Category Archives: Catholics


BLOG 352 June 12, 2017


            It’s a little bumpy writing this blog as I am flying over the Alps, returning from Rome. For the past week, I’ve been in audiences with Pope Francis and involved in discussions on Church unity.  Pope Francis has a vision for “unity without uniformity.” He recognizes that the wide diversity of belief and convictions that exist today cannot become one, but at the same time we can still, as he puts it, “learn to walk together.” My relationship with the Pope is an example of this vision because I am a Protestant Archbishop and he is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Because of these recent conversations, I am sending this one message through both my Middle East and Miracles channels.

Following the death of my fellow bishop and dear brother Tony Palmer, the Pope asked me to take his place as his Apostolic Representative for Christian Unity. My task is to work to bring unity between  Catholics, Protestant, and Jews. I continue in this mission in addition to writing books and blogs such as this one.

Last week, I was in a discussion with Pope Francis when he made a surprising observation. He noted that we are now in World War III which is unfolding in many  different places at the same time; significantly different from World War II.  I was taken back by his description of worldwide conflicts as a singular war. I ask him how Christians might respond to this conflict and he said, “Pray! Pray without ceasing. Because peace is a gift from God… pray.”

I reflected on the simplicity of this response. Was the matter really this simple? Just pray? And then I remembered an irony, not often examined. When my wife Margueritte was a girl, she attended a parochial school.  The Sisters had the children pray at least once every day for the conversion of the Soviet Union. Surely a nice, but ineffective idea. Nevertheless, Margueritte and her friends prayed fervently everyday for the end of atheistic Communism.

Of course, you know what happened. Almost without fanfare, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Berlin Wall fell, and atheism in Russia was defeated. No one paused to reflect on an unexpected factor. Little children as well as their parents praying without ceasing for an end to the Soviet system and atheism.

Critics will scoff and skeptics will sneer, but the facts remain the facts. Little children prayed for peace and it came. The Pope’s response to my inquiry had significant historic backing. Rather than simplistic, it was to the point in reflecting on the need of the hour.

In these past ten days while I was in Rome, we had terrorist attacks in England and France. Innocent people were killed in this undeclared World War III. Is it not time for us and our churches to pray for peace?

I believe the key phrase is pray without ceasing. I don’t want you to read this blog and then set it aside. My hope is that you decide to utter daily prayers for peace in our time. You will be doing far more than you ever thought possible.

The time to start is this moment.

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BLOG 342 March 20, 2017

            For 2,000 years, the tension between Christians and Jews has grown out of the way each side views the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This problem was the theme of a widely acclaimed novel by Chaim Potok My Name is Asher Lev. Fictional Asher Lev was born with a prodigious artistic ability into a Hasidic Jewish family, set in the 1950s in the time of Joseph Stalin and the persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union. During Asher’s childhood, his artistic inclination brings him into conflict with the members of his Jewish community, which values things primarily as they relate to faith and considers art unrelated to religious expression to be at best a waste of time and possibly a sacrilege. Asher begins to go to art museums where he studies paintings. He becomes very interested in the paintings, especially the ones of the crucifixions. He starts copying the paintings of the crucifixions and nudes, but this would only get him into trouble. Potok’s book raises many important question for today’s world that are still under discussion.

This tension makes a current painting exhibition in Jerusalem’s Israel Museum particularly important. Entitled “Behold the Man: Jesus in Israeli Art,” director James Snyder believes that the exhibited works transcend time, place, culture, and even religion. He contends this theme is a universal impulse that helps us define our own identity from the symbols that part of collective world history.

The intent of the unusual exhibit is to bring insight into Jesus the man rather than the ubiquitous icon. The ideal of this exhibit is set against a persistent theme in the experience of the Jewish people. With a history that includes the Inquisition held by the Roman Catholic Church which resulted in the death and persecution of Jews as well as additional struggles through the centuries, it remains difficult for Jews (particularly Orthodox Jews) to see any personal application for their people. Contemporary Christians tend to “not get it” when this history is brought up. Consequently, we have one side that doesn’t understand how anti-Semitism applies to them and the other side that has lived through a persistent history of pain. The exhibit attempts to confront both issues.

Jewish artist Marc Chagall’s The Crucified is part of this irony. Perhaps, the greatest Jewish artist of the 20th century, Chagall (Like Asher Lev) had his own obsession with the figure of Jesus. In producing many pictures of the crucified Jesus, Chagall remained 100% Jewish.

