Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pope Francis’ in-flight press conference from Armenia


Pope Francis speaks to reporters aboard the papal flight from Africa to Italy, Nov. 30, 2015. Credit: Martha Calderon/CNA.

Aboard the papal plane, Jun 26, 2016 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his flight from Armenia to Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis gave a press conference to the assembled journalists aboard the papal plane. He reflected on his three-day trip to Armenia, his upcoming trips to Azerbaijan and Poland, the role of the Pope emeritus, Christian unity, and the reformation.

He also addressed Brexit, the idea of deaconesses, and how the Church might apologize for unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons.

Please find below the full text of the press conference, translated by Catholic News Agency:
Fr. Lombardi: Holy Father, thanks so much for being here at the end of this quite brief, but very intense trip. We have been content to accompany you and now we wish to pose you some questions, taking advantage of your kindness. We have a list of people who are signed up to speak and we can begin, as is usual, with the colleagues from Armenia, as we give them the priority. The first is Artur Grygorian, of Armenian Public Television.

Pope Francis: I thank you so much for your help on this trip, all of your work that does good to people… communicating well the things. They are good news… and good news always does good. Thanks so much! Thanks.

Artur Grygorian (Armenian Public Television): Your Holiness, it is known you have Armenian friends, you had contacts with the Armenian community earlier in Argentina. During the last three days you touched the Armenian spirit. What are your feelings, impressions? And what will be your message for the future, your prayers for Armenia? Thanks.

Pope Francis: Well, let’s think to the future and then let’s go to the past. I hope for justice and peace for this people and I pray for this, because it is a courageous people. And I pray that they find justice and peace. I know that so many are working for this; and also I was very happy last week when I saw a photograph of President Putin with the two Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents… at least they’re speaking! And also with Turkey and the president of the republic in his welcoming speech spoke clearly, he had the courage to say: let’s come to an agreement, forgive each other, and look to the future. And this is a great courage for a people who has suffered so much, no? It’s the icon of the Armenian people. This came to me today while I was praying a bit. It’s a life of stone and a tenderness of a mother. It has carried crosses, but stone crosses – and you see them, eh! – but it has not lost its tenderness, art, music, those “suspended chords”, so difficult to understand and with great geniality. A people who has suffered so much in its history and only the faith has kept it on its feet, because the fact is that it was the first Christian nation, this isn’t sufficient! It was the frist Christian nation because the Lord blessed it, because it had the saints, it had bishop saints, martyrs, and for this in resisting Armenia has made itself a “stony skin”, let’s call it that, but it has not lost the tenderness of a maternal heart. Armenia is also a mother!

And this is the second question, let’s go to the first now. If I had so many contacts with the Armenians… I went often with them to Masses, I have many Armenian friends… One thing that I usually don’t like to do for rest, but I would go to dinner with them and you have heavy dinners, eh! But, very good friends, no? A very good friend is Archbishop Kissag Mouradian and Boghossian, a Catholic… but among you, more important than belonging to the Apostolic Church or the Catholic Church, is the “Armenism”, and I understood this in those times. Today, an Argentinian from an Armenian family that when I went to the Masses, the archbishop always made him sit next to me so he could explain some ceremonies or some words that I didn’t know greeted me. One, two and three, but I start with three.

Fr. Lombardi: Now we give the word to another Armenian representative, Jeannine Paloulian.

Jeannine Paloulian (Nouvelles d’Armenie): Yesterday evening at the ecumenical encounter of prayer you asked about carrying out reconciliation with Turkey and Azerbaijan. I would like to ask you simply, given that you are about to go to Azerbaijan in some weeks, what will you do, a concrete sign like you’ve given to Armenia, what is the sign you’d like to give to Azerbaijan tomorrow?

Pope Francis: I will speak to the Azerbaijanis of the truth of what I have seen, of what I have felt and I will also encourage them. I met the Azerbaijani president and I spoke with him… I’ll tell you also that not making peace for a little piece of land, because it’s not a big deal, means something dark, no? But I say this to all the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis… Possibly, they can’t agree on the ways of making peace, and on this they need to work. But I don’t know what else to say… I will say that at the moment it comes to my heart, but always positively trying to find solutions that are viable, that move ahead.

Fr. Lombardi: Thanks a lot. And now we give the floor to Jean Louis de La Vassiere of France Presse, for whom I believe it may be the last trip that he makes with us, so we are happy to give him a voice.

Jean Luis de La Vassiere (AFP): Holy Father, first I wanted to thank you on my behalf and for Sebastien Maillard of La Croix… we are leaving Rome and we wanted to thank you from our hearts for this spring breeze that you’re blowing on the Church… then I have a question: why did you decide to add openly the word genocide to your speech at the presidential palace? On a painful theme like this, do you think it’s useful for peace in this complicated region?

Pope Francis: In Argentina, when you spoke of the Armenian extermination, they always used the word “genocide.” I didn’t know another. At the cathedral in Buenos Aires, we put a stone cross in the third altar on the left, remembering the Armenian genocide. The archbishop came, two Armenian archbishops, the Catholic and the Apostolic, they inaugurated it… also the Apostolic Archbishop in the Catholic Church of St. Bartholomew made an altar in memory of St. Bartholomew… but always… I didn’t know another word. I come from this word. When I arrived in Rome, I heard another word: “The Great Evil” or the “terrible tragedy,” but in Armenian, I don’t know how to say it… and they tell me that no, that that is offensive, that of “genocide,” and that you must say this. I’ve always spoke of three genocides in the last century… always three! The first was the Armenian, then that of Hitler, and the last is that of Stalin… there are small ones, there is another in Africa, but as in the orbit of the two great wars there are these three… I’ve asked why… “but some feel like it’s not true, that there wasn’t a genocide”… another said to me… a lawyer told me this that really interested me: the word “genocide” is a technical word. It’s a word that has a technicity that it is not a synonym of “extermination.” You can say extermination, but declaring a “genocide” brings with it actions of reparation… this is what the lawyer said to me. Last year, when I was preparing the speech, I saw that St John Paul II had used the word, that he used both: Great Evil and genocide. And I cited that one in quotation marks… and it wasn’t received well. A statement was made by the Turkish government. Turkey, in a few days called its ambassador to Ankara, who is a great man, Turkey sent us a top ambassador, who returned three months ago… “an ambassadorial fast.” But, he has the right.. The right to protest, we all have it. In this speech at the start there wasn’t a word, that is true. I respond because I added it. But after having heard the tone of the speech of the president and also with my past with this word, and having said this word last year in St. Peter’s publicly, it would have sounded strange not to say at least the same thing. But there, I wanted to underscore something else, and I don’t think I err that I also said: in this genocide, as in the other two, the great international powers looked in the other direction. And this was the thing. In the Second World War some powers, which had photographed the train lines that led to Auschwitz had the possibility to bomb and didn’t do it. An example. In the context of the First War, where was the problem of the Armenians? And in the context of the Second War where was the problem of Hitler and Stalin and after Yalta of the area… and all that no one speak about. One has to underscore this. And make the historical question: why didn’t you do this, you powers?

