.- Rev. John Hagee, the controversial pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, has lauded Pope Benedict XVI in a Washington Times essay and thanked him for the speeches he made during his U.S. visit. Hagee praised what he called Pope Benedictâs âmoral vision for America,â especially the Popeâs affirmation of Christian participation in the public square.
In his Washington Times essay, Rev. Hagee also repeated his denial of accusations he has made anti-Catholic statements. Hagee insisted he has been âquite zealousâ about condemning what he said was the âpast anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church.â However, he claimed his view of the Catholic Church had been caricatured.
Hagee praised Pope Benedictâs many public statements about the role that âour Judeo-Christian faithâ can play in contemporary life.
âAs an evangelical Protestant I happen to disagree with Pope Benedict on many issues of Christian doctrine and ritual,â Hagee wrote. âBut when it comes to his moral vision for America and the world I have one thing to say in response to the Pope's visit: Amen.â
Hagee said that evangelical leaders believe faith must not be confined to âchurches on Sunday morning.â Rather, Christian values can help build a more just and humane society. Hagee said the Pope âspeaks for all of usâ when he said âany tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted" and called for Christian participation "in the exchange of ideas in the public square."
Pope Benedict also voiced evangelicalsâ concerns when, in Hageeâs words, he ârecognized the threats posed by secularism and materialism not only to our morality but to our happiness.â
Hagee especially noted the Popeâs quotation from George Washingtonâs Farewell Address, in which the first U.S. president described religion and morality as âindispensable supportsâ for political prosperity.
The Holy Fatherâs United Nations address also won praise from Hagee. Before the U.N., the Pope declared that âthe international community must interveneâ when states fail to protect basic human rights. Pastor Hagee connected this stand for human rights with his own support for the state of Israel, but also said âwe must never again allow genocide to be perpetrated against any of God's children anywhere in the world.â
Hagee said that his essay would surprise people who have accepted what he called âcertain caricatures of my views of the Catholic Church.â He noted that he had been zealous in condemning âthe past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Churchâ but he said he was equally zealous in condemning Protestant anti-Semitism. Hagee also said he has viewed both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict as partners in overcoming Christian anti-Semitism.
Pope Benedictâs speech in his visit to the East Park Synagogue in New York City, Hagee said, echoed his own belief that Christians need to recognize their Jewish roots.
Hagee closed his Washington Times essay with a prayer for unity.
âWe were all inspired by Pope Benedict's visit,â he said. âIt is my prayer that we will now follow his example and look beyond our differences to see that when it comes to the great challenges of our times, people of faith have much in common.â