Possibly the Jerusalem Israel Museum exhibit marks a turning point in how Jews and Christians have seen each other for over 2,000 years. A new examination of the history, the icon, the person of Jesus the man, the unfolding details of history will allow a new door to open. Possibly Jews will be able to see the Christian world as no longer chasing them while Christians embrace Jews as the elder brother who is to be loved and respected.

Let’s hope so.

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BLOG 287 January 25, 2016

The antiquity of the Middle East reaches to the beginning of history. Consequently, the treasures of distant millenniums still wait to be found. These possibilities raise a million fascinating stories of intrigue that stretch from Julius Caesar and Moses to Abraham. One of the most recent tales of mystery is the loss of an ancient manuscript called the Cairo Codex.

The fascinating history of this legendary Hebrew manuscript stretches to the origins of the Karaites, an ancient Jewish sect that began in the century after Jerusalem was sacked and the Second Temple destroyed, In Baghdad, a group of Jews rebelled against the authority of the prevailing rabbi’s view of scripture. The original originalists strove to be faithful to the meanings understood by the ancient Israelites. The remnant of this period is the Cairo Codex supposedly written by Moshe ben Asher in 894 which would make it the earliest known Hebrew manuscript. It was supposedly kept for over a thousand years in the Dar’l Synagogue in Abbasiyah, Cairo.

The manuscript has now disappeared and no one (except some insider) knows whether it is in Egypt, Israel, or the hands of a collector. The hunt is on for this invaluable piece of the past. The whole story can be found in this month’s January/February Moment magazine. Makes a fascinating read.

However, one of the tragedies of the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS has been the destruction of such important ancient sites. One of the most significant edifices in Iraq was destroyed sometime between this Fall and 2014. St. Elijah’s Monastery had been a major Christian place of worship for over 1,400 years. Generations of monks had spent their lives praying in the chapel, worshiping at the altar, and burning candles into the night. As one approached the entrance the Greek letters chi and rho marked the door. This marking is still used as an abbreviated symbol of the name of Jesus Christ.

Standing on a hill above Mosul, the 27,000 square-foot rock monastery had 26 distinct rooms even though the roof was gone. The creation of the monastery began in 590 when the monastic movement swept across the Middle East and Europe. This was long before there were any divisions in Christianity. Consequently, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians alike reverenced this site. In 1743, at least 150 monks were massacred by a Persian general because they refused to convert to Islam.

Recent high resolution aerial photographs revealed the monastery had been reduced to a pile of rubble. ISIS troops, bulldozers, and men with pickaxes continue to destroy everything they consider contrary to their understanding of Islam. From his office in exile, Catholic priest Paul Thabit Habib said, “Our Christian history is being barbarically leveled. We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.” Roman Catholic Army chaplain Jeffrey Whorton, who celebrated Mass on the monastery’s altar ,was grief-stricken. He said, “Elijah the prophet must be weeping.”

Weeping indeed!

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BLOG 271 SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

Readers of this blog know that I have been traveling in Israel and the Middle East since 1968. I have two sons who were college professors in Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, I have many friends and colleagues in Israel. This week I am shifting from my usual views on the Middle East struggles because of the forthcoming arrival of the Pope in America. What you may not know is that Pope Francis ask me to be his envoy to spread the message that unity without uniformity is now possible between Roman Catholics, Protestants, AND Jews. Asking me to take the title “Apostolic Representative for Christian Unity,” Pope Francis directed me to spread the message that people who hold different opinions and convictions can still live and work together in unity. We can be one while having diverse perspectives.

Much to my surprise, I have found that the message of reconciliation is not universally received. Both Protestants and Roman Catholic leaders and members bristle over this message. Many will be surprised to discover that when Pope Francis is in Philadelphia this week, he will dedicated a new piece of sculpture called “Synagoga and Ecclesia” on the campus of St. Joseph’s University. The sculpture portrays two friends sitting together in harmony studying their sacred texts both with eyes open and recognizing the deep historical connection between the synagogue and the church.

Several week ago, I proclaimed this message of reconciliation on an internet and television recording for the Jesus Alliance’s emphasis on unity. Much to my chagrin, I was plunged into a maelstrom of disunity. Using all kinds of excuses for their dislike of my statements, the bottom line was that these people don’t like the idea of unity with Judaism. They were totally out of touch with where the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church actually are today.