I don’t accuse, I ask a question. It’s curious. They looked at the war, at so many things… but not the people… and I don’t know if it’s true, but I would like to know if it’s true that when Hitler persecuted the Jews, one of the words, of the thing that he may have said was “Well, who remembers today the Armenians, let’s do the same with the Jews.” I don’t know if it’s true, maybe it’s hearsay, but I’ve heard this said. Historians, search and see if it’s true. I think I answered. But I never said this word with an offensive intention, if not objectively.

Elisbetta Piqué, La Nacion: Congratulations for the trip, first of all. We wanted to ask you: we know that you are the Pope and Pope Benedict, the Pope Emeritus, is also there, but lately some statements from the prefect of the pontifical household, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, have come down, who suggested that there is a shared Petrine ministry, if I’m not mistaken, with one active Pope and one contemplative Pope. Are there two Popes?

Pope Francis: There was a time in the Church when there were three! (laughs) I didn’t read those declarations because I didn’t have time to see those things. Benedict is a Pope Emeritus, he said it clearly that February 11th when he was giving his resignation as of February 28th when he would retire and help the Church with prayer.

And, Benedict is in the monastery praying. I went to see him so many times… or by telephone. The other day he wrote me a little little letter. He still signs with his signature, wishing me well for this trip, and once, not once but many times, I’ve said that it’s a grace to have a wise grandfather at home. I’ve also told him to his face and he laughs, but for me he is the Pope Emeritus. He is the wise grandfather. He is the man that protects my shoulders and back with his prayer.

I never forget that speech he made to us cardinals on February 28th, “among you I’m sure that there is my successor. I promise obedience.” And he’s done it. But, then I’ve heard, but I don’t know if it’s true, this, eh – I underscore, I heard this, maybe they’re just rumors but they fit with his character – that some have gone there (to him) to complain because of this new Pope… and he chased them away, eh, with the best Bavarian style, educated, but he chased them away. I don’t know if it’s true. It’s welcome because this man is like that. He’s a man of his word, an upstanding, upstanding, upstanding man.

He is the Pope Emeritus. Then, I don’t know if you remember that I thanked him publicly. I don’t know when but I think it was on a flight, Benedict, for having opened the door to Popes emeriti. But, 70 years ago bishops emeriti didn’t exist. Today, we have them… but with this lengthening of life, but can you run a Church at this age, with aches and pains or not? And he, courageously, and with prayer and with science, with theology decided to open this door and I believe that this is good for the Church.

But there is one single Pope, and the other… maybe they will be like the bishops emeriti, I’m not saying many but possibly there could be two or three. They will be emeriti… They are emeriti.

The day after tomorrow, the 65th anniversary of his episcopal (Fr. Lombardi says something to the Pope), sorry, priestly ordination will be celebrated. His brother Georg will be there because they were both ordained together. There will be a little event with the dicastery heads and few people because he prefers a … he accepted, but very modestly, and also I will be there and I will say something to this great man of prayer, of courage that is the Pope Emeritus, not the second Pope, who is faithful to his word and a great man of God, is very intelligent, and for me he is the wise grandfather at home.

Fr. Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness. And now we give the word to Alexej Bukalov, one of our deans, who as you know represents Italtass, and so the Russian culture is with us.

Pope Francis: Did you speak Russian in Armenia?

Bukalov (Italtass): Thank you Holiness, thanks for this trip which is your first trip on ex-Soviet territory and for me it was very important to follow it. My question goes a bit outside of this issue: I know that you have greatly encouraged this Pan-Orthodox Council, when even at the encounter with Patriarch Kirill in Cuba it was mentioned as a wish. Now what judgement do you make of this, let’s say, “forum.”

Pope Francis: A positive judgement. A step was made forward, not with 100 percent, but a step forward. The things that have “justified,” in quotation marks, and I’m sincere about them, are the things that with time can be resolved. Also themselves, these four who didn’t go, who wanted to do it a little bit later. But I think the first step is made as you can, as children, they make their first step but they do as they can. First they do like cats and then they take their first steps. I am happy. They’ve spoken of so many things. I think the result is positive. The single fact that these autocephalous Churches have gathered in the name of Orthodoxy to look upon each others’ faces, to pray together and speak and maybe tell some jokes… but that is extremely positive! I thank the Lord! At the next there will be more. Blessed be the Lord.

Fr. Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness.. Now we pass the microphone to Edward Pentin who represents the English language this time.

Edward Pentin (National Catholic Register): As John Paul II, you seem to be a supporter of the European Union and you praised the European project when you recently won the Charlemagne prize. Are you worried that Brexit could bring about the disintegration of Europe and eventually war?

Pope Francis: There is already a war in Europe. Moreover, there is a climate of division, not only in Europe, but in its own countries. If you remember Catalonia, last year Scotland. These divisions… I don’t say that they are dangerous, but we must study them well, and before take a step forward for a division, to speak well amongst ourselves, and seek out viable solutions… I honestly don’t know. I have not studied the reasons why the United Kingdom wanted to make this decision, but there are divisions. I believe I said this once, I don’t know where, but I said it: That independence will make for emancipation. For instance, all our Latin American countries, even the countries of Africa, have emancipated from the crown, from Madrid. Even in Africa from Paris, London, Amsterdam . . . And this is an emancipation, and is more understandable because behind it there is a culture, there is a way of thinking . . . . rather, the seccession of a country — I’m still not speaking of Brexit; we think of Scotland, all these… It is a thing that has been given a name, and this I say without offending, it is a word which politicians use: Balkanization, without speaking ill of the Balkans. It is somewhat of a seccession, it is not emancipation. And behind (it) there are histories, cultures, misunderstandings, even good will . . . this is clear. For me, unity is always better than conflict, but there are different ways of unity . . . and even fraternity, and here comes the European Union; fraternity is better than animosity and distance. Fraternity is better and bridges are better than walls. One must reflect on all of this. It is true: a country . . . I am in Europe, but . . . I want to have certain things that are mine from my culture and the step that . . . and here I come to the Charlemagne Prize, which is given by the European Union to discover the strength that it had from its roots. It is a step of creativity, and also of “healthy disunity,” to give more independence, more liberty to countries of the Union, to think of another form of Union, to be creative. And creative in places of work, in the economy. There is a liquid economy in Europe. For instance, in Italy 40 percent of young people aged 25 and younger do not have work. There is something that is not good in this massive Union, but we do not throw the baby in the bath water out the window, no? We look to redeem the things and recreate, because recreation of human things, also our personality, is a journey, which one must always take. A teenager is not like an adult, or an elderly person. It is the same and it is not the same. One recreates continuously. It is this that gives life, the desire to live, and gives fruitfulness. And this I underline: today, the word, the two key words for the European Union, are creativity and fruitfulness. This is the challenge. I don’t know, it’s what I think.

Fr. Lombardi: Thank you Holiness, and so now we give the word to Tilmann Kleinjung, who is from the ARD, from the national German radio and also I think this might be his last trip so we are happy to give him this possibility.

