Post-Apocalypse-London-C-717x450Pope Francis’ most recent airborne news conference, held coming back from Manila on Monday, was another sensation. It generated a couple of instant classic sound-bites, including why Catholics don’t have to “breed like rabbits” and his wish to kick a couple of corrupt bureaucrats “where the sun doesn’t shine.” There were two other tidbits, however, that have been somewhat lost in the shuffle, both of which are important for understanding what is more and more a defining trait of this pope — his sense of urgency. One of those nuggets is about a book; the other, a trip.

As he has before, Francis went out of his way to invoke an apocalyptic 1907 novel by an English convert from Anglicanism called “Lord of the World.” The novel lays out a dystopic vision of a final conflict between secular humanism and Catholicism, with the showdown taking place on the fields of Armageddon.

Author Robert Hugh Benson depicts a world in which Marxism and secularism have run the table, culminating in a charismatic “savior” figure, increasingly recognizable as the Anti-Christ, who arises to lead a one-world government. Attacks on Christian symbols and believers mount, and euthanasia is widely practiced.

Francis first praised the novel back in November 2013, in the context of a homily in which he denounced what he called “adolescent progressivism.” He returned to “Lord of the World” in the recent airplane news conference, saying, “I advise you to read it” because it explains what he meant by a reference to “ideological colonization” during a session with 20,000 Filipino families in Manila. More