The New Gospel has at least the advantage of showing us a new race of men, haughty, impudent, cunning, blasphemous — quarrellers, seditious, furious, —”.

Am I alone in detecting that at least one of these condemnatory words of Erasmus might be applied to the Rev Foster’s letter?

To suggest, as does the Rev Foster, that Popes claim to be God is inaccurate. Let me quote the British Catholic Convert, Cardinal (the Blessed) John Henry Newman’s (died 1890) description of the papacy; he says:

“Now St Peter, who first occupied it (the Holy See) was the Vicar of Christ. You know well, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who suffered on the Cross for us, thereby bought for us the kingdom of heaven” and:

“And what our Lord, the Supreme Judge, is in heaven, that was St Peter on earth; he had those keys of the kingdom, according to the text (Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whosoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven).”

Finally, and more recently, Pope Benedict XVI in the foreword of his book Jesus of Nazareth, 30 September 2006, writes (clearly implying that he is God’s servant — not God), “This is the point around which I will construct my own book (Without anchoring in God, the person of Jesus remains shadowy, unreal, and unexplainable).

“It sees Jesus in light of his communion with the Father, which is the true centre of his personality; without it, we cannot understand him at all, and it is from this centre that he makes himself present to us today.”

Micheal O’Cathail, Fermanagh