Wise words from Pope Francis

To set the context for what follows, I’m a Protestant, to be specific, a Pentecostal, by both birth and choice. My late parents pastored with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. I held ministerial credentials with my faith tradition for more than three decades, fifteen years in parish work, and an equal number of years as editor and archivist.

However, I have never been hung up on denominational labels. I’d just as soon worship with an Anglican as with a Salvationist, with a member of the United Church of Canada as with a Seventh-day Adventist or a Roman Catholic, with a Mennonite as with a member of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. I’ve even visited, and subsequently chronicled my experiences in, a Mormon church and a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall.

I read the Archbishop of Canterbury, the United Church Moderator, and the Salvation Army General. I also read atheists and agnostics. Actually, my reading has taken me far beyond the confines of Christianity, to include Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and other “isms.” My personal motto is “Receive truth wherever it may be found.”

I recently read a book by Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church (2014).

Not surprisingly, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires is adored by Roman Catholics around the world. Many other people, including Protestants and those of no religious affiliation, like him, as well. The positive impression he’s making is remarkable.

Any and everyone can benefit from his collection of texts. As I read him through Protestant eyes, I looked for those moments when he presented the bigger picture, Christianity in its broader scope. I was in for a treat.

On 19 September 2013, he spoke to a conference about “concern for other Churches and for the universal Church.”

Eight days later, he addressed a congress, stating, with keen insight, what happens whenever Christians are enclosed in and confined to their own groups, movements, parishes, in short, their little worlds: “we remain closed, and the same thing happens to us that happens to anything closed: when a room is closed, it begins to get dank. If a person is closed up in that room, he or she becomes ill!”

He pled with a general audience on 25 November “to look beyond our own boundaries” for, he exclaimed, “we are ... one family in God!”

“Unfortunately,” he observed trenchantly, “we see that in the process of history, and now too, we do not always live in unity.... And if we look at the divisions that still exist among Christians” – he included Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants – “we are aware of the effort required to make this unity fully visible.”

He admitted that “we often have a lot of trouble putting [unity] into practice. It is necessary to seek to build communion, to teach communion, to get the better of misunderstandings and divisions, starting with the family, with ecclesial reality, in ecumenical dialogue too. Our world needs unity; this is an age in which we all need unity.”

Francis evidently is, in the words of Keith Fournier, “a Pope of Christian unity” who, on 19 June 2013, declared: “we Catholics must pray with each other and other Christians.”

The Pope’s reflections on unity mirror Jesus’ prayer for his followers in the Gospel of John: “that they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21, NASB). I often wonder precisely what is meant by this invocation.

“The gospel message we proclaim,” Timothy George writes, “will not carry credibility apart from the oneness of its witnesses.”

Historically, the relationship between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals has been antipathic and mutually hostile, stemming from divisions fomented by the Protestant Reformation. “However,” George notes, “in recent decades Evangelicals and Catholics have made substantial progress in overcoming suspicions and mistrust from the past.”

This is good news, especially in 2016, one year before the quincentenary of the Reformation. Martin E. Marty writes about those who are using this year “to repent ... with specific focus on Christian unity and sins against it.”

Pope Francis’ thoughts on unity are but one – albeit an important – aspect of his personal convictions. In The Church of Mercy, he also discusses such practical topics as the revolution of freedom, listening to the cry of the poor, a house that welcomes all, conveying hope and joy, hospitality and service, refugees and those uprooted from life, and the commitment to peace.

The Pontiff’s voice on a variety of subjects is a breath of fresh air to Catholics and at least one Protestant.

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Following a 35-year career as an ordained minister, Burton K. Janes is now a freelance editor, writer and online instructor. He lives in Newfoundland where he maintains his own blog burtonkjanes.com

  • Ray

    Hi Burton, Hoping you are well. I respect you and your right to believe whatever seems best to you. You have a free-will and I respect that. But, in terms of the Gospel, a quick note to contend for its purity: 1) Jesus never said “accept truth wherever you can find it.” He said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6); 2) Faithfulness/love to God is the highest goal of a Christian (see Commandment #1 of 10 and Matthew 22:37-38). If we place unity with people above faithfulness/love for God, it will cause the complete erosion of the Gospel. Two examples: a) When Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, the eleven Apostles did absolutely nothing to stay in unity with Judas. Their goal was to remain steadfast to God. b) In Acts 8:20, Peter said to the man “May your money perish with you.” That shows me Peter was not at all concerned with unity with fellow believers. He was way more concerned with the purity of the Gospel; 3) The Bible gives many clues about who the future Antichrist will be. And, a few of those clues point to the fact that Antichrist will be a Catholic Pope. The Bible says some of the highest goals of Antichrist will be to unite the inhabitants of earth under a One-World Government, with a One-World currency, and a One-World religion. And, that kind of unity is reminiscent of the Tower of Babal (see Genesis 11). So, I write this comment not meaning any offence to you, and not with the hope of upsetting you or your readers. But, I offer this as the flip perspective to your article. Thank you for allowing me to add my two cents. Thank you for offering the comment section below your article. God bless you, my brother.

    • stonehands

      Excellent post. Your Revelation on Judas was excellent. I hear many people talking about unity. It’s like a circus in the churches. His spirit has always told me otherwise. Unity from the churches perspective always seems to be strength in numbers ish. If we get together we can weather all these storms. Bullshit. We are to weather them with our husband. Yeshua. The king of kings.

  • james eagles

    The office of the pope is an abomination to God. Do you not know who the pope is and who they (the popes claim to be?) nothing has changed. You do disservice to the truth by glorifying a man’s statements whose entire office and presence is an abomination to the only wise God our Saviour and everlasting Father. I am cancelling my subscription to Christian Week in protest.

    • stonehands

      I agree with you. I have stumbled onto this site and have been spoiled at the so called Christian perspectives here. Absolute garbage. Pastors and bloggers all spewing crap just because they have a place to write.

      If anybody wants real teaching go to. Rabbi hershberg.

  • stonehands

    The Pope said we are all one?? You should actually put down his garbage book and pick up the word of God and study it in accordance with his spirit and then research the ONE world religion and see if you now understand what the Pope was talking about. The POPE is the false prophet in Revelation. And you are under strong delusion.