Guest Article: Prayers to the Pope?? by Tony Costa
Friday, April 08, 2005 - Six days after the death of Pope John Paul II
Dear Friends, many of you are probably saying, "Oh no, here's goes Tony again with the Pope"! Please understand that I love Roman Catholics. I was raised in this faith and I came from a very devout and religious family. A number of my family relatives are and have been Roman Catholic priests. The majority of my family is Roman Catholic, how can I show any hatred to them? I cannot, but I must speak the truth in love (Eph.4:15), because if I love them, then I am constrained to tell them the truth of the whole counsel of God. My feelings are similar to that of the Apostle Paul in Rom.9:1-3 who expressed his deep anguish for his people, the Jews, because of their overwhelming rejection of Jesus as Messiah. He laments the fact that one of the reasons for their down fall was that they were seeking a righteousness of their own, based on their own merits and works, and they did not accept the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ's finished work. (Rom.10:1-4) Sound familair? It should, because this is the same condition with our Roman Catholic friends. They seek a righteousness based on sacraments, merits, the Mass, purgatory, etc.
The past few days have been open to the whole world including what has been said. At the Pope's funeral today, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of the College of Cardinals delivered the homily. In that homily he declared what is common knowledge, the Pope's fervent devotion to Mary. What prompted my attention this time however, was a shocking discovery to find that the deceased Pope was invoked in prayer by Cardinal Ratzinger! In the conclusion of the homily the following words appear:
"We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
The whole homily can be read here.
The "Holy Father" in this prayer is Pope John Paul II. One visitor at the Vatican claimed she came to pray *for* the Pope and *to* the Pope because she considers him a saint already, even though in the Roman Catholic Church one is declared a saint through a process of canonization. How different is this from the biblical teaching that all who are in Christ are all "saints" or "holy ones" (1 Cor. 1:2) Canonization is unbiblical and part of the "traditions of men". (Mark 7:1-13)
Notice that the Pope was invoked in prayer, an act of worship reserved for God alone. To pray to anyone or anything beside the Triune God is idolatry. Also notice the title, "Holy Father". Sound familiar? It should because this was the title that Jesus addressed His Father by and only His Father in His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17. Notice in John 17:11,
"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name?the name you gave me?so that they may be one as we are one."
God is the Holy Father. By what right does any human being have the tenacity to appropriate this sacred Name to themselves? Is it blasphemy? In Matthew 23:8-9 the Lord Jesus taught His disciples,
"But you are not to be called ?Rabbi,? for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ?father,? for you have one Father, and he is in heaven."
In this passage, the Lord Jesus is telling the disciples not to be like the Pharisees who desire to have special titles like "rabbi", "father", "teacher", etc. He tells them that they are not to call each other by these titles, for God alone is our Father. Note the context, this has nothing to do with earthly parents, but it has much to do with spiritual pride.
Another perplexing issue is the fact that addressing a deceased person in prayer constitutes necromancy, consulting with the dead, a practice vehemently condemned by God. (Deut.18:9-13) The story of King Saul and the Witch of Endor should teach us that this practice is performed by those who have rejected God's Word. (1 Sam. 28:7-25) The New Testament also condemns any form of sorcery, or occultism which includes consulting the dead. (Gal.5:20; Rev.22:15)
Does this shock you? If not, why not? What is alarming is again the way many sweep this aside. These events clearly show that we have to get back to the Scriptures as the Reformers did. The words of Jerome, a biblical scholar and Christian of the fifth century still ring true today with chilling accuracy, "The ignorance of the Scriptures, is ignorance of Christ." Jesus Christ is the only hope, the only way to Heaven, His sacrifice was complete on the cross of Calvary, salvation isby grace alone through faith alone without works. We have to share these truths with our Roman Catholic friends if we truly love them.
"But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify
solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24)
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