Rorate Caeli

The Church and the Downfall of False Gods

The following is Chiesa's transcript of the Pope's unscripted address yesterday at the special session of the Synod on the Middle East.

(UPDATE: The Holy See Press Office has just published its own translation.)

The Pope notes in the beginning of his speech that October 11 is the Feast of the Divine Maternity in the pre-Vatican II calendar of the Roman Rite.

Dear brothers and sisters, on October 11, 1962, forty-eight years ago, Pope John XXIII inaugurated Vatican Council II. Back then, October 11 was the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, and by this action, on this date, Pope John wanted to entrust the entire council to the motherly hands, to the motherly heart of the Virgin Mary. We are also beginning on October 11, and we also want to entrust this synod, with all its problems, with all its challenges, with all its hopes, to the maternal heart of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

Pius XI had introduced this feast in 1930, sixteen hundred years after the Council of Ephesus, which had legitimated Mary's title of "Theotókos," "Dei Genitrix". In this great expression "Dei Genitrix," "Theotókos," the Council of Ephesus had summarized the entire doctrine on Christ, on Mary, the entire doctrine of the redemption. And so it is worth it to reflect a little, for a moment, on the message of the Council of Ephesus, the message of this day.

In reality, "Theotókos" is an audacious title. A woman is Mother of God. One might say: how is this possible? God is eternal, he is the Creator. We are creatures, we are in time: how could a human person be Mother of God, of the Eternal, given that we are all in time, we are all creatures? So one realizes that there was strong opposition, in part, against this expression. The Nestorians said: one may speak of "Christotókos," yes, but of "Theotókos," no: "Theós," God, is beyond, above the events of history. But the Council decided this, and precisely in this way brought to light the adventure of God, the greatness of what he has done for us. God did not remain within himself: he came out from himself, he united himself so much, so radically with this man, Jesus, that this man Jesus is God, and what we say about him we can always say about God as well. He was not born only as a man who had something to do with God, but in him God was born on earth. God came out from himself. But we can also say the opposite: God has drawn us into himself, so that we are no longer outside of God, but we are inside, inside God himself.

As we know well, Aristotelian philosophy tells us that between God and man there exists only a non-reciprocal relationship. Man exists in reference to God, but God, the Eternal, is in himself, he does not change: he cannot have this kind of relationship today and another kind tomorrow. He remains in himself, he does not have a relationship "ad extra," he does not have a relationship with me. It is a very logical reflection, but it is a reflection that makes us despair. With the incarnation, with the coming of the Theotókos, this has changed radically, because God has drawn us into himself, and God in himself is relationship and makes us participate in his interior relationship. So we are in his being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are inside his being in relationship, we are in relationship with him, and he has really created a relationship with us. In that moment, God wanted to be born of a woman while still remaining himself: this is the great event. And so we can understand the profundity of Pope John's action when he entrusted the conciliar, synodal assembly to the central mystery, to the Mother of God who is drawn by the Lord into himself, and so all of us with her.

The council began with the icon of the "Theotókos." At the end, Pope Paul VI acknowledged the Virgin Mary with the title "Mater Ecclesiae." And these two icons, which begin and conclude the council, are intrinsically connected, they are, in the end, a single icon. Because Christ was not born as an individual among others. He was born to create a body for himself: he was born - as John says in chapter 12 of his Gospel - to draw all things to him and in him. He was born - as the letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians say - to recapitulate all the world, he was born as the first-born of many brothers, he was born to reunite the cosmos in himself, such that he is the head of a great body. Where Christ is born, there begins the movement of recapitulation, the moment of the calling, of the construction of his body, of the holy Church. The Mother of "Theós," the Mother of God, is Mother of the Church, because she is Mother of the one who came to reunite all in his risen body.

Saint Luke helps us to understand this in the parallelism between the first chapter of his Gospel and the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which repeat the same mystery on two levels. In the first chapter of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, and so she gives birth and gives us the Son of God. In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Mary is at the center of the disciples of Jesus who are all praying together, imploring the cloud of the Holy Spirit. And so from the believing Church, with Mary at the center, is born the Church, the body of Christ. This twofold birth is the one birth of the Christus totus, of the Christ who embraces the world and us all.

