Sweet Christ on Earth

A title claimed by the Popes of the Roman Catholic Church is "Vicarius Filii Dei," or Vicar of the Son of God. This title is sometimes proclaimed another way, as "Vicarius Christi," Vicar of Christ.

"VICAR OF JESUS CHRIST. The pope, who as visible head of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, represents Christ on earth, and is therefore supreme in authority." (Donald Attwater, Ed., A Catholic Dictionary, The Macmillan Company:New York (1942), p. 54; w/Nihil Obstat & Imprimitur)

The same dictionary defines a vicar as:

"A cleric who takes the place of another in the exercise of an ecclesiastical office and acts in this name and with his authority, as determined by canon law…" (Ibidem)

Therefore, in the eyes of the RCC, the pope is standing in the place of Christ on earth and is acting in the name of Christ and with the authority of Christ. One wonders whether Christ, or His alter ego on earth, the pope, is bound to conform to canon law. Actually, I suppose it does not really matter since, with his claimed Christ-given authority, the pope is above canon law, even as Christ is above all the laws of men.

In the old days, when the three-tiered tiara was placed on a new pope's head during his coronation, these words were spoken:

"Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art Father of princes and kings, Ruler of the world, Vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ."

The last pope to be crowned with the Triregnum was Paul VI. Though he stopped using it after the Vatican II closed, the Triple Crown continued to be featured in his coat of arms. Although the two John Pauls did not use the Triple Crown thing at their inauguration ceremonies, they did include the tiara in their coats of arms. The tiara is still included in the coats of arms of the Vatican and the Holy See. In 1996, John Paul II promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, which eliminated all mention of a papal coronation, replacing it with a reference to "inauguration."

The latest pope, Benedict XVI, chose not to use the Triple-Crown Tiara in either his inauguration or his coat of arms. Instead, he chose to use an image of a bishop's miter, or cone hat. Interestingly, Pope Bennie's miter looks a lot like a Triregnum without the precious stones or nearly so much gold. The newest pope's heraldic hard hat is adorned with three gold bands representing order, jurisdiction and magisterium which symbolize the three levels of the Triregnum.

There is no certainty about what the three crowns of the Triple Tiara symbolise, as is evident from the multitude of interpretations that have been and still are proposed. Some link it to the threefold authority of the "Supreme Pontiff" Universal Pastor (top), Universal Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (middle) and Temporal Power (bottom)". Others interpret the three tiers as meaning "Father of princes and kings, Ruler of the world, Vicar of our Saviour Jesus Christ"--Wikipedia, The Papal Tiara

Apparently it was not enough in the eyes of some of the Catholic faithful to worship their Pontifex Maximus as merely the Vicar of Christ. Catherine of Siena, a 14th century visionary, wrote a letter to Pope Gregory XI, relaying a message she claimed to have received from Christ, urging the pope to lead a force to remove the papal see from Avignon and restore it to Rome. In that letter, she addressed Gregory as "sweet Christ on earth," which is a giant step upward from Vicar of Christ on Earth.

"I tell you, sweet Christ on earth, on behalf of Christ in Heaven, that if you do this, without strife or tempest, they will all come grieving for the wrong they have done, and lay their heads on your bosom. Then you will rejoice, and we shall rejoice, because by love you have restored the sheep to the fold of Holy Church. And then, sweet my father, you will fulfill your holy desire and the will of God by starting the holy Crusade, which I summon you in his name to do swiftly and without negligence. (Catherine of Siena, Letter to Gregory XI, Vida D. Scudder, Trans., quoted by Thomas Plassmann in Lives of Saints, John J. Crowley & Co.(1954). Those interested in the details of how the youngest of 25 children becomes a saint can read a brief hagiography of Catherine and the full text of her letter here.

I reckon Catholic folks liked that new title and it was resurrected in the last century. Pope Paul VI used it in his homily given during the ceremonies declaring Catherine of Siena to be a Doctor of the Universal Church on October 1, 1970:

"How great then was the saint's respect and passionate love for the Roman Pontiff! Today, we personally, the lowest servant of the servants of God, owe an immense recognition to Catherine, not indeed for the honor that might redound to our humble person, but for the mystical apology she made of the apostolic office of the successor of Peter. Who can forget it? She saw in him "the sweet Christ on earth," to whom is owed filial love and obedience, because, "He who will be disobedient to Christ on earth, who stands in the stead of Christ in heaven, will not share in the fruit of the blood of the Son of God." And, anticipating not only the teaching but the very language of Vatican II, the Saint wrote to Pope Urban VI, "Most holy Father"... know the great necessity that you and the holy Church have to preserve this people (of Florence) in obedience and reverence to Your Holiness, for he is the head and principle of our faith."

The title was used a number of times with reference to John Paul II, as evidenced by an address presented to the Twelfth General Congregation of the Second Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, held in the Vatican on October 8, 1999. In this speech, Rev. Sr. Irina - M. Ioana Bota, O.S.B.M., Provincial Superior in Romania of the Order of Basilian Sisters and President of the Romanian Conferences of Superiors Major, Romania, included these words:

"This Synod can be read, in this area, as an expression of full communion with and in the Universal Church, and with the Roman Pontiff His Holiness John Paul II `the sweet Christ on earth.'"

John Paul II's 80th birthday party was declared by the Vatican to have been the largest concelebrated Mass in hisotry. Some 8,000 priests were on hand to help JP2 celebrate his birthday and reach out to priests who had left the ministry.

In his greeting before the Mass celebration, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, included these words:

"Thank you, sweet Christ on earth, for those white hairs, for the suffering which has made you even more dear in our eyes, for your steps, as spiritually intrepid as physically tired,'' (John Norton, On 80th birthday, pope celebrates Mass with 8,000 priests, Catholic News Service, May 18, 2000)

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, modern day successor to the the Inquisition, applied that title to his pope, in a document The Message of Fatima

The twentieth century was one of the most crucial in human history, with its tragic and cruel events culminating in the assassination attempt on the "sweet Christ on earth". Now a veil is drawn back on a series of events which make history and interpret it in depth, in a spiritual perspective alien to present-day attitudes, often tainted with rationalism.

Finally, Bob and Penny Lord, a Catholic answer to Jan and Paul Crouch, are advertising a videotape on the life of JP2, a sort of docu-travelog. The offering of the tape, Pope John Paul II: a Dry Martyr, includes these words

"Go to Kalvaria, his special Shrine, where he would climb the mountain saying the Rosary at each of the chapels. Then go on to Rome and his life as our Sweet Christ on Earth. Walk, cry & rejoice as you witness our gift from Jesus and Mary."

So, is Roman Catholicism saying that there are two Christs, one in Heaven and the other on earth? I do not believe that is the official teaching of the RCC, but the idea sure seems to have some powerful supporters, including a couple of popes and one of the most powerful men in the Vatican, former Prefect of what used to be called The Inquisition and now pope, Joseph Ratzinger.

Perhaps Catholics, especially those in the hierarchy, would profit from reading the Scriptures instead of foolishness that flows from the pens of pious fantasizers. If they did, perhaps they would discover that God the Father sent a Vicar to act in Christ's name while the Logos is busy in Heaven:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.--John 14:26, KJV

What do I think? I KNOW there is but one Christ, and He is seated at the right hand of the Father, where He speaks to Him of us.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1, KJV)

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