The Papal Visit
Pope Benedict XVI is due to visit Britain from 16th-19th of September. Most people, whether politicians, churchmen or members of the public, are either indifferent to the prospect or looking forward to it. Only a few voices have been heard speaking out.
Judging by the general silence most professing Christians do not appear to have any great difficulty with the visit. They see it simply as a religious leader visiting his flock. The Pope will come and the Pope will go and that will be it. But is it right for us to have such an easy view of the matter? What should our attitude to the papal visit be?
We must say at the outset that we do not believe that the Pope is to be regarded as just another leader of just another church. Not for nothing does our Westminster Confession of Faith identify the Pope of Rome as “that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God.” The reformers knew what they were talking about. They noted that the Bible warns of a great apostasy to occur in the church, resulting in the rise of a powerful, pseudo-Christian figure who would be a rival to Jesus Christ (1 Tim.4:1-3; 1John 2:18; 2Thess.2:3,4). They realised that the papacy alone matches the description.
Because of its blasphemous claims we too unhesitatingly affirm that the papacy is the Antichrist. This gives us sufficient reason not to welcome the Pope. But there is also the fact that the Pope is being invited to our country by the Prime Minister with the approval of the Queen: it is a formal visit by the head of the Roman Catholic Church to an officially-Protestant country which has once and for all rejected the popish religion.
Our attitude to the papal visit therefore must be to oppose it vigorously. We are thankful that there are some who have raised their voice in protest and plan to mount a Christian witness in various locations during the visit. At the very least the matter ought to have a place in our prayers.
We should pray even now that the papal visit will not take place. As far as we can see this would be the best outcome of all. Why should we assume that what men arrange to happen is bound to happen? Our God is sovereign and He is able to bring to nought the ambitions of those who defy His own cause. He will do so, if it pleases Him, as His people humble themselves before Him and call upon His Name.
We should pray that if the Lord does permit the papal visit to take place then we will take the opportunity to make Christ and his salvation known. 2010 sees the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation when Popery was abolished in Scotland and the stand of John Knox and others provides us with a noble example. We are being given a great opening to remind our countrymen of our precious Christian heritage!
We should pray that if the papal visit does take place then many will learn the difference between true and false religion. While the spectacle of a papal tour with its pomp and ceremony may impress some, it has nothing to offer to man’s empty heart. The gospel of God’s grace in our Lord Jesus Christ may not have outward show but it has mighty, lifechanging power. It is what sinners really need. Let it be preached!