I can't help but post John Nolan's comment from my post:
IS POPE FRANCIS REALIZING THAT POST-CATHOLICS ARE CHAMPIONING HIM AND THUS HE IS MAKING CLEAR THAT HE IS CATHOLIC?I haven't read the book but I certainly want to do so. Perhaps John can comment more on "That this book should resonate with Pope Francis [as] both revealing and significant."
John Nolan's comment:
The most telling moment in this interview is when Pope Francis recommends Robert Hugh Benson's work of dystopian fiction 'The Lord of the World'. It was published in 1907 (not 1903) and few of his interlocutors would have even heard of it, let alone read it.
Benson's father was Archbishop of Canterbury and ordained him as an Anglican priest in 1895. In 1903 (after his father's death) he was received into the Catholic Church and was ordained the following year; he was made a monsignor by Pius X.
Benson (who died in 1914 aged 42)is something of a hero to traditionalist Catholics and this dark novel is startlingly prescient, although his nightmare scenario of the future does not assume any change in the liturgy and ritual of the Catholic Church, even on the eve of Armageddon.
That this book should resonate with Pope Francis is both revealing and significant.
Here is a synopsis of the book:
Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, at the time of Lord of the World's 1907 publication.
The novel's protagonist is a British Roman Catholic priest, Father Percy Franklin, who looks identical to the mysterious U.S. Senator Julian Felsenburgh of Vermont. The senator appears as a lone and dramatic figure promising world peace in return for blind obedience. No one quite knows who he is or where he comes from, but his voice mesmerizes. Under his leadership, war is abolished. Felsenburgh becomes the President of Europe, then of the world, by popular acclaim. Everyone is fascinated with him, yet still no one knows much about him. People are both riveted and frightened by the way he demands attention. Most follow without question.
Having been a close observer of President Felsenburgh's rise, Father Franklin is called to Rome, a Hong Kong-style enclave ruled by Pope John XXVI and raised to the College of Cardinals. Meanwhile, defections among bishops and priests increase. At Cardinal Franklin's instigation, the pope abolishes the Eastern Catholic Churches and forms a new religious order, the Order of Christ Crucified. All its members, including the Pope, vow to die in the name of the faith.
Belief in God is replaced by the religion of Humanity modeled on that of Auguste Comte. All those who oppose this doctrine are subjected to torture and summary execution.
The British Prime Minister and his wife form a sub-plot: The wife desperately wants to believe in this new world movement, but she is horrified when she sees the killings that are justified in the name of world peace. Meanwhile, the prime minister's mother is brought back to the faith by Father Franklin, much to the horror of her son and daughter in law. When the Prime Minister is away meeting Felsenburgh, his wife ignores her terminally ill mother in law's pleas for a priest and has her euthanised.
With the apocalypse clearly at hand, the pope summons all the cardinals to Rome. Meantime, some English Catholics, against orders, plot to blow up the Abbey where the politicians meet. Percy Franklin, now a cardinal, along with another German cardinal, are sent to England to try to prevent this plot, which they are warned about. But word gets out. In retaliation, President Felsenburgh orders the destruction of Rome, which is carried out, killing Pope John and all the cardinals but the three who are elsewhere. These three quickly elect the Cardinal Franklin as Pope Sylvester III. Soon after, the old cardinal in Jerusalem dies and the German cardinal is hanged.
The last pope goes to the Holy Land to the location of the apocalyptic final battle foretold by the New Testament. In a final act, Felsenburgh and all the world leaders fly in formation to destroy the remaining signs of faith on earth. In response, Pope Sylvester and the remaining Catholics are attending Mass followed by Eucharistic Adoration. As they sing the Tantum Ergo, the attack strikes.
The last words of the novel are: "Then this world passed, and the glory of it."