The Fellowship of Life
From The Catholic Times of March 26, 2000:
Vegetarian and Pacifist Tara Holmes was shocked to discover that a leading Italian cardinal had linked her principles with the beast described in the Book of Revelation. But what is the story behind the outburst?
I am a vegetarian. I am a pacifist. I believe, amongst other things,
in protecting the environment and in animal rights. But I'm certain that
this does not make me the Antichrist, or other likeminded Catholics who
support these causes.
Yet a few weeks ago Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, 71, Archbishop of
Bologna, caused an international uproar, when he suggested that the
Antichrist was already on earth in the guise of a prominent
philanthropist who espoused vegetarianism, pacifism, environmentalism
and animal rights.
Christians who support any of these four disciplines were somewhat
alarmed by these remarks. A report in The Times kicked off the
controversy, claiming the cardinal had warned that the Antichrist would
advocate ecumenicalism to mask his real aim of destroying Christianity
and "the death of God". He would also seek to water down and undermine
Catholicism to the point where it collapsed.
The cardinal was also reported as saying that the Antichrist was not
the beast with seven heads in the Book of Revelation but a "fascinating
personality" who could charm and deceive his enemies. The Antichrist
would be an expert on the Bible but promote "vague and spiritual"
Prince Charles and Mikhail Gorbachev were immediately named as
contenders for the title. And George Monbiot, the Pope-bashing, Guardian
columnist, declared himself a candidate.
Strange that a cardinal, also tipped by the papers as "the leading
Conservative contender to succeed the Pope" would condemn Christians
concerned by justice, peace, human rights and the environment?
The cardinal was speaking at a conference in Bologna about the work
of Vladmir Solovyov, a Russian philosopher and mystic, when the
international intrigue over his speach began.
He hailed the Russian as a "forgotten prophet" who had "lucidly
forseen" the horrors of the 20th Century.
The cardinal also explained that Solovyov had predicted the rise of
the Antichirst after a century of bloodshed, wars, revolutions and the
breakdown of the nation state.
Mgr Kieran Conry, of the Catholic Media Office, who has done a rough
translation of the speach from Italian, said: "By reporting Solovyov's
beliefs, Cardinal Biffi seems to be endorsing them.
"It does seem to be a side swipe at contemporary, social,
philanthropic values. He picks out the University of Tubingen, Germany,
which seems to be a thinly veiled reference to Hans Kung and some modern
Deborah Jones, of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, said
she was concerned that the cardinal's speach had been misinterpreted.
She said Solovyov had been a "tremendous ecumenist" and had
passionately believed in Christian unity. "Anything that suggests that
pacifists and veggies are anti-Christ-like is complete nonsense."
Catholic theologian Edward Echlin, of Christian Ecology Link, said:
"I would want to see the text of Cardinal Giacomo Biffi's address before
commenting in detail, but the words attributed, effectively contradict
the two great commandments of Jesus Christ".
"To describe as Antichrist Christians who care for justice, peace and
environment, would be to criticise the present Holy Father, which I am
sure Cardinal Biffi would never do," he said.
"Love of God and neighbour seamlessly includes social justice, peace,
care for animals, and all creation.
"Cardinal Biffi should consider Pope John Paul II's beautiful,
Biblically-based address on January 26 to 7,000 pilgrims in the Pope
Paul VI Audience Hall, when he said: "The glory of the Trinity - we can
say the Christian tradition - is resplendent in creation. Our discovery
of God's transcendent presence in the created world should lead us to
work to establish the harmony which God intended from the beginning."
Pax Christi's Pat Gaffney said the debate about Cardinal Biffi's
speach detracted from "all the good things that happen in the Church."
She said: "Human rights, inter-faith dialogue, peace and ecumenism -
these are all foundations of the contemporary Church and contemporary
social teaching. These should guide how people act and are models we
should live by.
"At Pax Christi, we're seeking to be faithful and to adopt a Christ-like way of living."
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