Birth in Bethlehem, birth in the cenacle. Birth of the Child Jesus, birth of the body of Christ, of the Church. They are two events, or one single event. But between the two really stand the cross and the resurrection. And only through the cross does the journey toward the totality of Christ take place, toward his risen body, toward the universalization of his being in the unity of the Church. And so, keeping in mind that it is only from the grain that falls to the ground that the great harvest comes, from the Lord pierced on the cross comes the universality of his disciples gathered into his body, put to death and risen.

Keeping in mind this connection between "Theotókos" and "Mater Ecclesiae," our attention shifts to the last book of Sacred Scripture, Revelation, where, in chapter 12, this very same synthesis appears. The woman clothed with the sun, with twelve stars on her head and the moon under her feet, gives birth. And she gives birth with a cry of pain, she gives birth with great suffering. Here the Marian mystery is the mystery of Bethlehem extended to the cosmic mystery. Christ is always being born again through all the generations, and so he takes up, he gathers humanity into himself. And this cosmic birth is realized in the cry of the cross, in the suffering of the passion. And the blood of the martyrs belongs to this cry.

So, at this moment, we can take a look at the second psalm of this midday hour, Psalm 81, where a part of this process can be seen. God stands among the gods, still considered as gods in Israel. In this psalm, in a great act of concentration, in a prophetic vision, the gods are seen to be stripped of their power. What appeared to be gods are not gods, and they lose the divine character, they fall to the ground. "Dii estis et moriemini sicut nomine" (cf. Psalm 82 [81]:6-7): the weakening, the downfall of the divinities.

This process, which took place over Israel's long journey of faith, and is summed up here in a remarkable vision, is a true process of the history of religion: the downfall of the gods. And so the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the weakening of the forces that dominate the earth, is a process of suffering. In the history of Israel, we see how this liberation from polytheism, this recognition - "only he is God" - takes place amid much suffering, beginning with the journey of Abraham, the exile, the Maccabees, up until Christ. And it continues in history, this process of weakening spoken of in chapter 12 of Revelation; this speaks of the fall of the angels that are not angels, are not divinities on the earth. And it is truly realized precisely in the time of the emerging Church, where we see how with the blood of the martyrs there is a weakening of the divinities, all these divinities, beginning with the divine emperor. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of the Mother Church that knocks them down and so transforms the world.

This downfall is not only the knowledge that these are not God. It is the process of the transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of the witnesses to Christ. And, if we look closely, we see that this process is never finished. Even today, in this moment, in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the downfall of the gods, with suffering, the martyrdom of the witnesses.

We think of the great powers of today's history, we think of the anonymous capitals that enslave man, that are no longer something belonging to man, but are an anonymous power that men serve, and by which men are tormented and even slaughtered. They are a destructive power that threatens the world. And then the power of the terrorist ideologies. Violence is done apparently in the name of God, but this is not God: these are false divinities that must be unmasked, that are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a ravenous beast, stretches its hands over all parts of the earth and destroys: it is a divinity, but a false divinity, which must fall. Or even the way of life promoted by public opinion: today it's done this way, marriage doesn't matter anymore, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.

These ideologies that are so dominant that they impose themselves by force are divinities. And in the suffering of the saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church of which we are part, these divinities must fall, what is written in the letters to the Colossians and Ephesians must come true: the dominations and powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ.

This fight in which we find ourselves, this weakening of the gods, this fall of the false gods, who fall because they are not divinities but are powers that destroy the world, are spoken of in chapter 12 of Revelation, and with a mysterious image for which, it seems to me, there are nonetheless different fine interpretations. It is said that the dragon directs a great stream of water against the fleeing woman, to sweep her away. And it seems inevitable that the woman will drown in this river. But the good earth absorbs this river, and it can do no harm. I think that it is easy to interpret what the river stands for: it is these currents that dominate everyone, and want to eliminate the faith of the Church, which seems to have nowhere to stand before the power of these currents that impose themselves as the only way of thinking, the only way of life. And the earth that absorbs these currents is the faith of the simple, which does not allow itself to be swept away by these rivers and saves the mother and saves the son. This is why the psalm says, the first psalm of the midday hour: "The faith of the simple is true wisdom" (cf. Psalm 118:130). This true wisdom of simple faith, which does not let itself be devoured by the waters, is the power of the Church. And we have come back to the Marian mystery.

