The pope was invited to give a message to a group of Pentecostals (it seems to be directed to Kenneth Copeland Ministries and the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches). It speaks volumes that he was even asked to do so. In my view, he took good advantage of the opportunity. Here’s what he said:
The message is straightforward: we need to pray for Christian unity, and we need to mourn that we are not all united right now. The style is relaxed, suffused with catchy imagery (Biblical and otherwise), and Francis ends with a declaration of his belief that God will restore Christian unity. He’s addressing a topic that we both care about – Christian unity – as a Catholic, and as the pope. In my view, it’s seven minutes well spent.
|Abraham Bloemaert, Joseph and his Brothers (1600)|
That said, I have no doubt that there will be some frustration that he didn’t more specifically address doctrinal issues. One way to react is to be frustrated that he didn’t just say, “I’m the pope, I occupy the office established by Jesus Christ, go read Matthew 16 and come home.”
But let’s consider the question from the other perspective. Last January, Doug Wilson, a popular Calvinist writer, was asked what he would say to the pope (then Pope Benedict) if he had five minutes to talk to him. His response was that he would lecture him to “repudiate Trent’s repudiation of the Gospel,” to get rid of “all the Mariology, image worship, and intercessors,” and to embrace sola Scriptura. I’m thankful for Wilson’s own good that he didn’t get a chance to make a fool of himself like that. I don’t think it’s too much to say that he would have come off as an arrogant and clueless hack.
So I think that it’s worth considering two things: If not this, what message should the pope have sent? And if you were on the receiving end of that message (either as a Protestant, or as a Catholic with a Protestant saying something equivalent to you), how likely are you to take that message and respond positively to it?
With those factors taken into consideration, I think that Pope Francis has likely done quite a bit of good, perhaps accomplishing as much as possible given the limitations of the format (a short video presentation). He’s encouraged countless Protestants and Pentecostals to pray for Christian unity. They might have a skewed or incomplete idea of what that looks like. But God doesn’t.
What’s your reaction?
*By the way, this is only the second time that I’ve heard Pope Francis speak in English… which is remarkable, if you think about it. One of the most popular and talked-about figures in American culture right now barely speaks English. It suggests both a shift in communications media back towards the written word (we read translations of his communications all the time, but rarely watch him speak). It also says something about his personal charisma and his importance as the Successor of St. Peter.
Update: Speaking of text, Aggie’s Catholic has a transcript of the translation.