Pope Francis imitating St. Francis visited with 200 Pentecostals in Italy. The congregation is headed by his friend Giovanni Traettino who is a pastor whom the Pope describes as being his “beloved brother.”
The Pope addressed the shock of him visiting a Pentecostal worship building by saying that he “went to visit my friends.” He spoke of Christian unity, the diversity the Holy Spirit brings and apologized to the Pentecostals for the bad behavior of Catholics during the fascist times in Italy and also prayed the Our Father with them. He said:
“Among those who persecuted and denounced the Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazies who would ruin the race, there were some Catholics. As the pastor of the Catholics, I ask forgiveness for those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and were tempted by the devil…”
As you may know, St. Francis visited Muslims and preached to them. By the grace of God, he was spared from being decapitated which was what happened to one of his friars, brother Berard. Pope Francis is doing the same by reaching out to those outside of the Catholic Church.
This visit is a strong indication that Pope Francis is seeking Christian unity in a different manner as opposed to having theological discussions and ecumenical meetings. He is reaching out to the people heart to heart; going after the lost sheep of Christ who hear His voice but are not part of His main flock (John 10:16).
The visit is interesting indeed because the Pope was welcomed like a rock star. Never in the span of my life both as an atheist and catholic have I heard of a Pentecostal cheering for the Pope. Pentecostals are typically known for their anti-catholic rhetoric. They often call the Pope the “beast of Revelation” or anti-Christ. Moreover, they tend to proselytize more than any other sect by speaking ill of the Blessed Virgin Mary and calling Catholics idolaters for using statues.
This is not the first time Pope Francis has engages Evangelicals. He had spoken to the congregation of Kenneth Copeland via an iPhone video recording. The video was recorded by Tony Palmer who was an Evangelical and who recently died in a motorcycle crash. He was a friend of the Pope and the Pope expressed sadness over his death.
Moreover, before Pope Francis’ trip to Brazil for World Youth day, a Pentecostal pastor was proselytizing young Catholics attending the many catechesis workshops around the area. The Pope while on route stopped by his worship place and greeting him and some of his congregants who were left dismayed. It was as if God led the Pope to this man who was obviously not pleased with the Pope visiting Brazil.
Some Catholics are upset that the Pope visited a Pentecostal congregation. These are typically those who are still upset over Vatican II and literally take the heart the term “Militant Church” as if Catholics have to fight non-Catholics and shun them as “heretics.”
This is not what authentic Catholicism is. We must show our faith in love, even to our separated brethren. Unfortunately, even some Evangelicals still rooted in hatred are already speculating that Pope Francis is the “anti-Christ” who is creating a “new world religion/government.” We must pray for Christian unity that perhaps one day all of these sects will come home to Rome as in the case with Alex Jones who was a Pentecostal pastor who converted to Catholicism and brought his entire congregation into the Catholic Church!
See the video of the visit here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FohFlZVmzRo