And there is also a final expression in Psalm 81, "Movebuntur omnia fundamenta terrae" (Psalm 82 [81]:5), the foundations of the earth are shaken. We see this today, with the climatic problems, how the foundations of the earth are threatened, but they are threatened by our behavior. The outer foundations are shaken because the inner foundations are shaken, the moral and religious foundations, the faith that leads to the right way of life. And we know that the faith is the foundation, and, without a doubt, the foundations of the earth cannot be shaken if the faith, the true wisdom, stands firm.

And then the psalm says: "Rise up, Lord, and judge the earth" (Psalm 82 [81]:8). So let us also say to the Lord: "Rise up in this moment, take the earth in your hands, protect your Church, protect humanity, protect the earth." And let us entrust ourselves again to the Mother of God, to Mary, and pray: "You, the great believer, you who have opened earth to heaven, help us, open the doors today as well, so that the truth may be triumphant, the will of God, which is the true good, the true salvation of the world." Amen.


  1. Prof. Basto2:55 AM

    A very profound address.

    A clear denounciation of the false gods of our age. Of a non-Christian way of life that now prevails by force of the public opinion. A way of life in which the consumption of drugs and the ensuing destruction of families peaks; a way of life in which men are enslaved by financial interests and the logic of the finantial interests imposes itself over ethics and values; a way of life detached from God, in which marriage is considered not important, and chastity not a virtue.

    This is a clear denounciation of the contemporary secularized society as a society serving the interests of the Devil.

    And the pope clearly speaks of the Church on Earth as the Church militant, when he talks about the struggle against the false gods.

    And then, among the false gods, a clear denounciation also of the false god in whose name acts of terrorism are committed: "And then the power of the terrorist ideologies. Violence is done apparently in the name of God, but this is not God: these are false divinities that must be unmasked, that are not God". Everybody knows that the bulk of religious terrorism comes from the mulsims, and it is clear that we have here the denounciation of the "god" of Islam as a false god.

  2. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Prof. Basto:
    Muslims and Jews believe in One God, Absolute, Eternal, Unique, Creator. Is this a "false" god??
    Affirming our Catholic religion does not equal to deny what is true about God in other Faiths, or call them false.

  3. Cruise the Groove12:32 PM


    Has God been revealed as Triune,or not?

  4. benedictine1:54 PM

    A powerful and memorable address. Despite Prof. Basto's claim, I very much doubt the Pope thinks that Muslims who worship the "one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth" (Nostra Aetate) are worshipping a false God. He is talking about those (yes, Islamists) who recast God as one who commands the slaughter of innocents. Theirs is indeed a false God, for the God they worship is a not caritas but anti-caritas.

    One might ask whether the Muslim denial of the Trinity (as commanded by the Koran) does not mean that Muslims necessarily worship a false God, but if so one has to reckon not only with Vatican II, but also with Pope St Gregory VII's letter to Anzir, King of Mauritania:

    nos et vos specialibus nobis quam caeteris gentibus debemus, qui unum Deum, licet diverso modo, credimus et confitemur, qui eum Creatorem saeculorum et gubernatorem hujus mundi quotidie laudamus et veneramur. (PL 148 col. 450)

    If a sainted 11th-century pope was willing to allow that Muslims worship the true God in "a different way" (note: this does not amount to a claim that they have supernatural faith, let alone that Islam is salvific) then I think 21st-century traditionalists can probably safely do likewise.

  5. Prof. Basto2:14 PM


    The Church has declared that the Mormons baptize invalidly because they do not share with us the dogma of the Blessed Trinity.

    The "Church of Jesus Christ of the Letter day Saints", athough professing the Name of Jesus Christ, holds that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are altogether separate persons, so that there is no Trinity, no one Triune God.

    Because they do not believe in the Trinity, in the Triune God, they are not Christians, for their god is not the Christian God, the Triune God.

