September 24, 2015:    The two Adventist members of the United States Congress listened during the unprecedented address by Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, today, as did the Adventist doctor who is running for President. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston (Texas) and Representative Raul Ruiz from the Coachella Valley in California sat with their colleagues in the Democratic Party while Dr. Ben Carson sat in the gallery as the guest of Representative Mark Sanford from Charleston (South Carolina), not an Adventist, but an ally in the Republican Party where Carson is seeking the presidential nomination.

Yesterday when thousands of religious leaders from almost all faiths were at the White House as President Barack Obama greeted the pope, there was no representative of the Adventist faith so far as Adventist Today could determine. The denomination’s General Conference would not comment and the official records of attendance will not be made public for at least ten days. Leaders of the Jewish faith were also absent because yesterday happened to be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most sacred day of the year in the Jewish calendar.

A commentary on the events this week was published by the Adventist Review on line yesterday by Pastor Marcos Blanco, editorial director of the Adventist publishing house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the pope was archbishop before he became pope. “A charismatic leader who has fascinated Christians and nonbelievers alike,” Blanco wrote, “I had a hunch that Pope Francis would write history before long. … In many ways [he] is also shaking longtime and hard-to-remove traditions and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.”

“Catholicism does have a record of persecution [and] there have been serious abuses of religious freedom when the popular church entered alliances with the state.” Referencing Revelation 13-14, Blanco stated, “We believe that mainstream Christian denominations, including Catholicism, will make an alliance with the state once again, resulting in the suppression of religious freedom” specifically related to the Sabbath.

Blanco notes that “since Francis took office as pope, Catholics in alliance with labor unions … succeeded in getting lawmakers to pass blue laws [restricting business operations on Sundays] in more than 80 Argentinean cities.” But, “Are we bearing witness to the fulfillment of prophecy? This is a different issue, and we should not let the heat of current events drive us into a prophetic effervescence.”

Another Adventist Review commentary, published on Monday (September 21), criticized “cafeteria Catholics.” Jean Boonstra, associate speaker for the denomination’s Voice of Prophecy radio ministry, wrote, “How different this approach to faith is from what the Bible describes. There is no description of a cafeteria of beliefs in the Scriptures.” This is in contrast to Lisa Miller, a columnist for New York magazine, a day earlier, who observed that to Francis, Christian compassion “is everything, and extends to everybody.” He’s remaking a rigid institution once defined “by its hostility to change” into “a far more fluid, forgiving, understanding and ultimately modern church.”

A survey conducted earlier in September by Quinnipiac University found that 66 percent of Americans give Pope Francis a “favorable” or “very favorable” rating, including 87 percent of U.S. Catholics. A total of 70 percent of Catholics think the church is moving in the right direction now. A 2000 poll conducted for Catholics for Free Choice, found that only 29 percent of U.S. Catholics thought that it was proper for their bishops to use the political arena to advance the church’s moral teachings about abortion, etc.

There has been an outpouring of what claims to be prophetic interpretation from a wide range of independent ministries and self-appointed evangelists on the Internet in the time leading up to the pope’s visit. “Pope Francis about to Fulfill Daniel’s Most Horrible Prophecy!!!” is the title on a YouTube sermon by Joshua Wiley, about whom Adventist Today could find nothing on record. (The name may be an alias.) “This video is about the True nature of Pope Francis’s visit and the end result,” the blurb stated, indicating that it includes information about U.S. President Obama, 666, forerunner777, secret societies, new age agenda, spiritualism … last days … new world order, catholic church.”

Another series of YouTube videos feature Christopher Hudson speaking in a church about “The New Age Agenda.” He was the focus of an article in the Adventist Review last week by news editor Andrew McChesney on Hudson’s documentary on Revelation 13 entitled Leopard Vision which had been viewed more than 156,000 times as compared to 71 times for Wiley’s video.

