PopeOne doesn’t have to an expert on church history to know that relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and the protestants have seldom been genuinely fraternal.  Even though we don’t burn each other at the stake any more, we don’t always get along comfortably.  This may be set to change as Pope Francis makes an impassioned personal appeal for Christian unity.

Syzygy’s friend Tony Palmer, a bishop in the Anglican Celtic tradition, has for many years lived in Italy mentoring charismatic Roman Catholic priests and has built up many influential links as the Holy Spirit brings renewal.  Recently he had a private audience with Pope Francis, at the Pope’s request, during which they made a short video together.

christian unityIn this video Tony first explains why the worldwide Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church have agreed that the reformation is now over and that both churches agree that the theological basis for our salvation is grace alone.  The Roman Catholic Church has officially agreed that Luther was right!  Tony briefly explains the details of this before showing an emotional personal appeal for ecumenical unity from Pope Francis to his protestant brothers and sisters in Christ.  This historic and inspiring video is a ‘must-see’!  You can view it by clicking here.  Syzygy recommends that you watch it all the way through to get the full effect.

This whole topic of course will raise questions in the minds of many evangelicals about the theological difference between protestants and Roman Catholics, particularly over some doctrines and practices which protestants have issues with.  There may be doubts about whether there is a real desire for unity at grass-roots level, and questions about openness and integrity.  This is likely to be a particularly painful issue for those Christians who have suffered in the Roman Catholic Church but have found a home in protestant churches.  But it is important for us to recognise that this is not the end of a journey, but the beginning.

Tony Palmer comments: “What has changed is that Pope Francis wants to simplify the basis of unity.  If you note Pope Francis mirrored Jesus’ theology when a lawyer asked Jesus what was necessary for eternal life:

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?”  So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’ ”  And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28 NKJV)

The bottom line is that Pope Francis has reduced his basis for inclusion to those suggested by Jesus to the lawyer quoted above: ‘To love God, above all, and to love our neighbour, because he/she is our brother/sister’.

body of christIn my Italian and Celtic culture, we get to know each other while we share life together.  Friendship precedes the deeper understanding of each other’s beliefs; I get to find out what people believe AFTER I have offered them unconditional love and friendship.  This is what we need to do with each other.  When we learn to trust each other, only then will we be able to hear each other without prejudice.”

It is clear that this is not going to be an easy journey for anyone, but before protestants start getting hot under the collar about issues in the Roman Catholic Church, we should remember that none of us are perfect, and we would do well to respond with the same generosity of spirit as Pope Francis, in lowering the bar and minimising the essential requirements for Christian unity.

And let’s pray for this radical Pope, that he will be able to complete the reforms he has started.