Kleinjung (ARD): Yes, also I am about to depart for Bavaria. Thanks for this question.

Pope Francis: Too much beer!

Kleinjung: Too much beer … Holy Father, I wanted to ask you a question. Today you spoke of the gifts of the shared Churches, of the gifts shared by the Churches together. Seeing that you will go in I believe four months to Lund for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I think perhaps this is also the right moment for us not only to remember the wounds on both sides but also to recognize the gifts of the reformation. Perhaps also – this is a heretical question – perhaps to annul or withdraw the excommunication of Martin Luther or of some sort of rehabilitation. Thank you.

Pope Francis: I think that the intentions of Martin Luther were not mistaken. He was a reformer. Perhaps some methods were not correct. But in that time, if we read the story of the Pastor, a German Lutheran who then converted when he saw reality – he became Catholic – in that time, the Church was not exactly a model to imitate. There was corruption in the Church, there was worldliness, attachment to money, to power…and this he protested. Then he was intelligent and took some steps forward justifying, and because he did this. And today Lutherans and Catholics, Protestants, all of us agree on the doctrine of justification. On this point, which is very important, he did not err. He made a medicine for the Church, but then this medicine consolidated into a state of things, into a state of a discipline, into a way of believing, into a way of doing, into a liturgical way and he wasn’t alone; there was Zwingli, there was Calvin, each one of them different, and behind them were who? Principals! We must put ourselves in the story of that time. It’s a story that’s not easy to understand, not easy. Then things went forward, and today the dialogue is very good. That document of justification I think is one of the richest ecumenical documents in the world, one in most agreement. But there are divisions, and these also depend on the Churches. In Buenos Aires there were two Lutheran churches, and one thought in one way and the other…even in the same Lutheran church there was no unity; but they respected each other, they loved each other, and the difference is perhaps what hurt all of us so badly and today we seek to take up the path of encountering each other after 500 years. I think that we have to pray together, pray. Prayer is important for this. Second, to work together for the poor, for the persecuted, for many people, for refugees, for the many who suffer; to work together and pray together and the theologians who study together try…but this is a long path, very long. One time jokingly I said: I know when full unity will happen. – “when?” – “the day after the Son of Man comes,” because we don’t know…the Holy Spirit will give the grace, but in the meantime, praying, loving each other and working together. Above all for the poor, for the people who suffer and for peace and many things…against the exploitation of people and many things in which they are jointly working together.

Cecile Chambraud (Le Monde): Asks a question about deaconesses.

Pope Francis: There is a president in Argentina who advised presidents of other countries: “When you want something not to be resolved, make a commission.” But, the first to be surprised by this news was me… The dialogue with religious was recorded and published on L’Osservatore Romano and something else… And we had heard that in the first centuries there were deaconesses. One could study this and one could make a commission. Nothing more has been requested. They were educated, not just educated, beloved of the Church. And I recounted that I knew a Syrian, a Syrian theologian who had died, the one who wrote a critical edition of Saint Ephrem, in Italian, and once speaking of deaconesses, when I came and was staying at Via della Scrofa, he lived there, at breakfast speaking…  but he did not know well if they had ordination. Certainly there were these women who helped the bishop, and helped in three things: In the baptism of women, because there was the baptism of immersion; second, in the pre-baptismal unction for women, third – this makes me laugh – when there was a woman who went to complain to the bishop because her husband beat her, the bishop called one of these deaconesses, who looked at the woman’s body to find bruises… this is why it was done for this.

But, one can study, if it is the doctrine of the Church and if one might create this commission. They said: “The Church opens the door to deaconesses.” Really? I am a bit angry because this is not telling the truth of things. I spoke with the prefect of the [Congregation for the] Doctrine of the Faith, and he told me, “look, there is a study which the international theological commission had made in 1980.” And I asked the president to please make a list.

Give me a list of who I can take to create this commission. He sent me the list to create this commission, but I believe that the theme has been studied a lot, and I don’t think it will be difficult to shed light on this argument. But, there is another thing, a year and a half ago I made a commission of women theologians who had worked with Cardinal Rylko, who had written a lovely book, because woman’s thought is important. The women think differently from us, and one cannot make a good decision without listening to women. Sometimes in Buenos Aires, I consulted with my advisers, and then I asked women to come and they saw things in another light, which departed greatly . . . But, then, the solutions (were) very fruitful, very lovely.

I must meet these women who have done a good job, but because the dicastery of the laity is changing now, and I am waiting for what it does. But, to continue this second work which is another thing, the theological women . . . But this, I would like to emphasize, is more important: the way of understanding, of thinking, of seeing of women and the capabilities of women. The Church is a woman. It is ‘la Chiesa’, who is not a spinster; she is a woman married to the son of God, she is the spouse of Jesus Christ.

Cindy Wooden, CNS: Holiness, within the past few days Cardinal Marx, the German, speaking at a large conference in Dublin which is very important on the Church in the modern world, said that the Catholic Church must ask forgiveness to the gay community for having marginalized these people. In the days following the shooting in Orlando, many have said that the Christian community had something to do with this hate toward these people. What do you think?

Pope Francis: I will repeat what I said on my first trip. I repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected and accompanied pastorally. One can condemn, but not for theological reasons, but for reasons of political behavior…Certain manifestations are a bit too offensive for others, no? … But these are things that have nothing to do with the problem. The problem is a person that has a condition, that has good will and who seeks God, who are we to judge? And we must accompany them well…this is what the catechism says, a clear catechism. Then there are traditions in some countries, in some cultures that have a different mentality on this problem. I think that the Church must not only ask forgiveness – like that “Marxist Cardinal” said (laughs) – must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended. But she must ask forgiveness to the poor too, to women who are exploited, to children who are exploited for labor. She must ask forgiveness for having blessed so many weapons. The Church must ask forgiveness for not behaving many times – when I say the Church, I mean Christians! The Church is holy, we are sinners! – Christians must ask forgiveness for having not accompanied so many choices, so many families…I remember from my childhood the culture in Buenos Aires, the closed Catholic culture. I go over there, eh! A divorced family couldn’t enter the house, and I’m speaking of 80 years ago. The culture has changed, thanks be to God. Christians must ask forgiveness for many things, not just these. Forgiveness, not just apologies. Forgive, Lord. It’s a word that many times we forget. Now I’m a pastor and I’m giving a sermon. No, this is true, many times. Many times … but the priest who is a master and not a father, the priest who beats and not the priest who embraces, forgives and consoles. But there are many. There are many hospital chaplains, prison chaplains, many saints. But these ones aren’t seen. Because holiness is modest, it’s hidden. Instead it’s a little bit of blatant shamelessness, it’s blatant and you see so many organizations of good people and people who aren’t as good and people who … because you give a purse that’s a little big and look at you from the other side like the international powers with three genocides. We Christians – priests, bishops – we have done this. But also we Christians have Teresa of Calcutta and many Teresa of Calcuttas. We have many servants in Africa, many laity, many holy marriages. The wheat and the weeds. And so Jesus says that the Kingdom … we must not be scandalized for being like this. We must pray so that the Lord makes these weeds end and there is more grain. But this is the life of the Church. We can’t put limits. All of us are saints, because all of us have the Holy Spirit. But we are all sinners, me first of all! Alright. I don’t know if I have replied.

