My Catholic friends were sent an email that said:
...The Pope's lavish and luxurious lifestyle -- not mirroring Jesus' example of 'coming to serve and not to be served.'
These matters do not constitute the "deposit of faith" (Jude 3). They are issues of history, politics, state governance, diplomacy, and Church governance where the bible gives us little guidance. The Church has to find its way by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
When Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the 4th century, he also donated the Lateran Palace. The example of Constantine was followed by wealthy families of the Roman nobility and there were many donations of land properties. The revenues from the patrimonies were employed, not only for administrative purposes, for the maintenance and construction of church edifices, for the equipment of convents, for the household of the Pope, and the support of the clergy, but also to a great extent to relieve public and private want.
Numerous poorhouses, hospitals, orphanages, and hospices for pilgrims were maintained out of the revenues of the patrimonies, many individuals were supported directly or indirectly, and slaves were ransomed from the possession of Jews and heathens. But, above all, the Popes relieved the emperors of the responsibility of providing Rome with food, and later also assumed the task of warding off the Lombards, an undertaking generally involving financial obligations. The Pope thus became the voice and caregiver of the oppressed, the political champion of all those who were unwilling to submit to foreign domination, who were unwilling to become Lombards or yet wholly Byzantines, preferring to remain Romans. Thus the Popes took on the responsibilities of the governments when the latter were weak, including the heavy responsibility of protecting the people from foreign aggression. This is in addition to their primary responsibility as head of Church.
In time, large territories were given to the Church which later became Papal States. (Eg: by King Pepin and Emperor Charlemagne in the 9th century). The Pope became also the ruler of temporal territories. Historically, this is important from the point of view of Church governance -- chiefly because the Pope through his temporal sovereignty received a guarantee of his independence and obtained freedom from [political] interference, which is necessary for the conduct of his high office. This includes the very important matter of election of the Pope. Obviously, the Church did not want temporal powers to tell us who should be elected as Pope. Even then, throughout history, the Popes had to deal with Emperors and Kings and Princes who were not at all friendly to the Church and the faith. This arrangement served the Church well for a period, but it had its disadvantages as it led to the latter corruption of the papacy due to the lust of power enjoyed by the Pope, which came to a head during the Protestant Reformation.
Today the papal states have been reduced to the Vatican State -- a tiny little city State, and it is a sovereign state with the guarantee of independence from secular powers by a Concordat signed with Italy. But the Pope remains head of State as well as head of Church. Some accuse the Pope of having a "lavish and luxurious lifestyle" (which I do not agree with, if this email is referring to recent Popes) -- are but a reflection of his status and dignity as head of Government. The Pope doesn't even own an airplane, the papal team rents them, or they are chartered by the country they are visiting. We think it's a good idea to take care of a man over 80 years old, feed him well, dress him well, give him a good doctor, give him a comfortable bed so he sleeps well and stays healthy, give him a bullet proof vehicle so crazy people don't kill him. He is working long hours, and has dedicated his life to the Church. It's a lot of work to elect a new Pope, and we don't want them always dying on us, unnecessarily. We must remember that the early Church did not want people to run out and try to get themselves killed for the faith. They said "avoid it if you can, but don't compromise your faith." And that is the spirit with which we are taking care of our Pope.
Bear in mind that this arrangement of a papal state, is to guarantee that Church is free from secular and political interference so that She can preach the pure and undiluted Gospel. It may not be the best possible arrangement, but we have to take account of the historical developments and evolution, and who knows in future what other arrangements may be made possible by the Holy Spirit.
The Eastern wing of the historic Church -- the Eastern Orthodox Churches -- did not enjoy such freedom, and oftentimes Muslim rulers dictated who were to be their Patriarchs. This caused much trouble in Catholic Orthodox relations. Even today, with countries such as communist China and Vietnam, the Vatican has to deal with them at a state-to-state level to try to influence who should be the Bishops. Unfortunately, China has appointed illicit bishops not approved by Rome, who will not challenge the Chinese government on such things as abortion. This has caused an underground Church. So there are still many challenges in the emerging global Church.
The Protestants were spared from this problem as they were fragmented and incapable of speaking with one voice, and posed no threat to secular governments to the extent that they needed to interfere with church governance and preaching.
Some materials above are taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14257a.htm
This artice provided by Matthew Tan Kim Huat & Helen Peng of Singapore
Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.