    * * *

    If the god of the Mormons is not the same as our God, I don't see how it can be true that we and the Moslems worship the same God.

    Although they say they worship the God of Abraham, the god of the Islamists is not the Triune God.

    They do not recognize the Trinity, they do not recognize the Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, their "god" is a capricious god that is said to do as it pleases him, and is thus regarded as not being bound even by his own word.

    No, only on a superficial level (the God of Abraham), the false god of Islam appears to be the same God as ours, but, just as the Mormons do not worship the true God because they fail to accept the Trinity, the islamists, who also deny the blessed Trinity, are also not giving worship to the true triune God.

  6. These gods must fall, and must become what is written in the letter to the Ephesians: Dominion and powers fall and become subjects to the one Lord Jesus Christ," the Pope said.

    Yes, false gods of whatever ilk must fall and become subjects to the one Lord Jesus Christ. Take that you modernists! The Holy Father has shown that he has a tough side and will not succumb to the errors sown in this world by the Father of lies.

    We should thank the Holy Father for speaking the truth. "They are a destructive power that threatens the world. And then the power of the terrorist ideologies. Violence is done apparently in the name of God, but this is not God: these are false divinities that must be unmasked, that are not God".

  7. Thank you Prof Basto.

    Mahomatens do not believe in Almighty God. St John is clear in his epistle that you cannot choose to have God deprived of The Son nor the converse. God is Triune with The Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and The Son. To the mohammaten religion this is blasphemy and merits punishment in Hell. Having lived and worked among these people for many years and studied their religion there is almost nothing in common between the Christian understanding of God and that of false religions. To mahomatens God is capricious, far from human affairs. merciful but not loving, a god with whom it is impossible to have a relationship, and a being who will save them only thanks to the messages brought to them by their prophet which are a distortion of Christianity using nestorian concepts, judaeism and a content of persistent animistic beliefs. Alas for them - Jesus is but a prophet below the level of their own.

  8. More Nuts3:26 PM

    Ya. c'mon Prof. Basto Aslan and Tash are one.

  9. benedictine3:43 PM

    A further thought for those taking Prof. Basto's view: if the Muslim denial of the Trinity means Muslims do not worship the true God - albeit inadequately - are we also to say that Jews do not worship the true God?

    In any case, it seems obvious to me that the Holy Father's own view is likely to be that of Pope St Gregory VII and Vatican II, not Prof. Basto. Even when talking about the distinctive aspects of the Christian view of God while in the Middle East, he was fairly clear:

    Christians in fact describe God, among other ways, as creative Reason, which orders and guides the world. And God endows us with the capacity to participate in his reason and thus to act in accordance with what is good. Muslims worship God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has spoken to humanity. And as believers in the one God we know that human reason is itself God's gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the light of God's truth. (Source)

  10. Anonymous9:35 PM

    Sigh. The issue with Mormon baptism is not whether they worship a different God but whether their conception of the Holy Trinity is adequate for Baptism. Baptism requires a proper trinitarian formula. Even someone who *does* believe in the Trinity and *does* worship the True God baptizes invalidly if he baptizes in the name of "God" alone without naming the three persons. Whether any being which the Mormons denominate with the name Father, Son, or Holy Ghost is recognizable as the One True God is a different question from whether the three persons/entities they refer to with the names Father, Son, and Holy Ghost correspond to the real Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

    Or should be do an end-run? The schismatic "Orthodox" deny the Filioque. Hence, they reject part of the Catholic teaching on the identity of the Holy Ghost. So are their baptisms invalid?


  11. Anonymous10:44 PM

    Prof Basto:
    I understand that we believe in a Triune God. But you fail to mention that Mormons are not considered Christians, something we completely agree on, for sure.
    On the other hand, Muslims and Jews believe in a God that is not a Trinity. They don't have the fullness of the belief, but does it make it a "false" god?
    Muslims and Jews' beliefs have many points in common with us, and despite the aversion from some of the posters here, yes, we share many good qualities in our belief in God with Muslims and Jews.
    We still believe God is One too, right?

