This Monday, Vatican observer Sandro Magister is publishing an analysis on the “realignment” of religious forces in the US, pointing out that the visit by President Bush to the Vatican came with a “gift:” an alliance between Catholics and Evangelicals on issues such as the defense of life and the family.
According to Magister, “A more relevant rapprochement is in an advanced stage between US Catholics and their most heated religious rivals: Evangelical Protestants.” “This rapprochement,” he adds, “is an absolute novelty in the history of the United States. And it has been consolidated precisely with the Bush presidency.”
Magister points out that a sign of this process is the meeting which took place a week before Bush met with the Pope, between religious leaders and the President, organized by Billy Graham’s “Christianity Today” magazine. “Among them were two heavy-weight Catholics: Deal Hudson, editor of “Crisis” magazine, and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of “First Things” magazine.
The meeting lasted two hours, and according to Magister, the impression was that Bush “has a simple and coherent vision of things, with strong religious tendencies.”
In the meeting with the religious leaders, writes Magister, “Bush addresses with confidence, let’s call it as it is, one of the eight churchmen he has in front of him: Fr. Neuhaus. And he does so on two occasions to show his great admiration for him.”
At one point he literally says, “I need Father Richard around more, he helps me articulate these things”.
Magister recalls that Neuhaus, leader of the “Neoconservative” movement, was the inspiration more than a decade ago behind the Evangelical/Catholic initiative in defense of life, the family and religious liberty called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”
“On the way Evangelicals have met and become allies with the Neoconservatives, with Jewish leaders such as Michael Horowitz, the great defender of persecuted Christians throughout the world, with Catholics. Or better yet, with a current of Catholicism initially in the minority,” says Magister.
He recalls in addition that the Pope is longer seen as the “antichrist” by a large portion of US Evangelicals: John Paul II has become more popular than historic evangelical leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.
Moreover, Magister reveals something even more significant: In the June 4th edition of the Italian daily “Corriere della Sera,” Luigi Accattoli, “the most accurate Vatican observer of the Papal household,” writes that the Pope prefers the Evangelical Bush to the pro-abortion Catholic Kerry.
Magister’s column is available at: www.chiesa.espressonline.it/english