The Pope’s Message—Is It the Answer?
“BIDDING farewell to my countrymen in Cracow, . . . I wish that good, under the care of the Holy Virgin of Jasna Gora, could once again turn out to be more powerful than evil on Polish land.”
With these words Pope John Paul II concluded his 1983 visit to Poland. The New York Times reporter commented: “The reference to the icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, Poland’s most revered symbol of religion and nationalism, has been an underlying theme of the Pope’s trip.”—Italics ours.
“Passionate Attachment to the Virgin Mary”
Catholic writer Peter Hebblethwaite observes: “Devotion to Mary is something else that Wojtyla owes to the Polish long tradition. . . . Even in his briefest statements he alludes to Mary.” This significant remark is a clue to a predominant facet of the present pope’s religiosity—his attachment to the Virgin Mary under her many different manifestations in the Catholic world.
In his authorized biography of the pope, Lord Longford states: “His devotion to the blessed Virgin Mary is a fundamental part of him. . . . It is impossible to think of him without it. In this respect he shares no doubt in a fervent Polish tradition. His love of the Virgin Mary goes back to his earliest years.” Interestingly, his mother died when he was a child, so the same writer says: “It has been suggested that the early loss of his mother may have contributed to Wojtyla’s passionate attachment to the Virgin Mary in later years.” (Italics ours.) Peter Hebblethwaite comments: “Mary represents the feminine element in his life.”
Some Catholics Taken Aback
But as Hebblethwaite admits: “Some Catholics find this cult of Mary excessive; some Protestants dismiss it as unscriptural, superstitious and even, at the limit, blasphemous.” Even Mexican Bishop Sergio Mendez Arceo reproached the pope’s inordinate devotion to Mary; the innumerable references to the virgin of Guadalupe were “altogether too much.” Even more so when we remember that anthropologists identify this Virgin, ‘la Morenita,’ with the ‘sweet lady of Tepeyac,’ who is identified with the old Aztec goddess Tonantzin. Catholic priest Andrew Greeley admits “that Mary is one of the most powerful religious symbols in the history of the Western world. . . . The Mary symbol links Christianity directly to the ancient religions of mother goddesses.”—Italics ours.
How did some Italian Catholics react to Polish Catholicism? Writer Peter Nichols describes the reactions of a group who visited Poland to see for themselves the Catholic revival there. “The first shock—there were others—was that Jesus had a subordinate role. The Virgin Mary came first and the Polish pope second, with Jesus, as these young people put it, a bad third.” In this case, the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, “Most High over the whole world,” did not even make a worse fourth!—Psalm 83:18, Catholic Jerusalem Bible.
Whom Did Peter Emphasize?
All the foregoing gives us some understanding of the present pope’s Polish religious background and his basic message for mankind. He hammers home the role of the “Mother of God” as a mediatress between God and man. But is he teaching the right message for the times in which we live? Should he be emphasizing the mother of Christ? Or should he be proclaiming that which the apostle Peter and the early Christians preached as the only hope for mankind, namely, God’s Kingdom, or government rule, by Christ?
As a matter of interest, since the pope claims to be the legal successor to the apostle Peter, what did Peter say about Mary? Did he direct attention to her as the solution for mankind’s problems? Did he use her as a nationalist symbol? Did he exalt her above God and Christ in his worship?
The truth of the matter is that in his two letters he does not even mention Mary once! And she is mentioned in only 5 of the 27 books of the Greek Scriptures. Although she is spoken of in the Gospels with respect and favor for her humble role as the mother of the Messiah, no writer ever attributes any veneration to her.
In contrast, Peter does clearly highlight God’s role. In his first letter he states: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And, regarding Jesus, he said to fellow believers: “Set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “The revelation of Jesus Christ,” not Mary, will mean the end of this corrupt system of things. By means of the cleansing “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” all wickedness will be removed from the earth. Justice and righteousness will be restored through Christ’s Kingdom rule from the heavens.—1 Peter 1:3, 13; Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11.
Peter wrote of that Kingdom, saying: “In fact, thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This same heavenly Kingdom government is going to rid the earth of all elements that blaspheme Jehovah’s name and pollute this earth. As Peter emphatically states: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Peter 1:11; 3:13; Daniel 2:44.
The Right Message and the Right Mediator
Therefore, the true message for the nations today is not involvement in politics or nationalism; neither is it a matter of venerating a man-made tradition about Mary, “the feminine aspect of God,” as priest Greeley calls her. The vital message for our perilous times is that which Jesus commanded: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matthew 24:14.
Jesus urged his followers to pray for that Kingdom to come when he counseled: “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.’” Did Jesus say that his followers should request God’s Kingdom through his mother, Mary? His own answer is: “Also, whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son [not the mother]. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Clearly, Christ is the sole Mediator between God and man, even as the apostle Paul affirmed: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus.”—Matthew 6:9, 10; John 14:13, 14; 1 Timothy 2:5.
Therefore, if we want a solid hope for the future of mankind and the earth, to whom must we turn? Is it to the “Queen of Poland,” as the pope has suggested so many times? What did Jesus say? “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Yes, everlasting life is through Jehovah God and Christ Jesus because the Kingdom is also through them. And knowledge of them is obtained by means of a study of God’s Word, the Bible, “the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”—John 17:3; 2 Timothy 3:15.
We urge all sincere persons, Catholics and others, to acquire that knowledge. You, too, can know of God’s Kingdom and look forward to the fast-approaching time when “he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” Jehovah’s Witnesses in your neighborhood will gladly help you to understand the Bible by means of a free home Bible study, without any obligation.—Revelation 21:4.
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If we want a solid hope for the future, to whom must we turn—Mary or God?
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The pope has a “passionate attachment to the Virgin Mary”