The adoration and pomp that Americans have shown Pope Francis is rivaled only by visits from British Royal family – especially the queen. The Pope’s historic first visit comes at a time when America is besieged by moral, social, and political problems. With his inspirational message to Congress, perhaps His Holiness might inspire our wayward politicians to set an example that will help bring some well-needed harmony to their divisive and conflict driven behavior.
Pope Francis since he became pope in 2013 has advocated positions on homosexuality, poverty, and other social issues that the Catholic Church does not traditionally sanction. He also supported the Iran Nuclear deal, which puts him at odd with the GOP. Although he is somewhat liberal in comparison to his predecessors, he seems more comfortable talking about these controversial issues.
Historically, popes have influenced social and political changes around the world. One significant change that popes from the time of antiquity are known for is their spread of Christianity. Had it not been for the influence of the Vatican, Western civilization would likely not have known Christianity and America would be a land occupied only by the Native American Indians.
Around AD 410, England and the rest of the European countries were a pagan society ruled by kings who worshiped pagan gods. This was a time of conflict, Barbarism and frequent battles to gain control of territories and dominance over people. It was the law of the jungle then and only the strong survive. Under these conditions, it would have been unlikely that English society would have to become a world power known as the British Empire.
The Romans were well familiar with England as they occupied the country before the arrival of the Saxons. With war back in Italy, the Romans were called back home to defend the nation. This opened up England to rebellion, invasions from the continent and internal battles with adjacent Kingdoms.
Monarchial conflict was rife during the early history of England. To help defend their kingdoms, the English monarchy brought in mercenaries from Saxony, Germany and other parts of Europe. Sensing that the English people were weak, the powerful and militaristic Saxons took control of England. They would eventually assimilate the original people who were already occupying England and who came from the continent. They ruled until 1092 when the Normans took over Britain but by then the Anglo-Saxon culture was deeply ingrained in the society.
The Anglo-Saxon people and their kings were pagans who eventually converted to Christianity. This conversion happened under the guidance of St. Augustine who was sent to England by Pope Gregory I. King Aethelbert was the first king that St. Augustine converted. His conversion crusade is credited for building several churches in England and establishing Christianity in England.
One trait the Anglo-Saxons had was that of dominance. They preferred to dominate than be dominated and with their militaristic power, they were able to acquire kingdoms and eliminate anyone who was seen as a threat. With this mindset, it was inevitable that they would come into conflict with another powerful entity – the Pope.
In 1530, the conflict between the English monarchy and the papacy began when King Henry VIII wanted an annulment of his marriage to Anne Boylen. The Catholic Church refused to grant him the annulment and that prompted the King to separate the Church of England from papal authority. The king appointed himself head of the Church of England and was free from the interference of the Catholic Church to divorce his wife.
It was also during the 16th century that the monarchy came in conflict with the Vatican again. The issue of Papal Bulls to Spain and Portugal to acquire territories in the Spice lands and in the New World was not favorable to England. Queen Elizabeth I rejected these Holy decrees and began an extensive exploration to grab lands.
Regardless of the conflict between the Vatican and England, had it not been for the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, England and in general, Western civilization probably would not have adopted Christianity. It is also possible that without the influence of the Pope, America would not exist the way it does today. The English people would not have left England because they would not have their religious conflict with the King James.
The love and adoration that Americans have shown Pope Francis is probably the subconscious expression of gratitude in response to the papal influence that chartered the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon people in England, America and other countries.
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