Fr. Lombardi: Holy Father, I’m allowing myself to pose you a final question and then we’ll leave you in peace.

Pope Francis: Don’t put me in difficulty!

Fr. Lombardi: No, it’s about the coming trip to Poland which we are already starting to prepare for, and you will dedicate this month of July to preparing for. If you could tell us something of the feelings with which you’re going to this World Youth Day in this Jubilee of Mercy… and another more specific point is this: we visited the Memorial of Tzitzernakaberd with you during the visit to Armenia… and you will also visit Auschwitz and Birkenau during the trip to Poland… so, now I felt saying that you desire to live this moment with more silence than with words as you have done here, also at Birkenau [sic] and I wanted to ask if you preferred to make a moment of silent prayer with a specific motive.

Pope Francis: Two years ago at Redipuglia I did the same to commemorate the centenary of the Great War, at Redipuglia. I went in silence… then there was a Mass, at Mass I preached, but there was something else. The silence. Today, we saw this morning the silence… it was today, right?

Fr. Lombardi: Yesterday.

Pope Francis: Yesterday… the silence… I would like to go to that place of horror, without speeches, without people, just the little necessities… but there will certainly be journalists… but without greeting this and this… no, no… alone, entering, praying and may the Lord give me the grace of crying. It’s this.

Fr. Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness… now, we will accompany you also in the preparation of this next trip and we thank you so much for the time you’ve dedicated us… and now, rest a bit, eat also, and rest also in the month of July, then …

Pope Francis: Again, thanks, also for your work and your benevolence. Thank you!



Dear brothers and sisters, within next several months I shall point the two edged sword upon the subject that has much undeservedly been ignored by Protestantism in general and by us Reformed Christians in particular – that subject being of upmost importance, that being the one of the fallacy of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity in general and Serbian Orthodox Church in particular. What I am about to preach and teach pains me much as I am rather sure that it pains you to and it most certainly pains God as none of us takes any pleasure in knowledge that unknown millions of our fellow men and women are marching steadfastly in a direction of condemnation and ultimately hell. We the Reformed Christians MUST take upon ourselves the knowledge that our dearest, sometimes our families, friends, neighbors in the narrow and in most vide sense of the term are our missionary field and that it is upon us to spread our doctrine and theology in shape of wave upon wave of saving faith starting from this very pulpit and to the ends of the spiritually contaminated area of Eastern Orthodoxy. Having said that I would appeal to each and every one of you to reach towards your families, friends and neighbors and to invite them to attend each and every sermon, and that should they be prevented for any reason to listen to it from the sermon library of the web presentation of our Church.

With much of the attention of the Reformation being streamlined in a direction of the false religion of the Roman Catholic Church, it has been inexcusably omitted that about 200 to 300 million souls belonging to Eastern Orthodoxy are in many ways not only following but in fact leading the way of fallacious dogma and theology for the last XXI centuries.


“Knowing this first, that no prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21)

Peter one of Christ’s disciples clearly indicates his unshakable certainty that all the Scripture is breath by the Holy Spirit. Equally so, during his Earthly ministry our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and I do pray that you keep in mind that the Old Testament represented the only Holy Scripture at the time, as Messiah and source of Christianity thought that all of the Old Testament Scriptures are fully inspired by God and indeed absolutely infallible. Indeed I shall let his own words reverberate this truth in your ears,

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)

In my preaching I shall keep the mindset of our Lord and his disciples thus do bare with me as I briefly walk you through historical angle concerning the Old Testament. Jewish cannon of the Old Testament which is also known as “the narrow cannon, or the Palestinian cannon” is in its entirety identical to the Protestant cannon of the Old Testament. Two differences are apparent though in that the Jewish version has combined  some of the books together thus making for a total of 24 instead of 39 Biblical books. The other difference regards the order of the Old Testament books, as the Jewish version begins with Genesis and ends with second book of Chronicles instead of with the book of the prophet Malachi.

The oldest text dealing with the content of the Old Testament represents the writing of Josifus Flavius, around 100 after Christ. According to his writing the main characteristic of the Old Testament is contained within a very fact that the Scriptures were God’s unquestionable proclamation of his sovereignty that took place in times of the Prophets and thus are without any doubt God inspired and breath. Josifus stated that Holy Scripture contains the history of the World from its formation all the way to the reign of king Artaxerxes the first of Persia. Indeed the cannon of the Old Testament was formed in time of the reign of Artaxerxes the first around the year of 424 BC. It is generally accepted that the task was started and partially accomplished by prophet Ezra while prophet Nehemiah finished the task.

However, although the cannon of the Old Testament was completed already in the V century BC in coming centuries additional Jewish historical books that did contain some religious tracts appeared. In 274 BC in city of Alexandria the translation of the seventy (or 72 as it may be the case) Septuaginta included those  apocryphal books which is another means of stating that they do contain some historical writings yet as not God inspired texts and thus they deviate from the rest of the Old Testament.  Josiphus commented “It is not that we have numerous books that deviate one from another or contradict each other. We have only 22 book which contain history of all times, books onto which we rightfully placed our faith. From those, five are books of Moses which contain laws and the earliest traditions from creation up the moment of Moses’s death. After Moses, all through to the time of Persian king Artaxerxes I, prophets that followed after Moses wrote down history of events as they revealed themselves  in their times, all together in thirteen books. The remaining four documents contain hymns to God and practical wisdom for men. From the time of Artaxerxes, every event has been dully documented, however the new scriptures were not held in high regard (unlike the ones that preceded them) as there were no more prophets around. Our firm stand concerning prophetic writings is reflected in fact that nobody even tried to add or subtract a single letter, although a lengthy period of 500 years has passed thus far. Every Jew holds that those books are God’s commandments and laws and that he or she has to abide to them to the point of if necessary laying their life down for them.”

What Josifus wrote can clearly be confirmed by very words of our Lord Jesus Christ. He, indeed, has never (not once) referred to the apocrypha even though they existed and  were contained within the opus of the Septuaginta, and have been dully read by Jews in diaspora. Jesus equally never referred to a single word of the Rabbinical writings which was otherwise most common practice among all the Jews of His day (as much as it is in our day for that matter). Jesus only quoted the God inspired texts of the Septuaginta, among which was God’s warning to lawless Jews of his time, in which he emphasized that due to the fact that they have rejected the Messiah the God’s righteous judgement shall befall them: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and cricify; and some of the shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23: 33 – 36)

As is evidenced by this passage Jesus mentions “all the righteous blood” connecting it to Abel which appears in first Moses’ 4: 8 – 11 and to Zacharias death which is described in 2nd Cornicles 24: 20 – 22. Although many other unnamed God’s servants have lost their lives after the God inspired books of the Old Testament were written, and most notably in times of the Maccabean revolt – all of which is indeed contained within pages of Septuaginta, our Lord Christ has by mentioning the names of two innocent victims, from the very beginning and the very end of the Jewish Bible – confirmed that He himself held that Genesis represents the beginning while the 2nd Cornicles is the last book of God’s Old Testament revelation (again let me emphasize – without the apocrypha). Finally around the year of 90 after Christ in Jamnia Council of Jewish Rabbis confirmed the finality and validity of the Old testament that excluded the apocrypha. That is to say in the form which we hold in our hands today.