  12. John L11:37 PM

    These debates over whether or not Muslims and Jews worship the true God make an unjustified leap from the logical consequences of negating the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation to the psychological state of people who negate these doctrines. When it comes to the Incarnation, we can use the standard philosophical example of Sir Walter Scott, who wrote the novel 'Waverley' anonymously. This means that Albert can believe that the author of Waverley has literary talent, while denying that Sir Walter Scott has literary talent - because Albert does not know that Sir Walter Scott is the author of Waverley. Similarly, because Jews deny that Christ should be worshipped, it does not follow that they believe that God should not be worshipped. That is why St. Paul can say in Romans 10;2 that the Jews have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. You cannot have a zeal for God while not believing in God, so one cannot say that the Jews do not worship the same God as Christians. The case with Muslims is more problematic though, as they worship a God who allegedly propounds doctrines contrary to the natural law.

  13. Anonymous1:07 AM

    In my understanding, Jesus believed in God as it was revealed in the Old Testament, and was to that God he prayed and that God he worshiped. That is in the Gospels, right?
    So, Jesus, as a member of Israel, was a Jew who believed, worshiped, and prayed to God according to the Torah and the Prophets. How can be the Jewish God false?

  14. We know that the Jews have stumbled over the keystone and persist in their belief of Almighty God of The Holy Scriptures refusing to accept The Christ as Blessed Saviour waiting upon another. The mahomatens have fabricated another god altogether who has very little to do with the Biblical God of the Old & New Covenant, as described earlier. There have been animistic ethnic groups who have had the concept of a creator spirit or god who is supreme. The argument of belief in a creator god means the one true God does not follow at all. They are all false religions whose devotees must come to true knowledge of the Triune God through Our Blessed Lord. The truth can only be found in its completion through The Roman Catholic Church.

  15. Anonymous5:34 PM

    yes, LeonG, you can digest your own aversion toward Islam and deny whatever you want. But the remnants of good and truth in each religion stand and are signs for a better understanding of the Truth.
    Thank God the Church today, not without difficulties and problems, makes a better and more understanding approach toward other faiths, including Islam and Judaism, recognizing what they have of value, of truth, and of goodwill.
    Aversion and denial does not help, my friend.

  16. Then you must live in your own uninformed but culpable ignorance Mr Anonymous Said. Half truth will never reveal the truth. Mix it with truth and it always remains a falsehood.

  17. Satan was excellent at dressing half truth up as truth as his temptation of Our Blessed Lord in the desert attests. The Christ used Holy Scripture to put the Evil One in his place.

    As St Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:15
    "And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever?"

    St Paul elsewhere admonishes us to beware of evil dressed as an angel of light. This is worth the warning in an era of "itching ears".

    Therein lies the deceit contained in the post-conciliar inter-religious model - "dialogue" with false religions which can only lead to
    confusion not clarity. Half truth which is really falsehood in any case is validated in the popular perception. The validity of the truth which is known to man is then put into question. No wonder so many Catholics no longer believe the Catholic Faith but only their individual interpetations and what is convenient according to the "spirit" of our age.

    The Lord calls us to salvation through the truth not dialoguing via semi-truth because this is always false and has the potential to mislead which, of course, it does. Therefore, this is a mistaken ideology that we must respect the false religion of others. The best principle is to love our neighbour as ourselves through the primacy of our love for Almighty God Who is Truth Himself. Our Faith teaches us this truth. Respecting the human being is necessary then we avoid the worst excesses of hatred. Respecting false ideas in people only reaffirms and validates mistaken ideas. This would be an uncharitable act by a Christian to do so.

    Indeed, by this maxim one can work professionally overseas with people of any belief system without dialoguing with the false ideas that motivate their interior lives. This leaves one free to witness to the truth when questions are asked. By this we avoid ad hominem insults and slurs. We avoid needless and purposeless discussions about religious ideas that have the all too frequent potential for ending in frustration and misunderstandings. We do not want to put up derogatory posters and burn books because we know this is utterly futile behaviour which does nothing to attest to the truth. It provokes hatred. Hate gets us nowhere but respect for the person and divine Christian charity towards unbelievers do.

    I thank my pre-conciliar catechists, priests anbd parents for teaching me this excellent set of values.


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