I was in Bari, Italy the day the Roman Catholic Church signed an agreement with the Lutheran Church in Europe fully accepting Martin Luther’s position on Justification by Faith.

The Pope told me that this document ended all warfare between Catholics and Protestants.

Well, it ended the theological war, but it has not stopped the hostility that still exists in and with individuals today. Any student of history knows that the Church was the major source of religious anti-Semitism. During the centuries behind us, the Church provided the background for other forms of anti-Semitism expressed economically, socially, and racially. In turn, the Jewish community became distrustful and wary of the world beyond their boundaries. The late American Rabbi Leon Klenicki, a pioneer in interreligious dialogues, said about this problem, “Christianity must overcome the triumphalism of power, Judaism the triumphalism of pain.”

Friends, we are in a new age! We can overcome.

The Church is now part of the solution of stopping this animosity and strife. Pope Francis has expressed a “yes” to the Jewish roots of Christianity and an irrevocable “no” to anti-Semitism. His call is for rediscovered friendship while we maintain our different opinions and convictions. The time has come for all Christians of all persuasions to join this contemporary expression of unity.


Filed under America, Catholics, Judaism, middle east


BLOG 222 October 20, 2014

Customarily, these blogs are about aspects of Middle Eastern countries and the current military struggles. I attempt to place the region in a balanced and thoughtful framework that attempts to give the reader an enlarged picture of what these struggles mean and where they are going.  Certainly, there is plenty to write about. For example, the Iraqi government finally filled two security posts that had sat empty for far too long because of the religious differences in the country. We’ll save that story for another time. Today I want to take a step in a different direction. Please forgive this mission interrupted digression.

I have just returned from two weeks in Rome and time spent in private discussions with Pope Francis. As you may be aware, the Vatican was holding a landmark assembly dealing with issues facing families, divorced and remarried Catholics, as well as the gay community. During this time, the Pope met privately with me at an early morning hour to discuss bringing a new unity between Protestants and Catholics. Since I am a Protestant Archbishop, such conversations were highly irregular – and vital!

Several years ago my colleague, fellow bishop, and dear friend Tony Palmer and I were in Bari, Italy when the Roman Catholic Church signed an agreement accepting Martin Luther’s position on “Justification by Faith.” Pope Francis now maintains this concord has ended all hostilities between Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope had become our close friend when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tony had become like a son to Fr. Bergoglio (now Pope Francis). As their relationship developed, Tony and I were shocked when the Archbishop became the Pope after Benedict resigned. Last spring, the Pope called on his cell phone and asked us to come to Rome. He particularly wanted us to carry the message of “unity without uniformity” to the Protestants world. The Pope wasn’t asking Protestants to join the Roman Church, but wanted Protestants and Romans to become friends again as well as brothers and sisters as Jesus prayed we would  all be. (John 17)

On July 20, 2014, at the age of 48 Tony was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Bath, England. Obviously, this tragedy threw our worlds into complete turmoil. Although I had retired as Director of Ecumenical Relations of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, I was called back to help formulate a Synod Tony was working on in Rome and to re-establish our connection with the Pope. During the past two weeks in Rome, I have been working on these issues.

The Pope has asked me to continue Tony’s mission and has called on his wife Emiliana Palmer to head the Ark Community’s ministry that had become the vehicle for communication of unity. The Pope’s title “Apostolic Representative for Christian Unity” bestowed on Tony has now been transferred to me and I will continue Tony’s work. Nothing about this effort will prohibit these blogs and they will continue as usual with a an added dimension.

My new primary mission is to tell the world that Protestants and Roman Catholics have a new compatibility even though many of our views differ. We strive to be one in the days that are before us.


Filed under Catholics, Christians, Faith, middle east


RobertandPopeFrancis-webMy blogs focus on the Middle East and clarifying the on-going politics of the major countries in the region. I attempt to give a balanced view of events apart from personal concerns or vested interests. However, I have just returned from an important trip to Rome and a private audience with the Pope. Anyone interested in world peace and unity among previously hostile groups would be interested in my conversations with his Holiness. Consequently, I want to share with you the following press release from the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches.