Regardless of the fact that for centuries thereafter the cannon of the Old Testament contained the very books that we are recognizing as appropriately divinely inspired the Roman Catholic Church took rather decisive step in opposite direction, at the fourth session of the Council of Trent (in year 1546), to broaden the cannon of the Old Testament to 46 books in total (instead of 39) including additions to Daniel, or the Prayer of Azariah and the additions to Ester, which in effect represents the Greek Alexandrian translation known as I have already stated Septuaginta. This, my brothers and sisters, is the situation that one finds in Roman Catholic Bible of these days, and it shall remain thus given the infallibility of Roman Catholic Church.

On the other hand all of the Eastern Orthodox Churches as indeed was the case with the Serbian Orthodox Church introduced and accepted the extended version of the Old Testament in accordance with teachings of Atanatius of Alexandria (who held firm belief that the book of Baruch is fully canonical one), Kiril of Jerusalim and others. Such a position within the Serbian Orthodox Church was thereafter upheld by Saint Sava in his Nomocannon. However, in contrast to the unanimity that existed among the Eastern Orthodoxy in the earliest centuries, nowadays within the Serbian Orthodox theological circles there are two clearly discernable fractions at work. On the one hand are those that hold belief that the real Cannon of the Old Testament is so called Palestinian or shorter version of the Cannon (as is the case in translation by Djuro Danicic) while the other current which includes majority of the theologians of younger generation propagate upholding of the Alexandrian or the longer Cannon. This Cannon contains all of the books of the Palestinian cannon as well as all the Apocryphal books that have found its way into the Cannon upon consideration and finally decisions of many of the early Church Fathers: Basil the Great, Kiril of Alexandria, Jefrem of Siria etc…. As incredible as it sounds, the Eastern Orthodoxy is awaiting the coming of the next Council upon which, with the slight delay of about 21 centuries, they should finally decide upon the cannon that should be upheld by all of the Orthodox churches. Having said that, I shall enlighten you my dear brothers and sisters with the very fact that already today Theological Faculty of the Serbian Orthodox Church is teaching its students based upon a curriculum that contains the following – First Esdras, book of Tobit, book of Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, letter of Jeremiah, book of Baruch, First, second and third Maccabees and Second Esdras which in reality represents widening of the Alexandrian cannon which I emphasize again is the cannon upheld and in use by the Roman Catholic Church.

In fact, one of the most important Synods of the Eastern Orthodox Church was the one held in 1672 in Jerusalem. It was convoked in order to suppress the influence of Kiril of Lukaria and “group of Calvinists”, and upon that Synod it was explicitly decided that the books of Wisdom of Solomon, book of Judith, book of Tobit, Additions to Daniel and the four Maccabees are canonical.

Although I could say much more about the subsequent Synods of Eastern Orthodox Churches such as the one in Cartagena and following ones it is crystal clear that only Protestant and Evangelical Churches represent the only ones that honor the cannon of the Old Testament that was confirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ, in contrast to Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (the later ones who have not resolved the issue of which books belong to the Old Testament even after 2000 years of Christianity – and I do pray that they do resolve this “minor” issue prior to Christ return) I shall now direct your attention in a direction of the genesis of the New Testament – according to Eastern Orthodox Church.

This issue is of upmost importance as the theologians of Eastern Orthodox Church incessantly insist upon thesis that Christ’s Church (in their understanding that represents the synonym for Eastern Orthodox Church) existed before the New Testament, thus that it was the Eastern Orthodox Church the very one that wrote and decisively influenced final compilation of the cannon of the New Testament! Translated into any worldly language that means that only the “true and authentic” Christ’s Church (i.e. Eastern Orthodox Church) is the one that possesses the authority and blessing of the Holy Spirit to offer the only true meaning of the New Testament. This thesis is particularly, and often, voiced in disagreements between the Reformed Christian Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Church upon numerous issues of validity of Eastern Orthodox beliefs which have absolutely no basis in Holy Scripture and with which needless to say Reformed Churches cannot and will not agree to.

Here I shall offer to you exemplary reasoning of proto deacon Radomir Rakic upon the subject:

“The very existence and nature of the cannon implies existence of the Church. By this I state that without the Church there would have been no New Testament. In the very same manner as the New Testament represents a response (appeasement) of the Apostles and their followers to Christ, thus the Church represent the same appeasement; however, the New Testament is the fruit of the Church while the Church is not the fruit of the New Testament. The Church can preach, as it in fact did, gospel without intervention of the New Testament while the New Testament could not come into existence outside the very Church.”

Now as I have explained to you my brothers and sisters the monolithic stand of the Eastern Orthodox Church that it was this very Church that brought into existence the New Testament, and thus are the only ones to render the interpretation, in contrast to all others – and specially Protestants, I will place before you the question, When did the New Testament came into existence, or to put it more precisely when were the books of the New Testament written?

The fact that the New Testament books were written several decades upon the formation of Christ’s Church (which was born on the day of Pentecost – exactly ten days after Jesus’s assention to Heaven) – is a fact which no one, least of all Reformed Christians are going to bring into question. Thus, it is true that the Church, i.e. some of the members of the Church – Apostles and their disciples wrote the New Testament. It is equally true that the Church was at least for two decades without any New Testament writing, and thus that the gospel was transmitted exclusively by oral transmission (oral tradition as Eastern Orthodox prefer to say). Needless to say, during the said time there were still present certain gifts of the Holy Ghost (which later on ceased) which were given to individual faithful in form of for example gift of prophecy (through which Holy Ghost annunciated to the early Christians the Will of God – exactly due to non existence of the authoritative written sources; as we can read in Acts 10:3 – 7; 9 – 16; 19; 13:1; 16: 6 – 7; 18:9; 21:7; 9:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14: 4 – 5) It can be assumed, if one really intends to push the issue to its unreasonable limits, that the Church could have continued to exist without a single written source (in other words without the New Testament) yet only if it could stay in absolute measure true to Christ’s and Apostolic teaching and practice – which it would have to transmit without a single distortion from generation to generation. However, in line with the apostolic warnings, not only were the false teachers (judaizers, gnostics and others) already active in confusing simple-hearted Christians, but even some of the Christian elders (presbiters and bishops) chosen by the Apostles themselves rejected the true teachings “speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28 -30) For this very reason it was of utter importance for Apostles to most clearly and in minute detail explain every scintilla of one and only true Christian dogma and to transfer it in just such a form to the Church. As you are most certainly aware, since the false teachers were not refrained from spreading false teachings while the Apostles were still alive, and even to win over some of the Christians that have initially heard the true gospel from the very mouths of the Savior himself, what could and would have happened in the absence of the written cannon that will contain the entire truth – within the Christ Church as soon as that was possible? True to the word, there are numerous written sources that indicate much confusion among the early Church fathers regarding which of the texts were Apostolic and which were not. On the other hand, due to certain misapplication of holy texts and their faulty interpretation by false teachers, Church authorities of the later centuries were brought into temptation and subsequently rejected along with the false texts the truly inspired Scriptural texts. Maybe the best example represents the rejection of the authenticity of John’s Revelation beginning in the IV century onwards although this book was held as absolutely authentic and in highest regard by the Church elders of the II century.

