Vatican Insiders have leaked to Per Christum and a handful of other blogs information about special ecumenical efforts designed to improve relations with an unlikely group: the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, otherwise known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Vatican plans radical initiatives to better understand and relate to the group, which is labeled as a “cult that really really bothers people on Saturday mornings” on its Wikipedia entry.
“We have been losing Catholics to the Watchtower for some time,” remarked a senior Vatican official. “In fact, ex-Catholics make up a huge number of current Witnesses; it is time that we focused on a better relationship with these delusional, but well-meaning, people.”
Reportedly, high level talks began around Christmas time, when top-level Jehovah’s Witnesses flew to the Vatican on a Saturday morning to hand out copies of “Awake” Magazine and open a discussion. As an immediate goodwill gesture to make concessions to the Watchtower, the pope removed 2 shepherds from the Vatican nativity.
“It was a gesture of charity, seeing as how the whole concept of Christmas disgusts them,” remarked an Italian priest. Some Italian Cardinals suggested reducing the twelve days of Christmas by 16%, to 10 days , but the Vatican was not prepared to make such a major gesture.” However, a major gesture just may be on the way.
We have learned that the Vatican has plans to excommunicate the Watchtower, and then lift the excommunication a day later. “Lifting an excommunication sends a powerful message of love and reconciliation, and when the pope lifted the excommunication against the Orthodox Churches, well, we have all seen the positive results from that. I suspect when the pope lifts this excommunication, positive things will happen,” said American Jesuit theologian Charles Curtain.
Insiders have told us that the excommunication will be sent to Witness Headquarters in an envelope marked “Do not open until June 10th.” Why June 10th? The Vatican chose a day when not much was being celebrated in the Catholic world, since Jehovah’s Witnesses have a general problem with the celebration of holidays. “We would have chosen a date closer to the end of Easter, but we also wanted to avoid a date too close to Trinity Sunday, since they basically hate the Trinity” an anonymous Vatican official explained.
Then, on June 11th, the Vatican has plans to start a Facebook group entitled “I will lift the excommunication on the Watchtower if this page gets 500,000 fans” and the rest, officials believe, will be sweet ecumenical history. There is even speculation of some type of program for former Jehovah’s Witnesses that would welcome them into the Church, while allowing them to retain their dry, lecture-based worship and unique style of door-to-door evangelism using magazines with 1950s style photos.
The preliminary number of Witnesses interested is reported to be 144,000. Of note, the Vatican, no stranger to social networking, already sponsors two Facebook fan pages: “I bet this baby possum can get more fans than the dark Lord Satan,” and “I flip my kneeler cushion over to get to the cold side.”
The response of the Watchtower to Vatican overtures has been rather cool, but we did manage to catch up with their president as he was going door-to-door one morning in Brooklyn, to solicit his opinion. He said he appreciates the Vatican efforts, and, in a goodwill gesture of his own, has been working with other Witnesses to consider officially downgrading the Catholic Church from the “whore of Babylon” to “call-girl of Babylon,” which one Witness we interviewed described as “still way too classy for the Church of Rome.” “What’s next,” he asked, “fourth degree Knights of Columbus escorting us as we go door-to-door? Witnesses eating fish and drinking Killians with Catholics while watching Notre Dame football?” “Not likely!” he opined.
Nonetheless, the Vatican is hopeful that its efforts, including the lifting of a day old excommunication, will improve relations with America’s most faithful evangelists. A spokesman for the pope said “we are committed to ecumenism. If we have to rename Trinity Sunday ‘Subordinated Triad Sunday’ to make ecumenical inroads, then we will place that on the table. There is nothing we will spare to work more closely with our separated sisters and brothers based in Brooklyn.”
Jesus, who, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, returned to earth invisibly in 1914, must be smiling (invisibly, of course).
Per Christum reporters April F. Oul and Page N. Newyear contributed to this post.