Pope Francis contacted Bishop Tony Palmer and Archbishop Robert L. Wise of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches asking them to come to Rome for a private audience and discussion of the Pope’s quest for unity and restoration of relationships between Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Archbishop Wise and Bishop Palmer also huddled with the Vatican’s office of Ecumenical Relations to discuss greater unity. Wise is a resident of Oklahoma City.

Archbishop Wise was former head of the Communion’s office of Ecumenical Relationships before turning leadership over to Bishop Palmer who lives in England. The CEEC knew Archbishop Jose Marie Bergoglio before his election and becoming Pope Francis. Both Palmer and Wise know him as friend while Pope Francis is a spiritual father to Bishop Palmer.

Archbishop Wise said, “the Pope is a gentle, gracious man with a unique gift of humility. His Holiness has a profound spiritual sensitivity and listens carefully to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We sat together and talked as friends.”

The tension between Catholics and Protestants positions was ended with the Vatican’s acceptance of Martin Luther’s doctrine of Justification by Faith. Both Wise and Palmer were present in Bari, Italy when this was publically proclaimed. Wise said, “The world should know the battle is over. We can love each other as Christians and stand shoulder to shoulder. Brotherhood now exists.”

Wise and Palmer met the Pope in his private residence behind the Cathedral of St. Peter’s in Vatican City. Earlier Bishop Palmer released a video tape of the Pope expressing his love and desire for unity with all Christians through the internet that was seen across the world. Archbishop Wise said, “A new day is at hand for the entire world. We rejoice in the Pope’s desire that we join hands in love and unity. Our task is to make sure the entire church understands that we stand at a new place in history.”

This press release reflects the Vatican’s concern to create a world-wide condition in which peace and unity help create a new environment for hope that struggling and warring parties can find new agreement. I believe it is worthy of our attention.


Filed under Catholics, Christians, Peace, Travels


History will not forget the remarkable difference Pope John Paul made in relations with the Jewish community. His visit to a synagogue in Rome was a first and signaled genuine change. During his tenure as Pope, John Paul made highly important changes in how 1 billion Roman Catholics viewed Jews. Anti- Semitism and supersessionism (the idea that Christianity supersedes Judaism) were rejected. Moreover, the Vatican established diplomatic relations with Israel. Because of his own experience with both the Nazis and the Communists, John Paul recognized the enormous price Jews had paid before and during World War II for no other reason that being Jews. Much of the hatred that boiled over during this period was washed away by the Pope’s efforts.

Pope Benedict’s tenure proved to be different.

While he continued John Paul’s positions, Benedict make significant mistakes in relating to Israel and Jews. Both he and John Paul made Holy Land tours, but Benedict left the impression that he was avoiding statements about his background as a member of the Hitler Youth movement and his position on the Holocaust. He was drawn into controversy over the Holocaust because he lifted the excommunication of a bishop who had publically stated that historical evidence disproved 6 million Jews were gassed. The bishop claimed only 200,000 to 300,000 were killed and that gas chambers were a fiction. Benedict’s support of such a man was highly troubling to many.

Further problems arose from his failure to reject a statement by a Lebanese clergyman who suggested that Catholic theology had rejected the idea of a Promised Land for Jews because the Kingdom of God was open to everyone. Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyril Salim Busros had made this claim while participating in a Vatican Synod whose purpose had been to investigate injustices practiced against Christians in the Middle East.

With his German background and the issues arising out of World War II including then Joseph Ratzinger’s participation in the Nazi army, one would have expected a vigorous effort to clarify these issues. While it can be argued that the rapid decline of Catholicism in Germany might have affected his lack of a response, this argument fails to recognize that German rejection of the church is tied to secularism and the sexual scandals racking the priesthood. His lack of response certainly did not go unnoticed in Israel.

More tension arose from the impression Benedict left that he was attempting to advance the cause for sainthood for Pius XII. The debate still boils over Pius’s lack of response and silence when Jews were hauled away right under his nose. The Vatican has squirmed, attempting to offer various explanations, but the stigma remains. Obviously, Pius XII did nothing heroic and bold. The burning question was the issue of duplicity. Benedict did not beatify Pius which would have moved him along toward sainthood. Nevertheless, when Benedict signed a document describing Pius’s virtues, he further distanced himself from the Jewish community.

Unfortunately, as Benedict retires, he leaves marks in the negative column with the Jewish community. Israel had little to say about his departure, but the problems remain.

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