The fact that the Church Elders were not at the top of the task in terms of contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, upon which it was warned by Jude in the second half of the first century, proves the text that I am about to deliver to you. Indeed, upon reading of the following we can learn that the Church of that era, or to be more precise its teachers, began to abandon some of the Apostolic sacred writings and at the same time to adopt some gnostic (heretic) texts as inspired by the Holy Spirit:

“This is the Roman stand: epistle to Hebrews was not contained within Muratorian Canon, and neither was it accepted by Ipolit, Gay and Novician. The same was the African stand. Tertullian cited epistle to Hebrews only once, and even when he did he attributed the said citation to epistle of Barnabas. In fact the first western Christian who held epistle to Hebrews to be fully God inspired cannonical book was Hilarius  of Poictiers. On the other hand, epistle to Hebrews was held in highest esteem in Alexandria and further East. Panten (II century) believed that it was written by Apostle Paul yet anonymously as it was written to the Jews who would be much apprehensive should they know that Paul was its author. Kliment suggested that Paul did write the epistle in Hebrew and that Luke thereafter translated it into Greek. Towards the end of the IVth century there was much confusion in the West. Filastrius of Bresha (died 397) held that the epistle to Hebrews was Paul’s yet not canonical, on the other hand African Councils of 393 and 397 accepted as canonical “thirteen epistles of Apostle Paul” “including the one written by the same author to Hebrews”. The earliest evidence that dates back to the second century indicates that the Christian writers used only 1 Peter, and 1 John epistles (although in some instances the 2 John’s epistle was taken as just a part of the first). Such situation extended well into the III century as can be seen in writings of Ipolitus, Novitian, Ciprian and Origen which doubts other Scriptural epistles yet not John’s and Peter’s. Still later the only ones to have accepted John’s and Peter’s epistles as Scriptural and canonical were Diodor of Tarsus (died around 394) and Nestorius (died in 451). More complete index may be gained from Origen’s writings as he accepted all seven council epistles, yet he still doubted in James, Juda’s and 2 Peter’s. However, majority of Greek authors of the IV century had no doubt in any of the said epistles and their opinion was determining one both for the West and for the East.

Do let me repeat John’s Revelation was highly venerated by all authors of the II century, at least the ones known to us today…. In the IV century Revelation was rejected by all Eastern authorities other than the ones in Alexandria. Western Syrian authors did not accept it prior to the V century; East Syrian authors indeed never did. Even in the IX century many Greek speaking Christian authorities still looked upon this book with much suspicion.

As can be discerned with much clarity, upon what I have preached and indeed thought thus far, many of the ones that are highly revered within Eastern Orthodoxy today as “saints” or “blessed” not only did not in any way shape or form contribute positively in creation of the cannon of the New Testament, but have openly held contradictory stands in regards of heresy of vast variety of Scriptural and God inspired writings. In diverse parts of the Roman Empire were present and indeed read most diverse books of much unknown origin, and even more those were held as most authoritive. As is evidenced from many writings, I have taken Radomir Rakic, Eastern Orthodox Church held firm to numerous apocryphal epistles, and in particular to the gospel of Thomas, which they absolutely refused to reject although they were most certainly capable of recognizing that it was much tainted by gnosticism. What is of upmost importance for you to understand and accept, prior to my subsequent preaching, is that current Eastern Orthodox Church many of its beliefs base upon ancient apocrypha, which absolutely have nothing to do with the New Testament. That is particularly visible concerning details about the birth and life of Mary, Jesus mother, which comes straight from the pages of pseudo – epistle of James that dates to late II century and is brim filled with spicy legends which can not be brought in line with any of the Apostolic texts. Likewise, so called, gospels of Jews and Egyptians, as well as the gospel of Thomas contain some gnostic ideas about exaltation of celibacy vis-a-vis married life, and thus it can hardly be puzzling that the Christian monastic movement first appeared in Egypt and then spread to Greece … and Serbia. Albeit, one thing that I must emphasize with particular attention renders itself from the fact that most of the contemporary Eastern Orthodox authors, without any pardon, dare to state that part of the New Testament apocrypha does not contain even a iota of heresy, and that in their opinion those apocrypha should be read by Christians for some form of what must be most bizarre doctrinal teaching. That this is not the case – to be more precise, to prove that there is much heretical in these apocrypha – I shall prove citing details form apocryphal gospel of Nicodimus, which was written sometime in III century, and for which Bishop of rasko – prizrenska district Artemije wrote in eparchial publication “Saint prince Lazar”:

“Some of those apocryphal texts were written to fill the whole that really exists in rendering of life of our Lord Jesus Christ as well as those of the Apostles. 27 books of the New Testament do not contain many details that pious folk soul wishes to learn, specially the growing up of Jesus Christ…” Piety of folk soul I guess could be demonstrated by the very fact that this apocryphal gospel exist in 180 Slavic translations.

Given that it contains nothing heretical I shall bring it forth per your perusal my brothers and sisters.

Bare with me for but a brief moment prior to my rendering of this benign text to your attention. I would like you to follow with upmost attention and to try to recognize the width of the factual gap that exist between God inspired scriptures and the apocryphal texts – and thus to conclude that the apocrypha was most rightfully thrown into… well I shall let you judge.

“The Gospel of Nicodemus states:  “The Jews say to him *that is to Pilate): He said, I can destroy that temple, and in three days raise it again. Pilate said to them: what temple? The Jews say to him: The temple which Solomon built in forty and six years; and he says that he can destroy and build it in three days.”

Now the author of this text has erred in at least several instances in just this one brief example. The first error indicates his utter ignorance about the Old Testament which most clearly states that Solomon built the Temple in exactly seven years and six months, and most certainly not in 46 years. “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD…. And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.”(1Kings 6)

The second mistake that the author made is also related to 46 years of the building of the Temple, and to put it in plain words the author had most erroneous understanding of the Gospel of John. “Jesus answered and said unto the, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:19 – 21) The issue in question is that the Temple, shall I call it New Testament Temple, is not Solomon’s one but the one that Herod began to rebuild in 20 BC and when the citation of John took place that would indeed make it 46 years. In fact by the year 70. after Christ when Rome destroyed the Temple, Herod’s Temple was far from being finished.

