Pope Francis Apologizes to Pentecostals

Jul 31st, 2014 | By | Category: Unity in the News

Pope Francis and Giovanni Traettino

On Monday, July 28, Pope Francis traveled to Caserta, Italy, and in an historical event met with nearly 350 Pentecostal Christians, among whom was the Rev. Giovanni Traettino, a friend of Pope Francis’s from his days as Cardinal Bergoglio. News stories about this visit can be found here and here. After the event, Rev. Traettino spoke with Vatican Radio, describing his reaction and the nature of the visit.

The text of Pope Francis’s address to these Pentecostals can be found here. In the first part of his address, he talked about the importance of walking with God in faith, and how that contrasts with turning this way and that, or not having the courage to act in faith. Walking with God, explained Pope Francis, brings fraternity and thus unity, but not uniformity. Here Pope Francis contrasted diversity and division. The Holy Spirit produces the former, but Satan and envy bring the latter.

Later in his address Pope Francis apologized for the persecution of Pentecostals by some Catholics in Italy earlier in the twentieth century. He said:

Some of those who made these laws and some of those who persecuted, denounced their Pentecostal brothers because they were “enthusiasts,” almost “madmen” who ruined the race, some were Catholics … I am the Pastor of Catholics: I ask forgiveness for this! I ask forgiveness or those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and who were tempted by the devil and did the same thing that Joseph’s brothers did. I ask the Lord to He give us the grace to admit and forgive …

In response, the Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance, apologized on behalf of Evangelicals for past discriminations against Catholics. (See also here.)

What is beautiful to see here is the mutual charity, sincerity, and humility. This is what genuine ecumenism looks like, dialogue in mutual charity and respect without invective or animosity, finding and affirming common ground without compromising one’s beliefs against one’s conscience. Of course there remain significant doctrinal differences between Pope Francis and the Pentecostals with whom he met. But the journey toward working through what still divides them can be fruitful in the long-run only when it is situated in a context of committed and mutual love and sincerity of the sort we saw in Caserta. Let us pray that the personal and charitable dynamic exhibited between Pope Francis and these Pentecostals will be one that also characterizes the dialogue between Catholics and members of the Reformed and other Protestant traditions, and that these encounters will bring about the true unity for which Christ prayed in John 17.

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