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 Benedict’s “moral vision for America,” especially the Pope’s 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 “quite zealous” about condemning what he said was the “past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church.” However, he claimed his view of the Catholic Church had been caricatured.
Hagee praised Pope Benedict’s many public statements about the role that “our Judeo-Christian faith” can play in contemporary life.
“As an evangelical Protestant I happen to disagree with Pope Benedict on many issues of Christian doctrine and ritual,” Hagee wrote. “But 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.”
Hagee said that evangelical leaders believe faith must not be confined to “churches on Sunday morning.” Rather, Christian values can help build a more just and humane society. Hagee said the Pope “speaks for all of us” when he said “any 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 evangelicals’ concerns when, in Hagee’s words, he “recognized the threats posed by secularism and materialism not only to our morality but to our happiness.”
Hagee especially noted the Pope’s quotation from George Washington’s Farewell Address, in which the first U.S. president described religion and morality as “indispensable supports” for political prosperity.
The Holy Father’s United Nations address also won praise from Hagee. Before the U.N., the Pope declared that “the international community must intervene” 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 “we must never again allow genocide to be perpetrated against any of God's children anywhere in the world.”
Hagee said that his essay would surprise people who have accepted what he called “certain caricatures of my views of the Catholic Church.” He noted that he had been zealous in condemning “the past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church” 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 Benedict’s 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.
“We were all inspired by Pope Benedict's visit,” he said. “It 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.”