One thing that I dare not deny the author of this apocryphal text is a lack of imagination. He reports part of the letter that Pilate has sent to Roman Cezar in relation to happenings in Judea, and more precisely with the crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

“I delivered him (Christ) unto their will: and they crucified him. And when they crucified him, there was darkness over the land until the ninth our, for the sun was darkened, and the stars in the heavens gave no voice, and the moon as bloody presented itself for dead Jesus Christ on the cross, and the veil of the temple was rent asunder in the midst, and the Earth shook and the earth split up and abys came about all the way down to hades, and the tombs opened and some rose from the dead, and those were of those same Jews whom they called righteous patriarchs Avraam, Isak and Jacob and others with them. And they appeared for a time, and became invisible again as many Jews testify, having seen all the prophets and the righteous ones that introduced themselves three and a half thousand years ago. And I have seen many of them. And the Earth trembled from the sixth hour to the ninth hour on Friday. And on Saturday there was a thunder from heavens. And the light abounded, brighter it was seven fold from the light of the sun. And in the middle of the night came men of stature, man of old, dressed in shiny clothes and shouted: Crucified Christos arose! Rise onto heaven all you righteous who are shined upon in Hades. And the number of the shined upon youth was impossible to count. And that night the shining endured. And the abys that opened swallowed many, that fell in and were lost and were never found, the ones that turned on Christ. I myself am the witness of thus. And by fear and terror was I overcome for I saw what I newer saw and I heard what I never heard. Thus I tremble for those sights and, fearing your majesty I described and dispatched to your magnificence what befell with Jesus, and what I saw on the night of his death, and what the Jews did to Jesus. And these things have I reported for this cause, lest some other should lie unto thee and thou shouldest deem right to believe the false tales of the Jews.”

As is most plainly clear this account is diametrically opposed to the Apostles accounts. The points of divergence are numerous. I shall start with the apocrypha indicating that during Christs crucifixion there was an apparent lunar eclipse. At the same time the moon was as if bloody which is to say the very least most doubtful. Should we compare this tale with the account as presented in Mathew 27:45 one can not but come away with a conclusion that what the author of the apocrypha was describing was but a mere lunar eclipse although then again it remains rather mysterious how was it possible to see the moon. On the other hand, although the Holy Scripture does inform us about the earthquake and falling apart of the rocks (Mathew 27:51) it says absolutely nothing about the abys that stretched all the way down to hades. And why the word hades? Going along, the Holy Scripture does state the fact that many of the Old Testament righteous ones rose from their graves at the very moment of Christ’s death (or his resurrection) (Mathew 27:52 – 53) it does say nothing about resurrection of Abram, Isac and Jacob or any of the Old Testament prophets for that matter. Mentioning that they perished 3500 years prior to Christ is not any the less puzzling as is widely accepted with upmost certainty that Patriarchs Abram, Isac and Jacob lived between 2000 and 1800 years prior to Jesus’s time, and the period of 3500 years puts them around the time preceding the Flood, and only several hundred years since the creation itself, the time period that God’s Word describe as the time of great lawlessness – needles to say without any mention that within that time period some righteous were going around (Genesis 6: 6 – 7; 13) None of the Apostles records that the earth shook for three hours (from the sixth hour to the ninth hour on Friday) but that it happened momentarily at the precise time of Christ’s death. The fairy tale about thousands of angels appearing during the night separating Saturday from Sunday (And the light abounded, brighter it was seven fold…) Should something similar have happened one would expect that one of Christ’s disciples would mentioned it as that most certainly would have immeasurably helped them in strengthening their faith which was faltering about just that time. In contrast, on Sunday morning, upon learning about Christ’s resurrection the Apostles responded with disbelief. (Mark 16: 9 – 13). Rather amazingly, according to this apocrypha Pontius Pilate believed in Christ and his resurrection an entire day prior to his disciples – a deduction which is utterly within a realm of impossibility according to Holy Scripture.  To make any further comparison seems rather pointless task in futility. However what is most certainly not futile represents the fact that apocrypha such as the Gospel of Nicodimus can be considered anything but harmless as bishop Artemie stated – as it propagates numerous historical falsehoods as well as numerous doctrinal fallacies. It is plainly heretical.

The horrifying fact is that the Gospel of Nicodimus is but one of the many that can and are heard throughout Eastern Orthodoxy. If one take into account that the so called Gospel of Tomas  and similar teach that our Lord Jesus had carnal albeit loving relationship with Maria Magdalena, to have thought women that in order to be saved they have to become men, or indeed that Jesus actually did not die at the cross at all given that he did not possess human body, that there are God the Father and God the Mother, that Jesus had a twin brother, that there is no resurrection etc… are not unfamiliar to Eastern Orthodox tradition (topic that I shall cover in great length at the following sermon).

What is abundantly clear is that almost all of the apocryphal text date after the death of Christ’s Apostles, that is to say from the end of the first century onward. On the other hand, texts which we have within the opus of the New Testament were written by hands of Christ’s Apostles during the second half of the first century, and that they contain God inspired message necessary for salvation and through salvation appropriate Christian lives. Thus the New Testament was compiled and created by the first century apostolic Christ Church, and not by any means by the Orthodox church (which usurps rather shamelessly the claim of creator of the New Testament only because their “holy fathers” were, as I have plainly demonstrated all the way to the X century, utterly confused regarding which books are God inspired and which were heretical thus creating an overwhelming confusion for an entire millenium). Albeit, if we dare to face the truth, as we Reformed Christians do, we must conclude that the Orthodox Church has indeed created, yet not only the New Testament but the entire new Bible – their Bible.