“A hip, fast-paced film gone viral,” McChesney wrote, it has “even won accolades from some unlike quarters in pop culture.” The video “traces the history of the Catholic church while underscoring what Hudson sees as the central theme of the last book of the Bible.” He quotes Hudson, “It is my earnest desire that this film will help millions to realize that the events that are now taking place on planet Earth are sure indicators that the word of God is true and that Jesus Christ is coming back to this world very soon.”

Hudson is 38, raised in an Adventist home in the suburbs of New York City. As a young adult he got a job helping to produce music videos and then wrote the script for Turn It Up, a movie that was produced by MadGuy Films and distributed by New Line Cinema. He is a speaker on Three Angels Broadcasting cable channel and raised the $20,000 for Leopard Vision through a crowd-funding Web site. The result is a 76-minute film that Hyperfresh magazine called “nothing short of exceptional” in a five-star review.

“Pope in Seventh Day Adventist Churches,” says another YouTube video produced by MasonIlluminatiNWO, another individual or organization for which Adventist Today could find no identification information. “Local SDA Church Accepts Pope’s Call for Ecumenism” is yet another YouTube video, produced by Prophecy Again TV and with more than 122,000 views.

Another YouTube preacher who has often spoken about the visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. is Andrew Henriques, the leader of an Adventist splinter group that organized the Latter Rain Camp Meeting earlier this summer. Saved to Serve operates out of a former martial arts studio at 475 West Silver Star Road, Ocoee, Florida, and was incorporated as a nonprofit in the State of Florida in April 2007.

Henriques spoke on Sabbath (September 19) about his concept that the Pope will work deceptive miracles. Nearly 5,500 views of the video of this sermon have already occurred, according to the count on YouTube. He stated that the prophecy about prohibiting people from buying and selling is already beginning to be fulfilled through U.S. embargo on certain nations and pointed out that it has loosened the embargo on Cuba about the time that the pope head to Cuba for a visit.

Pastor Doug Batchelor, a minister in the Adventist denomination’s Northern California Conference, has done sermons on the pope and prophecy in recent weeks on his Amazing Facts television ministry, but the number of views on YouTube have been small compared to a similar sermon in early 2014 that has had more than 6,000 views. The independent ministries have had far more views on this topic, perhaps because they are more sensational.

In fact the topic and the Adventist connection with the topic has been picked up by some individuals that have no background with the Adventist movement. The self-styled Pastor Rosemary who writes The Astrology Angel blog and published a book entitled The Goodly Christian Witch, is circulating a video presentation entitled, “The New Pope and Ellen G. White End Times Prophecy.” She seems to be respectful and affirmative toward White, who is one of the cofounders of the Adventist denomination.

“Do Adventists Have a Beef With Pope Francis?” This was the title line of a long feature published by the Adventist Review last Friday (September 18). Written by Jared Thurmon who is part of the magazine’s staff, it discussed the pope’s concern with environmental issues and described the Adventist perspective on the topic. It includes an extensive bibliography and clearly documented that the Adventist position on this particular subject is not much different from that of the pope.

Many of the comments posted by readers were negative. Pastor Stephen Bohr from the Fresno (California) Adventist Church, who has been an outspoken advocate of headship theology against the ordination of women, wrote two comments reiterating his opinion that the pope’s concern about climate change is “a smoke screen so the two beasts can unite and force Sunday laws.” For many of the comments it was unclear if the reaction to the topic was driven more by prophetic interpretation or politics.

Perhaps this is one of those subjects that is so laden with emotional connections that it is difficult for people to listen, to read carefully and to understand what other’s may be saying or the simple facts involved. The Adventist Today staff discovered last week that an opinion piece clearly labeled “A Proposal …” was misunderstood by many people that read it to mean that AT was announcing a news item. In fact, Pastor Ted Wilson, the president of the denomination’s General Conference, did not issue a letter to the pope, and AT never intended for anyone to get that idea. The article was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek opinion piece.