During his trip Monday to Caserta in southern Italy, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness from Pentecostals, apologizing for Catholics who persecuted them in the past.
Speaking to the Pentecostal Church of the Reconciliation during the second leg of his visit to Caserta, the Pope begged pardon for the lack of understanding shown by some Catholics toward Pentecostals, and called for unity in diversity.
After meeting with his friend, Pastor Giovanni Traettino, whom he has known for many years since his early ministry in Buenos Aires, the Argentine Pontiff said to some 200 people — mainly Pentecostals from Italy, the U.S., and Argentina — this ecumenical dialogue must continue, whether or not some Catholics have tried to deter it.
In a cheerful and intimate atmosphere, Pastor Giovanni Traettino said to his friend, Pope Francis, “With men like you, there is hope for us, as Christians.”
Responding to Pastor Traettino’s words that “the presence of Jesus and walking in the presence of Jesus should be at the center of our life,” Francis said, “that ‘walk’ was God’s first commandment to his people, represented by Abraham – ‘walk before me faithfully and be blameless.’”
“I don’t understand a Christian who stands still! I don’t understand a Christian who doesn’t walk,” the Pontiff said. “A Christian must walk,” for if he remains “still,” he does not move ahead and rather “becomes corrupt.”
When we walk in God’s presence, we find brotherhood, the Pope said. However when instead we stop, scrutinize each other, and gossip, we divide the Church.
Gossip began the first moment of division of the Church, the Pontiff suggested. The Holy Spirit does not cause division, he stressed, saying rather the Spirit creates diversity in the Church, a “diversity, rich and beautiful.”
In addition to diversity, he said, the Holy Spirit creates unity. Therefore, not only is “the Church one in her diversity,” but also it has unity, “with many different parts, each with its own peculiarity and charisma.” He said “This is unity in diversity. This is the path that we Christians take, giving it the theological name of ecumenism.”
When jealousy and envy have divided us, we must endeavor on this path toward unity, he exclaimed. “Some of those who enacted these laws, and some of those who persecuted, denounced their Pentecostal brothers because they were ‘enthusiastic’, almost ‘crazy’, who spoiled the race.”
Pope Francis then made an apology. “I am a pastor of Catholics, and I beg forgiveness for this. I ask your forgiveness on behalf of those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and who were tempted by the devil,” he said. “I ask the Lord for the grace to recognize and to forgive.”
“We are on the path of unity, among brothers,” the Pontiff noted, “Some people will be surprised: they will say, ‘the Pope has gone to the evangelicals!’ He has gone to meet his brothers! Yes! Because – and this is the truth – they came to me first, in Buenos Aires. And so this friendship began, this closeness between the pastors in Buenos Aires, and here today.”
Pope Francis then thanked the community and asked them to pray for him, saying he needs their prayers.
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