Pope Francis and several prominent Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders met in Rome last Friday to discuss areas of mutual agreement and where they respectfully disagreed. The aim of the gathering, which had no official agenda, was to build unity between Christian traditions that have historic enmity.
The Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, former secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance and chairman of the Advisory Board of Christian Media Corporation, said in an interview with The Christian Post Tuesday, that there was a John 17 spirit during the two meetings he had with Pope Francis. Tunnicliffe noted that formal meetings with the pope are often said to last only 30 minutes but one informal meeting with Francis and Evangelical and Charismatic leaders lasted over two hours. Those at the gathering sensed the presence of God, according to Tunnicliffe, and a unity of the Spirit as their discussions focused on Jesus Christ even as they talked about theological differences.
“These theological discussions have to take place in the context of relationship. Otherwise they become cold. And we are thankful for those opportunities where it is about building friends, while not dismissing the theological distinctives,” the former WEA leader explained. These relationships are what “help create the framework for the deeper discussions as well.”
Italian Pentecostal minister Giovanni Traettino was one of the key conveners of these meetings with Francis, with the two having enjoyed a steady friendship over many years. In July 2014, Pope Francis traveled to Traettino’s Church of Reconciliation in the southern Italian city of Caserta to apologize for the persecutions Pentecostals experienced at the hands of Roman Catholics. As was widely reported at that time, Francis, whose papacy had just begun the previous year, said: “I ask for your forgiveness for those who, calling themselves Catholic, didn’t understand we’re brothers,” and called for a “Church that is one in its diversity.”
Tunnicliffe mentioned in the interview with CP that these kinds of apologies were reciprocated by several Evangelicals in the meeting who had themselves mistreated Catholics in their respective communities. Those gathered articulated the need for greater reconciliation in the Church as a whole, emphasizing the desire to see Christ’s prayer in John 17:20-23 be fulfilled. christianpost.com
When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near. 5T 451.1
As the approach of the Roman armies was a sign to the disciples of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, so may this apostasy be a sign to us that the limit of God’s forbearance is reached, that the measure of our nation’s iniquity is full, and that the angel of mercy is about to take her flight, never to return. The people of God will then be plunged into those scenes of affliction and distress which prophets have described as the time of Jacob’s trouble. The cries of the faithful, persecuted ones ascend to heaven. And as the blood of Abel cried from the ground, there are voices also crying to God from martyrs’ graves, from the sepulchers of the sea, from mountain caverns, from convent vaults: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” 5T 451.2