pastor dr Đuro Trkulja
Reformatska hrišćanska crkva

Article 239

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God

I, pastor Th.D. Djuro Trkulja, am in absolute peace of mind addressing the following to all the clergy as well as to faithful of both the Reformed Christian church and the Reformed Christian church in Serbia, albeit with the utterly uneasy suspicion that doctrinally and theologically I am reaching void. The schism, if one can use such a dense word, between CRC and CRCS is in its essence revealing the very doctrinal nakedness caused by unsatiated thirst for worldly “treasures” be they in physical or psychological form. That much is beyond reproach; and when faced with the notorious fact that such a state of desired affairs is rather thorny the way out is found within secular courts. “Natural” consequence (among faithful) of such mindset and subsequent decisions mirrors Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 1:12 “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Christ.”… Brothers and sisters Calvinists, does this truth reverberate in your minds. It very well should in the very same manner in which I am echoing Calvin’s words upon the subject “And indeed, on attending more closely to the words of Christ, it will readily appear that the state and order of the Church there described is perpetual, not temporary. For it were incongruous that those who refuse to obey our admonitions should be transferred to the magistrate – a course, however, which would be necessary if he were to succeed to the place of the Church. Why should the promise “verily I say unto you, What thing soever ye shall bind on earth” be limited to one, or to a few years? Moreover, Christ has here made no new enactment, but followed the custom always observed in the Church of his ancient people, thereby intimating, that the Church cannot dispense with the spiritual jurisdiction which existed from the beginning. This has been confirmed by the consent of all times. For when emperors and magistrates began to assume the Christian name, spiritual jurisdiction was not forthwith abolished, but was only so arranged as not in any respect to impair civil jurisdiction, or be confounded with it. And justly. For the magistrate, if he is pious, will have no wish to exempt himself from the common subjection of the children of God, not the least part of which is to subject himself to the Church, judging according to the word of God; so far is it from being his duty to abolish that judgement. For as Ambrose says, “What more honourable title can an emperor have than to be called a son of the Church? A good emperor is within the Church, not above the Church” (Ambros. Ad Valent. Ep. 32). Those, therefore, who to adorn the magistrate strip the Church of this pover, not only corrupt the sentiment of Christ by a false interpretation, but pass no light condemnation on the many holy bishops who have existed since the days of the apostles…”. Thus, brothers and sisters signpost to salvation, and inherently the “conflict” resolution, can be summed in three beatitudes of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as He thought them to us within the Sermon on the Mount.
Beatitude upon beatitude points us to no uncertain knowledge that the blessings of eternal bliss shall only be laid upon those who have become inhabitants of the new creation. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Thus, brothers and sisters, do allow me to simplify the matter. Shall we be left without reception of mercy, we shall be judged. Should it happen that we fail to see God, that implicitly means that we are not in heaven, and finally if we are not called the children of God we most certainly are looking at the family from the outside in. To put it differently these beatitudes depict final salvation, salvation designated only to the merciful, the pure in heart and the peacemakers. Brothers and sisters I beseech You to look upon and fully accept the truth that these beatitudes represent nails upon the coffin that contains utterly false dogma which says that if you just believe in Jesus Christ and indeed have read the Holy Bible, Heidelberg Catechism, Apostolic Confession and Helvetic Confession you shall end up in heaven regardless of whether or not you are merciful, pure in heart or a peacemaker. On the contrary, from the very onset to the very end of the Sermon on the Mount the echo of the message is cristally clear “Get yourself a new heart! Became a new person! The flood of judgment is just behind you!”. I am praying that each and every one of you remembers words of Apostle Mathew (5:20) “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Closing the Sermon our Lord and Savior admonishes the present (Mt. 7:26 – 27) “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” To put it more clearly to all of you: living contrary to beatitudes and to the Sermon shall stand in the judgement regardless of what any of you may at this juncture believe!
Jesus Christ does say “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” yet He does not point us in a direction of the way of becoming the children of God. Jesus just states the truth that the children of God are peacemakers. Thus, brothers and sisters, if you are peacemakers you shall be recognized as the children of God upon the great judgement and if you are peacemakers you shall be welcomed to the Father’s house. At this juncture, much to my dismay, I do feel forced to expand upon the very question of the way of becoming the children of God. In this endeavor I shall point to John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26. John 1:12 states: “But as many as recived him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name”, while Galatians 3:26 points: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” To simplify stated the way of becoming the children of God is by having faith in Jesus Christ for our forgiveness and hope. Essentially Jesus Christ (in Mt. 5:9) equates the character of the children of God with the character of our heavenly Father, and from Paul’s epistles to Romans 16:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 13:20, we do know that our heavenly Father is a “God of peace” not any less than we are certain that heaven is a world of peace from the writing of Luke (19:38), AND most significantly we are certain without any scintilla of doubt that God is a peacemaker!
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of RECONCILIATION.” (II Corinthians 5:19), “And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether the be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1:20). Through exposition meaning is most clear: although by our very nature we are rebels against God and have indeed committed high treason and are thus deserving of being eternally punished even by hanging until death our heavenly Father has sacrificed his own Son and in doing so has pronounced us judicially not guilty ONLY if we put down our arms of independence (read schism of the CRC) and return home to faith; for our God is peace loving as well as peacemaking God. Entire history of redemption, reaching its zenith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ represents nothing less than God’s plan of bringing about a just and enduring peace between the sinful and rebellious man and himself, and not any less between man and man. Thus the children of God are of equal disposition. The children of God have the character of their heavenly Father. What he loves so do they, what he pursues so do they… Fact is that the entire creation recognizes his children by their willingness to make sacrifices for peace the way their heavenly Father did.
Thus my brothers and sisters in closing words I shall want to appeal to each and every one of you, both clergy and the faithful, not to lose the very thread of Calvinist doctrine in emptiness of conflict that has led the Church upon the wrong path; the very path upon which one or the other wing of the Church usurps what belongs to our heavenly Father. Thus I call once more J. Calvin to bare witness of my words: “Hence the form of the Church appears and stands forth suspicious to our view. Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). But that we may have a clear summary of this subject, we must proceed by the following steps: – The Church universal is the multitude collected out of all nations, who, though dispersed ad far distant from each other, agree in one truth of divine doctrine, and are bound together by the tie of a common religion. In this way it comprehends single churches, which exist in different towns and villages, according to the wants of human society, so that each of them justly obtains the name and authority of the Church; and also comprehends single individuals, who by a religious profession are accounted to belong to such churches… When we say that the pure ministry of the word and pure celebration of the sacraments is a fit pledge and earnest, so that we may safely recognize a church in every society in which both exist, our meaning is, that we are never to discard it so long as these remain, though it may otherwise teem with numerous faults. Nay, even in the administration of word and sacraments defect may creep in which ought not to alienate us from its communion. For all the heads of true doctrine are not in the same position. Some are so necessary to be known, that all must hold them to be fixed and undoubted as proper essentials of religion: for instance, that God is one, that Christ is God, and the Son of God, that our salvation depends on the mercy of God, and the like. Others, again, which are the subject of controversy among the churches, do not destroy the unity of the faith; for why should it be regarded as a ground of dissension between churches, if one, without any spirit of contention or perverseness in dogmatizing, hold that the soul on quitting the body flies to heaven, and another, without venturing to speak positively as to the abode, holds it for certain that it lives with the Lord? The words of the Apostle are, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Phil. 3:15). Does he not sufficiently intimate that a difference of opinion as to these matters which are not absolutely necessary, ought not be ground of dissension among Christians? The best thing, indeed, is to be perfectly agreed, but seeing there is no man who is not involved in some mist of ignorance, we must either have no church at all, or pardon delusion in those things of which one may be ignorant, without violating the substance of religion and forfeiting salvation. Here, however, I have no wish to patronize even the minutest errors, as if I thought it right to foster them by flattery or connivance; what I say is, that we are not on account of every minute difference to abandon a church, provided it retain sound and unimpaired that doctrine in which the safety of piety consists, and keep the use of the sacraments instituted by the Lord. Meanwhile, if we strive to reform what is offensive, we act in the discharge of duty. To this effect the words of Paul, “If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace” (1Cor. 14:30). From this it is evident that to each member of the Church, according to his measure of grace, the study of public edification has been assigned, provided it be done decently and in order. In other words, we must neither renounce the communion of the Church, nor, continuing in it, disturb peace and discipline when duly arranged.”
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God

pastor dr Đuro Trkulja
Reformed Christian Chrurch