FORT WORTH, Texas — Pope Francis sent a video message to a gathering of U.S. Pentecostal leaders, voicing his “yearning” that separation between Catholics and other Christians may end.
“We have a lot of cultural riches and religious riches. And we have diverse traditions,” he said. “But we have to encounter one another as brothers.”
“Let’s give each other a spiritual embrace and let God complete the work that he has begun,” he said, adding that “the miracle of unity has begun.”
The Pope quoted a character from Alessandro Manzoni’s novel The Betrothed, who says, “I’ve never seen God begin a miracle without him finishing it well.”
“He will complete this miracle of unity,” the Holy Father said.
Pope Francis’ message was delivered to a meeting of the Fort Worth, Texas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries by Pentecostal Bishop Tony Palmer, who had recorded it on an iPhone in a Jan. 14 meeting with the Holy Father. Palmer knew Pope Francis from his time in Argentina, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. The video was later uploaded to YouTube.
The Pope described Palmer as “my brother,” saying the two have been “friends for years.”
His message began in English, but then switched to Italian, telling his audience he would speak “heartfully” about “the language of the heart.”
He said this language has “a simple grammar,” with two rules: “Love God above all, and love the other because he is your brother and sister.”
“I am speaking to you as a brother ... with joy and yearning,” the Pope continued.
“It gives me joy that you have come together to worship Jesus Christ the only Lord and to pray to the Father and to receive the Spirit,” he said. “This brings me joy because we can see that God is working all over the world.”
“We are kind of … permit me to say, separated,” the Pope said.
“It’s sin that has separated us, all our sins, the misunderstandings throughout history. It has been a long road of sins that we all shared in. Who is to blame?”
“We all share the blame,” Pope Francis said. “We have all sinned. There is only one blameless: the Lord.”
He voiced his hope that this separation between Christians ends and that communion be restored.
“Let us allow our yearning to grow. Because this will propel us to find each other, to embrace one another and, together, to worship Jesus Christ as the only Lord of history,” the Pope said.
At one point, the Holy Father referenced the Old Testament story of Joseph, saying Christians must “cry together” as Joseph did with his brothers.
“These tears will unite us, the tears of love,” he said.
Pope Francis asked the Pentecostals for their prayers and promised to pray for them.
“I ask you to bless me, and I bless you. From brother to brother, I embrace you. Thank you,” he said.
At the end of Pope Francis’ message, the audience gave the Pope a standing ovation, and Pentecostal minister Kenneth Copeland encouraged the audience to respond to the Pope’s words.
“Come on, the man asked us to pray for him,” Copeland said with enthusiasm.
“Oh Father … we answer his request,” Copeland prayed. “And since we know not how to pray for him as we ought, other than to agree with him in his quest and his heart for the unity of the body of Christ … we come together in the unity of our faith. Halleluiah!”
He said the congregation prayed for the Pope “in the Spirit” and received “words that are not our own.”
Copeland and the congregation then began to speak in tongues.
Friendship With the Pope
Before the video, Bishop Palmer spoke of his relationship with the Catholic Church and with Pope Francis. He said he considered Pope Francis one of his three “spiritual fathers.” The two studied together and met often.
He recounted that Pope Francis called him just after Christmas 2013 and invited him to Rome.
“I said to him, ‘Pope Francis, I can’t believe that you’re phoning me. I don’t know how to react to you,” Palmer told the congregation. “I said, ‘You’re the Pope of the universal Church … 1.2 billion people. And I’m just an everyday clergyman doing his bit for the kingdom.”
He said the Pope assured him, “We are brothers. Nothing will change our friendship.”
The two met Jan. 14 and “made a covenant to work for unity for the Church.”
Though Palmer was eager to have Pope Francis make a video, he did not voice the suggestion. Rather, the Pope suggested it.
“This is history: that we’ve got a pope who recognizes us as brothers and sisters, speaks to us as brothers and sisters and has sent us a message,” Palmer said.
The Pentecostal bishop also discussed the need for Christian unity.
“I’ve come to understand that diversity is Divine. It is division that is diabolic,” he said, saying that Christian unity is “the basis of our credibility.”
Bishop Palmer cited the 1999 "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, saying it “brought an end to the protest” of the Protestant Reformation.
He called on Protestant evangelical leaders to sign the agreement, also reciting Jesus’ prayer that his disciples “may be one.”