Retreatants Hear of Guises of the Antichrist

Preacher Draws On Work of V.S. Solovyov

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Antichrist is the reduction of Christianity to an ideology, instead of a personal encounter with the Savior, says the cardinal directing the retreat which Benedict XVI is attending.



Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, delivered that message during a meditation Tuesday, drawing on the work of Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov.

The cardinal's meditation came during the weeklong Spiritual Exercises being attended by the Pope and members of the Roman Curia. The retreat ends this Saturday. The Holy Father suspended his usual meetings, including the general audience, in these days.

According to Vatican Radio's summary of his preaching, the cardinal explained that "the teaching that the great Russian philosopher left us is that Christianity cannot be reduced to a set of values. At the center of being a Christian is, in fact, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ."

Quoting the work "Three Dialogues on War, Progress and the End of History," Cardinal Biffi told his listeners that "the Antichrist presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist."

"He will convoke an ecumenical council and will seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions, granting something to each one. The masses will follow him, with the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants," he said.

The cardinal added that Solovyov says in that work: "Days will come in Christianity in which they will try to reduce the salvific event to a mere series of values."

No cross

In his "Tale of the Antichrist" Solovyov foresees that a small group of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants will resist and will say to the Antichrist: "You give us everything, except what interests us, Jesus Christ."

For Cardinal Biffi, this narrative is a warning: "Today, in fact, we run the risk of having a Christianity which puts aside Jesus with his cross and resurrection."

The 78-year-old cardinal said that if Christians "limited themselves to speaking of shared values they would be more accepted on television programs and in social groups. But in this way, they will have renounced Jesus, the overwhelming reality of the resurrection."

The cardinal said he believes that this is "the danger that Christians face in our days … the Son of God cannot be reduced to a series of good projects sanctioned by the prevailing worldly mentality."

However, "this does not mean a condemnation of values, but their careful discernment. There are absolute values, such as goodness, truth, beauty," Cardinal Biffi said. "Those who perceive and love them, also love Christ, even if they don't know it, because he is Truth, Beauty and Justice."

The preacher of the Spiritual Exercises added that "there are relative values, such as solidarity, love of peace and respect for nature. If these become absolute, uprooting or even opposing the proclamation of the event of salvation, then these values become an instigation to idolatry and obstacles on the way of salvation."

Cardinal Biffi affirmed that "if Christianity -- on opening itself to the world and dialoguing with all -- dilutes the salvific event, it closes itself to a personal relationship with Jesus and places itself on the side of the Antichrist."